Mass Incarceration and Prison Studies | Alexander Street
Mass Incarceration and Prison Studies

Mass Incarceration and Prison Studies

Mass Incarceration and Prison Studies is a database curated by an international board of advisors and part of the Global Issues Library. Organized around a selection of key historical and contemporary events and mixing a case and thematic approach, this resource will look at the history of incarceration not only in the United States but also globally. The main themes and events related to mass incarceration and the history of prisons are easily explored by providing multiple perspectives and points of entries: court cases; prison experience: first-hand accounts; law and government documents; rehabilitation; training materials; policing and law; prison and identity, and theory. 

The rise of academic programs in Carceral and Prison Studies underscores the importance of this collection. Statistically, the U.S. incarcerates more people than other countries around the world. Part of the Global Issues Library, Mass Incarceration and Prison Studies is organized around a selection of key historical and contemporary events and themes, bringing together archival and reference materials, court cases, first-hand accounts, videos, Supreme Court audio files, research on rehabilitation, training materials and artistic works.  

The database provides a rare breadth of study for students to investigate both crucial global trends in mass incarceration, and the detailed prison infrastructure of specific countries.  The collection examines prison populations and their relationship to major prison labor systems; and how correctional facilities may serve as central service providers for those with mental health issues.  Other events include: the use of the death penalty; the history of correctional institutions for juvenile offenders; internment camps; prison gangs and riots; the loss of rights for prisoners. 

Benefits and Key Features

  • Supports an expanding range of courses in prison and carceral studies, criminology, history, human rights, sociology, law, gender, political science, international and public affairs, philosophy

  • Answers the need for transnational, comparative, historical and contemporary perspectives

  • Provides a lens to study race, gender, and class issues core to the curriculum and current research interests—juveniles, solitary confinement, the death penalty

  • Ease of access and indexing: users can browse by titles; events and areas; themes; archival collections; Publishers; Authors/Creators; Subjects; People Discussed; Place Discussed; Organizations Discussed; Content Types

  • Expansion of coverage and interplay with other Global Issues Library Collections—with retrospective and contemporaneous/ personal and institutional perspectives


Causes of mass incarceration, Economics of mass incarceration, Conditions of confinement, Death penalty, Non-punitive detention, Prison identity and culture, Reentry, Famous prisons and prisoners, Prison in popular culture, Prison policy.

Sample Events and Areas 

History of the prison, Gangs, War on Drugs, Riots, Prison industries, Parole, Prison Labor, Loss of Rights, Brown v. Plata, Halden prison (Nordic exceptionalism), Concentration camps (cf. Boers, Nazi, Gulag system), Alcatraz, Juveniles, Sing Sing, Rehabilitation programs, Rikers, Prison art and art programs, Exoneration (DNA and other).

Content and Partners 

We are partner with archives, publishers, and video distributors to provide a variety of resources to explore the key issues in Mass Incarceration and Prison Studies.

Archives, Foundations, and Rare Books 

  • Senate House, University of London
    Selections on the history of prisons and incarceration from the Bromhead Library Special Collections; Family Welfare Association Library Special Collections 
  • National Archives Records Administration
    Records of the National Recovery Administration, 1927 - ca. 1939 (RG9). Records Relating to Prison Labor, 1934 - 1935 (PI 44 334) 
  • Russell Sage Foundation
    Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration Why Are So Many Americans in Prison? 


    Prisons and Prison Systems: A Global Encyclopedia 
  • Bristol University Press 
    Reshaping Probation and Prisons 
  • Fordham University Press 
    Death and Other Penalties: Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration 
  • L’Harmattan 
    Le Prisonnier : Récit d'une Incarcération 
    Vivre avec la Prison : des Familles Face à L'Incarcération d'un Proche 
    Une Mère en Prison ou L'Apprentissage de la Résistance : Uruguay 1972-1976 : Récit 
    Les Usages Sociaux du Théâtre Hors ses Murs 
  • National Academy Press 
    The Growth of Incarceration in the United States 
  • New York University Press 
    Downsizing Prisons: How to Reduce Crime and End Mass Incarceration 
    5 Grams: Crack Cocaine, Rap Music, and the War on Drugs 
  • Oxford University Press 
    Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality 
    Harsh Justice: Criminal Punishment and the Widening Divide Between America and Europe 
    Concentration Camps: A Short History 
  • PM Press 
    Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women 
  • Routledge 
    Contrasts in Punishment: An Explanation of Anglophone Excess and Nordic Exceptionalism 
  • Temple University Press 
    The Disenfranchisement of Ex-Felons 
  • University of Bristol. Policy Press 
    Imprisonment Worldwide: The Current Situation And An Alternative Future 
    Competition for Prisons: Public Or Private? 
    Getting Out and Staying Out: Results Of The Prisoner Resettlement Pathfinders 
  • University of California Press 
    Interrupted Life: Experiences of Incarcerated Women in the United States 


  • BBC Worldwide 
    Miami Mega-Jail, Part 1 & 2; Tough Justice: Texas Style 
  • Daedalus Productions 
    Through the Wire; Lock Up: The Prisoners of Rikers Island 
  • Music Video Distributors 
    Not for Rent! 
  • Parralel Lines 
    Thanatos Rx 
  • TVF International 
    He Didn't Do It 
    Three Sons Behind Bars 
  • Windrose 
    Behind the Bars 
  • L’Harmattan 
    La Récidive en Question 

Editorial Board

Baz Dreisinger, Professor, John Jay College School of Criminal Justice

Hannah Elsisi, Lecturer in Modern Middle East HistoryKing’s College London 

Julie Murphy Erfani, Associate ProfessorArizona State University 

Catherine Filloux, Playwright, Social Justice 

Amy S. Green, Chairperson & Associate ProfessorJohn Jay U.  School of Criminal Justice 

Anna Gunderson, Professor of Political ScienceLouisiana State University 

Vivian D. Nixon, Executive DirectorCollege & Community Fellowship 

James Oleson, Associate ProfessorUniversity of Auckland  

Andrew Taylor, Research ScientistResearch Analyst at Vera Institute of Justice