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Punishment and Coping in "Golden County": An Ethnography of Jail Living


A growing body of research has been dedicated to examining the effects of mass incarceration with particular emphasis on the lives of former prison inmates, their families, their communities, and their life chances post incarceration. This dissertation takes a different focus, looking at the everyday lives of inmates in a county jail system. Though often discussed anecdotally within studies of prisons, jails are distinct from other types of punishing institutions in terms of function, amenities available to inmates, and scope. These differences make for a qualitatively unique inmate experience. The distinctiveness of jails provides for equally distinct sets of punishments and coping strategies that inmates adopt for survival. The findings presented here reveal the practical application of "tough on crime" policies and practices inside jail walls where the lives of captured men have been nearly invisible.

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