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Total Confinement

Madness and Reason in the Maximum Security Prison

Lorna A. Rhodes (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 329 pages
ISBN: 9780520240766
February 2004
$34.95, £27.00
Other Formats Available:
In this rare firsthand account, Lorna Rhodes takes us into a hidden world that lies at the heart of the maximum security prison. Focusing on the "supermaximums"—and the mental health units that complement them—Rhodes conveys the internal contradictions of a system mandated to both punish and treat. Her often harrowing, sometimes poignant, exploration of maximum security confinement includes vivid testimony from prisoners and prison workers, describes routines and practices inside prison walls, and takes a hard look at the prison industry. More than an exposé, Total Confinement is a theoretically sophisticated meditation on what incarceration tells us about who we are as a society.

Rhodes tackles difficult questions about the extreme conditions of confinement, the treatment of the mentally ill in prisons, and an ever-advancing technology of isolation and surveillance. Using her superb interview skills and powers of observation, she documents how prisoners, workers, and administrators all struggle to retain dignity and a sense of self within maximum security institutions. In settings that place in question the very humanity of those who live and work in them, Rhodes discovers complex interactions—from the violent to the tender—among prisoners and staff. Total Confinement offers an indispensable close-up of the implications of our dependence on prisons to solve long-standing problems of crime and injustice in the United States.
Author’s Note

1. Controlling Troubles
2. The Choice to Be Bad

3. The Asylum of Last Resort
4. Custody and Treatment at the Divide

5. The Games Run Deep
6. Struggling It Out
Glossary of Prison Terms

Appendix: Note on Research
List of Illustrations
Lorna A. Rhodes, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington, is author of Emptying Beds: The Work of an Emergency Psychiatric Unit (California, 1991).
“Scholars face ‘bureaucratic rationalization of prison management,’ which has made access [into prisons] almost unattainable... one of the few researchers who have managed to get past such restrictions and gain a clearer picture of the nature and effects of incarceration.”—Peter Monaghan Chronicle Of Higher Education
"Ethnographically rich, thick with gritty details and original insights, Rhodes's revelatory book about US prisons--those who are incarcerated in them and those who run them--should be read by everyone who cares about social justice and the nature of power."—Emily Martin, author of Flexible Bodies

"Thank you, Lorna Rhodes, for taking us to where the 'worst of the worst' are kept out of sight and out of mind in the new millennium. This powerful ethnography of the correctional high tech machine reveals how institutional power suffocates individual agency and redefines rationality and insanity. Good, bad and evil fall by the wayside."—Philippe Bourgois, author of In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio

"A truly remarkable book. The inside look at supermax confinement alone is worth the price of admission, and the prose sometimes verges on poetry. This is meticulous scholarship."—Hans Toch, author of Living in Prison

Leeds Award in Urban Anthropology, Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology

Outstanding Book Award, National Council on Crime and Delinquency

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