The Society of Captives: A Study of a Maximum Security Prison

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Princeton University Press, 2007 - Social Science - 161 pages
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The Society of Captives, first published in 1958, is a classic of modern criminology and one of the most important books ever written about prison.

Gresham Sykes wrote the book at the height of the Cold War, motivated by the world's experience of fascism and communism to study the closest thing to a totalitarian system in American life: a maximum security prison. His analysis calls into question the extent to which prisons can succeed in their attempts to control every facet of life--or whether the strong bonds between prisoners make it impossible to run a prison without finding ways of "accommodating" the prisoners.

Re-released now with a new introduction by Bruce Western and a new epilogue by the author, The Society of Captives will continue to serve as an indispensable text for coming to terms with the nature of modern power.


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Review: Society of Captives: A Study of a Maximum Security Prison

User Review  - Rachael Toon - Goodreads

I can understand why this has become a criminology/prison sociology classic. It is very well written for an academic text. Sykes' findings read like a novel, and are both accessible and informative ... Read full review


The Prison and Its Setting
The Regime of the Custodians
The Defects of Total Power
The Pains of Imprisonment
Argot Roles
Crisis and Equilibrium
A Postscript for Reformers
The StructuralFunctional Perspective on Imprisonment
A Note on Method
The Routine of Imprisonment

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About the author (2007)

Gresham M. Sykes is Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of Virginia. He is the author of many books, including "Social Problems in America" and "Crime and Society", and the coauthor of "Criminology".

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