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The Persistent Prison: Rethinking Decarceration and Penal Reform.

In this thoughtful and richly documented work, Maeve W. McMahon examines the provincial prison and jail system of Ontario, Canada, with a focus on the changes that have taken place in the system between the 1950s and the 1990s. As with corrections in the United States, this period saw community corrections rise to a more prominent place within the system as a whole, and alternatives to incarceration, which the author refers to as "decarceration ," became more prevalent.

Decarceration is possible, McMahon states, and he points to Ontario as an example. Prison admissions declined by 31 percent between 1950 and 1980 through increased use of probation and fines and placement of more minor offenders-especially those convicted of alcohol-related crimes--in community facilities.

McMahon writes that using criminal sanctions other than prison and jail does not necessarily "widen the correctional net," as conventional wisdom suggests. He considers this a pessimistic stance that neglects the accomplishments of correctional reforms (such as the increased emphasis on community corrections) and one which implies that the growth of prison populations is both inexorable and beyond control.

While the hook focuses primarily on corrections in Ontario, McMahon contrasts Ontario data with that of other countries, including the United States. He suggests that community-based correctional efforts in the United States might have had more impact on incarceration rates if the policy shifts of the mid-1970s had not led to longer, mandatory prison sentences and other "get tough" efforts. Moreover, he notes that the declining prison populations of the 1960s and early 1970s in the United States made the later increases appear to be more radical than they actually were.

Correctional professionals in the United States will find this book useful in examining correctional policy trends and issues both in this country and in our neighbor to the north. The problems Canada and the United States face in operating a correctional system have much in common.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Correctional Association, Inc.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Tromanhauser, Edward
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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