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  • Cited by 15
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
February 2021
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Book description

This groundbreaking work examines Latin America's prison crisis and the failure of mass incarceration policies. As crime rates rose over the past few decades, policy makers adopted incarceration as the primary response to public outcry. Yet, as the number of inmates increased, crime rates only continued to grow. Presenting new cross-national data based on extensive surveys of inmates throughout the region, this book explains the transformation of prisons from instruments of incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation to drivers of violence and criminality. Bergman and Fondevila highlight the impacts of internal drug markets and the dramatic increase in the number of imprisoned women. Furthermore, they show how prisons are not isolated from society - they are sites of active criminal networks, with many inmates maintaining fluid criminal connections with the outside world. Rather than reducing crime, prisons have become an integral part of the crime problem in Latin America.


‘For decades, countries across Latin America have followed the U.S.’s lead in trying to incarcerate away problems of crime, violence, drugs, social exclusion, and inequality. Even more than in the U.S., the carceral turn has not just failed to solve these problems - it has almost certainly made them worse. This carefully researched book breaks new ground, drawing on extensive surveys of inmates throughout Latin America that both give voice to the prisoners themselves and provide a powerful empirical basis for systematic thinking about the failure of mass incarceration across Latin America. Indeed, Bergman and Fondevila's work has insights not just for Latin America but across what we might rightly call the “carceral hemisphere,” and should provide a sorely lacking bridge between the study of crime and prisons in the United States and research on crime and violence in Latin America.’

Benjamin Lessing - University of Chicago

‘The prison crisis is a problem present throughout Latin America. Often made invisible by policies that emphasize punishment and a citizenry that seeks protection from crime; in most countries prisons are places of violence. In this excellent work, Bergman and Fondevila describe the multiple dimensions of the crisis and confirm that waves of incarceration have been key factors in increasing crime and violence. An urgent and necessary book, based on unique and comparative evidence, that allows us to further discuss a key issue to reduce violence and crime in the region.’

Lucía Dammert - Universidad de Santiago de Chile

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