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Beyond These Walls

Rethinking Crime and Punishment in the United States

Tony Platt

St. Martin's Press

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ISBN10: 125008511X
ISBN13: 9781250085115


384 Pages



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Beyond These Walls is an ambitious and far-ranging exploration that tracks the legacy of crime and imprisonment in the United States, from the historical roots of the American criminal justice system to our modern state of over-incarceration, and offers a bold vision for a new future. Author Tony Platt, a recognized authority in the field of criminal justice, challenges the way we think about how and why millions of people are tracked, arrested, incarcerated, catalogued, and regulated in the United States.

Beyond These Walls traces the disturbing history of punishment and social control, revealing how the criminal justice system attempts to enforce and justify inequalities associated with class, race, gender, and sexuality. Prisons and police departments are central to this process, but other institutions—from immigration and welfare to educational and public health agencies—are equally complicit.

Platt argues that international and national politics shape perceptions of danger and determine the policies of local criminal justice agencies, while private policing and global corporations are deeply and undemocratically involved in the business of homeland security.

Finally, Beyond These Walls demonstrates why efforts to reform criminal justice agencies have often expanded rather than contracted the net of social control. Drawing upon a long tradition of popular resistance, Platt concludes with a strategic vision of what it will take to achieve justice for all in this era of authoritarian disorder.


Praise for Beyond These Walls

"In a brilliant resumption of his earlier engagement with institutions of state violence, Tony Platt offers us expansive and historically-rich ways of understanding policing and incarceration that also acknowledge and incorporate insights associated with feminism, queer movements, labor history, and anti-racism in their broadest formulations. He urges us to recognize why most efforts to reform these institutions have inevitably strengthened them and have rendered their repressive dimensions even more permanent."—Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of California, Santa Cruz

"The American criminal justice system is an international scandal, both in its scale and its brutality. While these crimes have escalated since Reagan, they are rooted in a much broader range of 'social control institutions,' matters investigated with penetrating insight and historical depth in this powerful study, which does not limit itself to critical analysis but proceeds on to consideration of serious remedies."—Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, MIT; author of more than 100 books; and recipient of Sean McBride Peace Prize (2017)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt



Why we need a broad vision and deep history in order to understand the current state of criminal injustices in the United States.

Stand too close to horror, and you get fixation,...

About the author

Tony Platt

TONY PLATT is a Distinguished Affiliated Scholar at the Center for the Study of Law & Society, University of California, Berkeley. The author of numerous books dealing with issues of criminal justice, race, inequality, and social justice in American history, including Beyond These Walls: Rethinking Crime and Punishment in the United States, he previously taught at the University of Chicago, Berkeley, and California state universities. Platt’s experience as a political activist and public intellectual informs his research and publications. He lives in Berkeley, CA.

Hasain Rasheed Photography