Mass Incarceration on Trial: A Remarkable Court Decision and the Future of Prisons in America


Jonathan Simon - In this “impassioned plea for human dignity” (Kirkus Reviews) Jonathan Simon—called “one of the outstanding criminologists of his generation” by Nikolas Rose of the London School of Economics—charts a surprising path to end mass incarceration in America. Using the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Plata on overcrowding in California prisons as his starting point, Simon suggests that incarcerating people on a “mass” scale simply cannot be accomplished in comportment with the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

In an argument that the Los Angeles Review of Books calls “unique,” Simon contends that because we cannot offer meaningful health care, mental health care, or safe and reasonable prison conditions when prisons are run at many times their maximum capacity, “mass incarceration is fundamentally incompatible with humane treatment.”

Todd Clear, former dean of Rutgers School of Criminal Justice, calls Mass Incarceration on Trial “highly readable, stunning”; Slate says the book “could mark the beginning of a new era in American jurisprudence”; and David Cole in the New York Review of Books calls Simon’s work a “sign of the new optimism about criminal justice reform.”

Publication date: 
August 5, 2014
Publication type: 
Simon, J. (2016). Mass incarceration on trial: A Remarkable Court decision and the future of prisons in America. The New Press.