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Coal, Cages, Crisis: The Rise of the Prison Economy in Central Appalachia by Judah Schept

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Twelve of the fifteen prisons located in Central Appalachia were built in the last three decades, and eight are in Eastern Kentucky. Although a small portion of the 350 prisons that have been built since 1980, during this era of mass incarceration, these prisons represent a huge economic impact in areas where coal is no longer king and jobs are scarce. The author of this book, Judah Schept, teaches at Eastern Kentucky’s School of Justice Studies – what we always used to call the “cop school.” This spring term he is teaching “Introduction to Criminal Justice,” “Punishment and Society,” and “Social Change and Community Engagement.”  His first book, also from NYU Press, is Progressive Punishment: Job Loss, Jail Growth, and the Neoliberal Politics of Carceral Expansion (2015). "Against the many reductionist, exploitative, and degrading accounts of Appalachia, this book reveals how important it is to understand the region’s drive toward prisons and jails as part of a larger history, geography, and narrative of continuous extraction and structural crisis, one that was never inevitable but socially reproduced through carceral investments. Coal, Cages, Crisis is essential reading in this moment of reckoning, proving our analyses of racial capital in the rural hinterlands is foundational to struggles in the movement against prisons everywhere." -- Michelle Brown. "Through the churn of extraction and profiteering, disposal and human sacrifice, the mountains of Appalachia have become a kind of national sacrifice zone, home to coal mines, garbage dumps, and cages. Judah Schept’s brilliant book nests rigorously local Appalachian history within the global system of racial capitalism that is devouring the planet. As jails and prisons proliferate across the coalfields, Schept tells us what was there before so we will remember to ask that crucial abolitionist question―what might be there instead?" -- Naomi Murakawa. "Judah Schept sketches a fascinating topography of class war and the carceral state in Appalachia. He boldly shifts focus from the criminal policies and physical prisons of the region to the infrastructures of extraction and disposal that have facilitated mass incarceration. This imaginative interdisciplinary study will be a critical resource for scholars and organizers as well as for pundits trying to make sense of Appalachia’s now mythologized ‘white working class.’" -- Christina Heatherton. "Coal, Cages, Crisis is a model of carceral geography that combines investigative journalism, unabashed activism, and multi-layered analysis. Jill Frank’s stark photography illuminates a bleak landscape, while Schept excavates its buried past." -- Tony Platt.

New York: New York University Press, 2022. 328 pages with and Index, Bibliography, Notes, and photos. Trade paperback.