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A Country Called Prison

Mass Incarceration and the Making of a New Nation

Mary D. Looman and John D. Carl

Publication Date - 01 July 2015

ISBN: 9780190211035

264 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

In A Country Called Prison, Looman and Carl form a foundation of understanding to demonstrate that prison is a culture, not purely an institution made up of fences, building, and policies.


The United States is the world leader in incarcerating citizens. 707 people out of every 100,000 are imprisoned. If those currently incarcerated in the US prison system were a country, it would be the 102nd most populated nation in the world. Aside from looking at the numbers, if we could look at prison from a new viewpoint, as its own country rather than an institution made up of walls and wires, policies and procedures, and legal statutes, what might we be able to learn?

In A Country Called Prison, Mary Looman and John Carl propose a paradigm shift in the way that American society views mass incarceration. Weaving together sociological and psychological principles, theories of political reform, and real-life stories from experiences working in prison and with at-risk families, Looman and Carl form a foundation of understanding to demonstrate that prison is more than an institution built of fences and policies - it is a culture. Prison continues well after incarceration, as ex-felons leave correctional facilities (and often return to impoverished neighborhoods) without money or legal identification of American citizenship. Trapped in the isolation of poverty, these legal aliens turn to illegal ways of providing for themselves and are often reimprisoned. This situation is unsustainable and America is clearly facing an incarceration epidemic that requires a new perspective to eradicate it. A Country Called Prison offers concrete, feasible, economical suggestions to reform the prison system and help prisoners return to a healthier life after incarceration.


  • Authors' substantial experience brings new insight on current prison life with a novel analogy for addressing prison issues in this country.
  • Provides current data on the state of American prisons.
  • Proposes paradigm shift that asks readers to consider prison in a very different reality.
  • Provides the reader with a historical background on how prison became a country.
  • Provides the reader with a plan for change, whereby specific policy suggestions are made.
  • Includes stories from personal experiences in the prison system to help illustrate the points made.

About the Author(s)

Mary D. Looman is a Psychologist for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma with over 30 years of experience working in criminal justice and social service organizations.

John D. Carl is an Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, at the University of Oklahoma with 20 years of experience in social work and teaching college courses in criminology.


"What sets this sobering, informative call to action apart from other critiques of American criminal justice is its central thesis: that the U.S. has effectively created a separate nation of 'legal aliens'--people born within the country but disenfranchised through incarceration--within its own borders . . . this is a vital and informative read for any American citizen concerned with the present state of American justice." --Publishers Weekly

"Looman and Carl describe provocative reforms that could help reduce the prison population--and transform its members into productive taxpaying citizens--yet the hierarchical structure of the prison system makes it a near impossible task." --Library Journal

"Looman and Carl also share stories from their personal experiences with prison staff and inmates, making for an engaging and empathetic read." --IReason

"[Looman and Carl] distill complex issues with clarity, authority, and passion... The authors interweave their narrative with numerous anecdotes, drawing from their experiences working behind the walls... The authors provide a summary of compelling proposals for reformation, strategies for achieving them, and their outcomes... Highly recommended." --CHOICE

Featured in PsycCRITIQUES

2016 CHOICE Award for Outstanding Academic Text

Table of Contents

    Chapter 1: Introduction to a Country Called Prison

    Chapter 2: What Makes Prisons A Country?

    Chapter 3: Who Are the People of a Country Called Prison

    Chapter 4: Life in a Country Called Prison

    Chapter 5: Visiting America From a Country Called Prison

    Chapter 6: Emigrating From a Country Called Prison

    Chapter 7: Assimilating a Country Called Prison

    Appendix: Summary of Proposals

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