The most serious crimes are committed by “reputable” people, and the police should be concentrating on them. We should “learn to tolerate the rabble.’ The genuinely troublesome behavior of the rabble should be controlled by informal, extralegal measures “that will foster a new sense of community among strangers.’ And, of course: “In the long run, we should work to alter our basic values. Excessive materialism and individualism .
. . help maintain a radically unequal distribution of wealth, opportunity, and prestige, which, in turn, produces high rates of crime and many forms of repulsive public deviance.’ This book is a study of American jails and I personally feel like this is an important study.
I feel like this book should be read by the public and policymakers. Irwin illustrates how poverty and inequality created a population that was processed by the courts and jails into underclass “rabble”. The most vulnerable population, through repeated terms in The Jail, is transformed into the rabble. The thesis of the book is that the jails prepare the poor to be an underclass. The book should be read by anyone interested in understanding why homelessness and petty crime have become a feature of every major American city. Indeed, The Jail inadvertently provides considerable evidence that the authorities should distinguish the rabble from reputable people and keep the rabble in jail while sending the reputable people home.
But very few of us who talk about the crime problem have much first-hand knowledge of what it is like down in the bowels of the system.