Alexandra Cox

Trapped in a Vice

The Consequences of Confinement for Young People

Rutgers University Press 2018

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in AnthropologyNew Books in LawNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network April 16, 2018 Sarah E. Patterson

How does the juvenile justice system impact the lives of the young people that go through it? In her new book, Trapped in a...

How does the juvenile justice system impact the lives of the young people that go through it? In her new book, Trapped in a Vice: The Consequences of Confinement for Young People (Rutgers University Press, 2018), Alexandra Cox uses interviews and ethnographic data to analyze the juvenile justice system and incarceration. While the book focuses specifically on New York’s justice system, the take-aways and Cox’s analyses are relevant for anyone interested in incarceration in general. Using the voices and experiences of those she interviews to articulate her findings, Cox points out that young people often suffer the most in systems of social inequality. She elaborates clearly on concepts and main take-aways through the book, from the idea that these young people are expected to mature within an institution, and how this impacts their development. Cox uses really powerful examples and pinpoints important concepts for us to think further about: the definition of worthiness (i.e. worthy of “saving”), being ungovernable (i.e. being uncontrollable), the idea of reformation systems as taking care of “other people’s children,” and the ethos of personal responsibly to youth who cannot even vote yet. The stories from the book show how it’s easy to get into trouble and very difficult to get out.

This book will be enjoyed by Sociologists and Criminologists in general, but also by social workers, those working in the area of incarceration, in addition to anyone interested in developmental psychology within the context of incarceration. This book would be a great addition to any higher level undergraduate or entry level graduate course in criminology because of its clear organization and presentation of arguments.


Sarah E. Patterson is a postdoc at the University of Western Ontario. You can tweet her at @spattersearch

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