Linda Ross Meyer
Sentencing in Time
Amherst College Press 2017
If you look at the history of punishment (at least in the West), what you’ll see is that we’ve gone from a penal regime that used (inter alia) physical violence—whipping, beating, branding, amputation, and killing—to one that uses confinement. It is a mark of our “civility” that we no longer “hurt” people to get them to do what we want; instead, we put them in jails and prisons. We sentence them to “do time,” that time being a period of confinement away from, well, pretty much everybody.
In her thought-provoking book Sentencing in Time (Amherst College Press, 2017), Linda Ross Meyer examines “doing time.” What, she asks, does it really mean to “do time” and does “doing time” really do what we say it does? Her answers are, to say the least, disturbing. “Doing time” means being sentenced to meaninglessness (something humans don’t like at all) and, no, it really doesn’t do much good at all beyond removing potential malefactors from our midst for a period of time—no “reforming” is really accomplished. Her conclusion: the current penal regime, insofar as it is inhumane and ineffective, is badly broken.
By the way, this is an open-access book. You can get it for free here.