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Sociology: Incarceration

Sociology of incarceration: suggested sources

The study of incarceration, including the problem of race-based mass incarceration in the United States, involves analysis of social conditions, criminal justice practices and law. Most relevant law will be case law based upon court decisions, and less so the laws resulting from legislation. The Law Library at Boalt Hall is the campus home for research in case law; legal research databases are presented on their website. The reference staff will help all UC Berkeley students, not just law students. The resources presented in this guide are a selection from the large number of tools made available campuswide by the Library, and from public sources.

Academic Research Sources

Berkeley Law's Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice has published a "Just Mercy Supplemental Materials and Reading List" for Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. The works cited there will continue their relevance beyond the fall 2016 period when that book is the focus of the campus On the Same Page program.

Databases for research in incarceration and other aspects of criminal justice:

Reference Books

Prison Reform

source: AP Images


The following are organizations which are leaders in prison reform and public education about sentencing, prison conditions, the death penalty and prisoner re-entry into society. The mission statements given here are taken from the organizations' websites.

  • The Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.
  • The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.

More Influential Publications on Prison Reform


Bureau of Criminal Justice Statistics

"BJS mission: To collect, analyze, publish, and disseminate information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government." (BJS website)

Juvenile Justice Statistical Briefing Book, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie, 2016 Prison Policy Initiative

The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and ConsequencesNational Research Council, National Academies Press, 2014. Freely accessible online through the website; downloadable with guest login. Also available in print at the Social Research Library under call no. HV9471.G76 2014.

Related Media Sources

  • The San Quentin News is a monthly publication written and edited by inmates of the San Quentin State Prison in California. "We present a progressive approach to criminal justice policies by reporting on positive changes in prisoner behavior, particularly through rehabilitative efforts" (website). The staff is advised by UC Berkeley journalism professor Bill Drummond.

Specialized News Source Indexes

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