The purpose of American Penology is to provide a story of punishment's past, present, and likely future. The story begins in the 1600s, in the setting of colonial America, and ends in the present. As the story evolves through various historical and contemporary settings, America's efforts to understand and control crime unfold. The context, ideas, practices, and consequences of various reforms in the ways crime is punished are described and examined.
Though the book's broader scope and purpose can be distinguished from prior efforts, it necessarily incorporates many contributions from this rich literature. While this enlarged second edition incorporates select descriptions and contingencies in relation to particular eras and punishment ideas and practices, it does not limit itself to individual "histories" of these eras. Instead, it uses history to frame and help explain particular punishment ideas and practices in relation to the period and context from which they evolved. The authors focus upon selected demographic, economic, political, religious, and intellectual contingencies that are associated with historical and contemporary eras to show how these contingencies shaped America's punishment ideals and practices.
In offering a new understanding of received notions of crime control in this edition, Blomberg and Lucken not only provide insights into the future of punishment, but also show how the larger culture of control extends beyond the field of criminology to have an impact on declining levels of democracy, freedom, and privacy.