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As the incidence of violent crime rises in the United States, so does the public demand for a solution. But what will work? Mark S. Fleisher has spent years among inmates in jails and prisons and on the streets with thieves, gang members, addicts, and life-long criminals in Seattle and other cities across the country. In Beggars and Thieves, he writes about how and why they become and remain offenders, and about the actual role of jails and prisons in efforts to deter crime and rehabilitate criminals. Fleisher shows, with wrenching firsthand accounts, that parents who are addicts, abusers, and criminals beget irreversibly damaged children who become addicts, abusers, and criminals. Further, Fleisher contends that many well-intentioned educational and vocational training programs are wasted because they are offered too late to help. And, he provides sobering evidence that many youthful and adult offenders find themselves better off in prison with work to do, medical care, a clean place to sleep, regular meals, and stable social ties than they are in America s cities. Fleisher calls for anti-crime policies that are bold, practical, and absolutely imperative. He prescribes life terms for violent offenders, but in prisons structured as work communities, where privileges are earned through work in expanded, productive industries that reduce the financial burden of incarceration on the public. But most important, he argues that the only way to prevent street crime, cut prison growth, and reduce the waste of money and human lives is to permanently remove brutalized children from criminal, addicted, and violent parents.
Mark S. Fleisher is associate professor of criminal justice at Illinois State University. An anthropologist and a former administrator in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, he is the author of Warehousing Violence. He is also the author of Dead End Kids, published by the University of Wisconsin Press.