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In the past few years, the need for prison reform in America has reached the level of a consensus. We agree that many prison terms are too long, especially for nonviolent drug offenders; that long-term isolation is a bad idea; and that basic psychiatric and medical care in prisons is woefully inadequate. Some people believe that contracting out prison services to for-profit companies is a recipe for mistreatment. Robert Ferguson argues that these reforms barely scratch the surface of what is wrong with American prisons: an atmosphere of malice and humiliation that subjects prisoners and guards alike to constant degradation. Bolstered by insights from hundreds of letters written by prisoners, Ferguson makes the case for an entirely new concept of prisons and their purpose: an "inner architectonics of reform" that will provide better education for all involved in prisons, more imaginative and careful use of technology, more sophisticated surveillance systems, and better accountability.
More than one-third of adults in the United States are obese. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are over 112,000 obesity-related deaths annually, and for many years, the government has waged a very public war on the problem. Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona warned in 2006 that "obesity is the terror within," going so far as to call it a threat that will "dwarf 9/11." What doesn't get mentioned in all this? The fact that the federal government helped create the obesity crisis in the first place--especially where it is strikingly acute, among urban African-American communities. Supersizing Urban America reveals the little-known story of how the U.S. government got into the business of encouraging fast food in inner cities, with unforeseen consequences we are only beginning to understand. Chin Jou begins her story in the late 1960s, when predominantly African-American neighborhoods went from having no fast food chain restaurants to being littered with them. She uncovers the federal policies that have helped to subsidize that expansion, including loan guarantees to fast food franchisees, programs intended to promote minority entrepreneurship, and urban revitalization initiatives. During this time, fast food companies also began to relentlessly market to urban African-American consumers. An unintended consequence of these developments was that low-income minority communities were disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic. In the first book about the U.S. government's problematic role in promoting fast food in inner-city America, Jou tells a riveting story of the food industry, obesity, and race relations in America that is essential to understanding health and obesity in contemporary urban America.