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The Shadow System: Mass Incarceration and the American Family

Sylvia A. Harvey

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Criminology: legal aspects

A searing expose of the effects of mass incarceration on the families of those locked up - including the 2.7 million American children who have a parent in jail - told through the stories of three families struggling to live the best lives they can within the confines of a brutal system.

With nearly 2 million people locked up in the United States, Americans have become increasingly familiar with concepts like mass incarceration and the criminalization of blackness. But what are the ripple effects of these phenomena for families who have a loved one in prison?

In The Shadow System, Sylvia A. Harvey details the emotional and financial effects of mass incarceration on families and communities around the country. She reveals a shadow system of laws and regulations enacted to dehumanize the incarcerated and profit off their families-from mandatory sentencing laws, to restrictions on prison visitation, to charges of up to $24.95 for a 15-minute phone call.

Harvey follows the fears, challenges, and small victories of three families, illustrating how families navigate the different regulations, programs, and economic costs, learning to cope (or not) with impossible stakes.

Herself the daughter of an incarcerated parent, Harvey is uniquely positioned to reveal the granular reality of these worlds, their injustices, and the people trapped within them. The Shadow System will transform our understanding of the lasting impact incarceration has on American families and communities and delivers a galvanizing clarion call -- filled with moving personal stories -- to fix our broken system.

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