If there's a book every judge, prosecutor and lawmaker in America should read, it's this one, which is subtitled “An Anatomy of American Punishment.” The author, a professor of law and letters at Columbia University, has looked deeply into the American penal system, and what he's found is profoundly disturbing. The United States incarcerates more people, per capita, than any other developed nation, and our prisons are as harsh or nearly as harsh as those found under the worst totalitarian regimes. This is counterproductive in every conceivable way. When men are forced to survive in a prison jungle, where violent gangs determine the social order and rapes and beatings are commonplace, they are rendered less, not more, able to return to civic life. Why, Ferguson asks, are Americans so punitive? Why don't we understand that, ultimately, we who are not in prison will pay the price of our treatment of prisoners? What bothers Ferguson most is that we simply don't care. We've locked up these men out of sight behind high walls and forgotten about them. We know it's not working and is hugely expensive, but we do nothing. Why? Looking back at the history of punishment, Ferguson provides some answers and charts a way forward.