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John Keith Irwin (May 21, 1929 – January 3, 2010) was an American sociologist who was known internationally as an expert on the American prison system.[1] He published dozens of scholarly articles and seven books on the topic.


Early life and education

In 1952, Irwin robbed a gas station and served a five year prison term for armed robbery in Soledad Prison.[2] During his time in prison he earned 24 college credits through a university extension program. After his release from prison he received a B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles and then earned his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. Irwin later became a professor at San Francisco State University, where he taught for 27 years until his retirement.[3]


In 1967 Irwin founded Project Rebound, a program which helps those coming out of prison go to college.[3] Irwin co-founded the Prisoners Union in 1971, which organized inmates to push for their civil rights and worked closely with the California legislature on the Uniform Sentencing Act passed in 1976.[1][4] At a panel presentation at the American Society of Criminology’s annual conference in 1997, Irwin helped officially establish the Convict Criminology movement, in which convicts who became professors critically examine the criminal justice system.[2][3] In 1985 he received the August Vollmer award from the American Society of Criminology.[4]


Irwin died on January 3, 2010 at the age of 80.[1]


  • 1970 - The Felon (ISBN 978-0520060166)
  • 1971 - The Struggle for Justice
  • 1992 - The Jail: Managing the Underclass in American Society (ISBN 978-0520060326)
  • 1998 - Prisons in Turmoil (ISBN 978-0673395849)
  • 2000 - It's About Time: America's Imprisonment Binge (ISBN 978-0534514983)
  • 2004 - The Warehouse Prison: Disposal of the New Dangerous Class (ISBN 978-0195330472)
  • 2009 - Lifers: The Long Road to Redemption (ISBN 978-0415801980)


External links



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