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Prisoners after War: Veterans in the Age of Mass Incarceration

by Jason A. Higgins

University of Massachusetts Press, 2024


eISBN: 978-1-68575-036-7

Cloth: 978-1-62534-754-1

Paper: 978-1-62534-753-4

About the Book

The United States has both the largest, most expensive, and most powerful military and the largest, most expensive, and most punitive carceral system in the history of the world. Since the American War in Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of veterans have been incarcerated after their military service.

Identifying the previously unrecognized connections between American wars and mass incarceration, Prisoners after War reaches across lines of race, class, and gender to record the untold history of incarcerated veterans over the past six decades. Having conducted dozens of oral history interviews, Jason A. Higgins traces the lifelong effects of war, inequality, disability, and mental illness, and explores why hundreds of thousands of veterans, from Vietnam to Afghanistan, were caught up in the carceral system. This original study tells an intergenerational history of state-sanctioned violence, punishment, and inequality, but its pages also resonate with stories of survival and redemption, revealing future possibilities for reform and reparative justice.

About the Author

JASON A. HIGGINS is the digital scholarship coordinator for Virginia Tech Publishing and an assistant professor jointly affiliated with Virginia Tech University Libraries and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. He is the coeditor of Service Denied: Marginalized Veterans in Modern American History.


​“This book gives the reader a sobering look at the large—some 100,000—veteran prison population and at some of the reasons for it. Strongly recommended.”—Tom Werzyn, The VVA Veteran

Prisoners after War is on the cutting edge. It will appeal to a wide array of readers, including scholars of carceral and military history, social scientists interested in the intersections of veterans’ service and reentry, and crucially, general audiences curious about the lived experiences of criminalization and incarceration.”—Melanie D. Newport, author of This is My Jail: Local Politics and the Rise and Mass Incarceration

“Heartbreaking and inspiring, Prisoners after War details the stories of ordinary Americans ensnared in the far-reaching, interwoven tentacles of war, militarization, and domestic policies. An essential, groundbreaking work that adroitly links the experiences and memories of veterans, trauma, disability, and discrimination with the explosion of the carceral state.”—Kara Dixon Vuic, author of The Girls Next Door: Bringing the Home Front to the Front Lines

“A pathbreaking study of veterans from the Vietnam War to the present that examines the deep connections between war-related trauma, mass incarceration, the ‘war on drugs,’ and grassroots struggles for reparative justice. With this work, at once painful and hopeful, Jason A. Higgins joins a select group of authors who help us understand the history of US militarism and its troubling consequences.”—Christian G. Appy, author of American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity

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Veterans, Vietnam War, Prisoners, Veterans, Mental health, Mass Incarceration, Alternatives to imprisonment, Veteran reintegration, Age, Wars & Conflicts, Military, Social conditions, United States, Social Science, History
Open Access Information

Label: This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem)—a collaboration of the AAU, the AUP, and the ARL—and the generous support of Virginia Tech.

License: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0