Imprisoning Communities: How Mass Incarceration Makes Disadvantaged Neighborhoods Worse

Oxford University Press
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At no time in history, and certainly in no other democratic society, have prisons been filled so quickly and to such capacity than in the United States. And nowhere has this growth been more concentrated than in the disadvantaged--and primarily minority--neighborhoods of America's largest urban cities. In the most impoverished places, as much as 20% of the adult men are locked up on any given day, and there is hardly a family without a father, son, brother, or uncle who has not been behind bars. While the effects of going to and returning home from prison are well-documented, little attention has been paid to the impact of removal on neighborhoods where large numbers of individuals have been imprisoned. In the first detailed, empirical exploration of the effects of mass incarceration on poor places, Imprisoning Communities demonstrates that in high doses incarceration contributes to the very social problems it is intended to solve: it breaks up family and social networks; deprives siblings, spouses, and parents of emotional and financial support; and threatens the economic and political infrastructure of already struggling neighborhoods. Especially at risk are children who, research shows, are more likely to commit a crime if a father or brother has been to prison. Clear makes the counterintuitive point that when incarceration concentrates at high levels, crime rates will go up. Removal, in other words, has exactly the opposite of its intended effect: it destabilizes the community, thus further reducing public safety. Demonstrating that the current incarceration policy in urban America does more harm than good, from increasing crime to widening racial disparities and diminished life chances for youths, Todd Clear argues that we cannot overcome the problem of mass incarceration concentrated in poor places without incorporating an idea of community justice into our failing correctional and criminal justice systems.
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About the author

Todd R. Clear is a Distinguished Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and founding editor of the journal Criminology & Public Policy. He is the author of eleven books and numerous articles and book chapters on criminal justice issues ranging from corrections and sentencing to community justice.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Jul 30, 2007
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Pages
280
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ISBN
9780199885558
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Criminal Law / General
Political Science / Public Policy / Social Policy
Social Science / Criminology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Over the past quarter-century, U.S. politicians have responded to the public's fear of crime by devoting ever more resources to building and strengthening the criminal justice apparatus, which as a result has grown tremendously in size and cost. Policymakers have also taken steps to toughen procedures for dealing with suspects and criminals, and broaden legal definitions of what constitutes crime, which has led to the incarceration, under harsher-than-ever conditions, of a record-high percentage of the U.S. population. Yet public confidence in the criminal justice apparatus is, if anything, lower than ever before, and fear of crime continues to be high.In recent years, some activists, scholars, criminal-justice officials, and politicians have begun to call for a reexamination of "get-tough" crime policies. A more sensible approach to crime, they argue, would focus on "community justice"--that is, on building healthy communities in which criminality cannot take root, and on making citizens and criminal-justice into partners rather than adversaries. In this thought-provoking study, Todd Clear and David Karp provide both a broad theoretical analysis of this ideal, and a close examination of a range of attempts to put it into practice in communities throughout the country. They conclude that by making the criminal justice system and the public into partners rather than adversaries, community-justice strategies for dealing with crime are both more effective and more resource-efficient than the failed "get-tough" approach.
The past 30 years have seen vast changes in our attitudes toward crime. More and more of us live in gated communities; prison populations have skyrocketed; and issues such as racial profiling, community policing, and "zero-tolerance" policies dominate the headlines. How is it that our response to crime and our sense of criminal justice has come to be so dramatically reconfigured? David Garland charts the changes in crime and criminal justice in America and Britain over the past twenty-five years, showing how they have been shaped by two underlying social forces: the distinctive social organization of late modernity and the neoconservative politics that came to dominate the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1980s.

Garland explains how the new policies of crime and punishment, welfare and security—and the changing class, race, and gender relations that underpin them—are linked to the fundamental problems of governing contemporary societies, as states, corporations, and private citizens grapple with a volatile economy and a culture that combines expanded personal freedom with relaxed social controls. It is the risky, unfixed character of modern life that underlies our accelerating concern with control and crime control in particular. It is not just crime that has changed; society has changed as well, and this transformation has reshaped criminological thought, public policy, and the cultural meaning of crime and criminals. David Garland's The Culture of Control offers a brilliant guide to this process and its still-reverberating consequences.
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