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
Mar 27, 2009
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Pages
280
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ISBN
9780199728237
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Best For
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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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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.
A New York Times bestseller and “a passionate, urgent” (The New Yorker) examination of the growing inequality gap from the bestselling author of Bowling Alone: why fewer Americans today have the opportunity for upward mobility.

Central to the very idea of America is the principle that we are a nation of opportunity. But over the last quarter century we have seen a disturbing “opportunity gap” emerge. We Americans have always believed that those who have talent and try hard will succeed, but this central tenet of the American Dream seems no longer true or at the least, much less true than it was.

In Our Kids, Robert Putnam offers a personal and authoritative look at this new American crisis, beginning with the example of his high school class of 1959 in Port Clinton, Ohio. The vast majority of those students went on to lives better than those of their parents. But their children and grandchildren have faced diminishing prospects. Putnam tells the tale of lessening opportunity through poignant life stories of rich, middle class, and poor kids from cities and suburbs across the country, brilliantly blended with the latest social-science research.

“A truly masterful volume” (Financial Times), Our Kids provides a disturbing account of the American dream that is “thoughtful and persuasive” (The Economist). Our Kids offers a rare combination of individual testimony and rigorous evidence: “No one can finish this book and feel complacent about equal opportunity” (The New York Times Book Review).
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.
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