Imprisoning Communities: How Mass Incarceration Makes Disadvantaged Neighborhoods Worse

Paperback | March 27, 2009

byTodd R. Clear

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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 largesturban 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 onpoor 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 andpolitical 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 willgo 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 withoutincorporating an idea of community justice into our failing correctional and criminal justice systems.

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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 largesturban cities. In the most impoverished places, a...

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 and 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 jus...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.68 inPublished:March 27, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195387201

ISBN - 13:9780195387209

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Table of Contents

Preface1. The problem of concentrated incarceration2. Incarceration and crime3. The problem of mass incarceration concentrated in poor places4. Communities, coercive mobility, and public safety5. Death by a thousand little cuts: studies of the impact of incarceration6. In their own voices: people in high incarceration communities talk about the impact of incarceration7. The impact of incarceration on community safety8. Dealing with concentrated incarceration-the case for community justiceAppendix: Imagining a Strategy of Community JusticeBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"Timely and compelling."--arvard Law Review "By focusing our attention squarely on the neighborhoods where mass incarceration is felt most acutely, Todd Clear reminds us that the large-scale cycle of arrest, removal, and return has damaged the familial and community relationships that hold society together, with the ironic and tragic result that more prisons have led to more crime. Yet this ambitious book is more than an indictment of the status quo. Clear also offers a compelling new vision for justice, one that would rebuild the same communities that have suffered such enormous harm. Anyone interested in crime policy should read this book."--Jeremy Travis, President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice "Clear reveals disturbing new lessons of America's ongoing experiment on mass incarceration. He paints a complicated portrait of poor minority neighborhoods poisoned by the same policy cures designed to help them. Clear's analysis shows how mass incarceration disrupts the moving parts of neighborhood life and corrodes neighborhood capacity for self-regulation. He uses a diverse palette of social-science evidence to connect criminal law to race through the prism of political economy and place. This is required reading for those searching for the foundations of a principled punishment policy."--Jeffrey Fagan, Professor of Law and Public Health, Columbia University "Over the last decade Todd Clear has conducted innovative empirical research on the effects of mass imprisonment policies on America's communities. Imprisoning Communities brilliantly synthesizes this work and that of others to document and explain why indiscriminate incarceration is undermining security andsocial stability in our most vulnerable communities. Finally, Clear's analysis makes it possible to have an evidence-based debate about the advisability of continuing our present course in the war on crime."--Jonathan Simon, Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley "Timely and compelling."--arvard Law Review "By focusing our attention squarely on the neighborhoods where mass incarceration is felt most acutely, Todd Clear reminds us that the large-scale cycle of arrest, removal, and return has damaged the familial and community relationships that hold society together, with the ironic and tragic result that more prisons have led to more crime. Yet this ambitious book is more than an indictment of the status quo. Clear also offers a compelling new vision for justice, one that would rebuild the same communities that have suffered such enormous harm. Anyone interested in crime policy should read this book."--Jeremy Travis, President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice "Clear reveals disturbing new lessons of America's ongoing experiment on mass incarceration. He paints a complicated portrait of poor minority neighborhoods poisoned by the same policy cures designed to help them. Clear's analysis shows how mass incarceration disrupts the moving parts of neighborhood life and corrodes neighborhood capacity for self-regulation. He uses a diverse palette of social-science evidence to connect criminal law to race through the prism of political economy and place. This is required reading for those searching for the foundations of a principled punishment policy."--Jeffrey Fagan, Professor of Law and Public Health, Columbia University "Over the last decade Todd Clearhas conducted innovative empirical research on the effects of mass imprisonment policies on America's communities. Imprisoning Communities brilliantly synthesizes this work and that of others to document and explain why indiscriminate incarceration is undermining security and social stability in our most vulnerable communities. Finally, Clear's analysis makes it possible to have an evidence-based debate about the advisability of continuing our present course in the war on crime."--Jonathan Simon, Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley "Clear (John Jay College of Criminal Justice) is an especially accomplished and prolific criminologist, and a leading authority on community justice. Here, he explores a neglected but highly consequential aspect of mass incarceration: its impact on the communities that produce a disproportionate percentage of the prison population... This volume represents a major contribution toward rethinking contemporary criminal justice policy... Highly recommended."--CHOICE