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After the War on Crime

Race, Democracy, and a New Reconstruction

Mary Frampton, Ian Lopez, Jonathan Simon

Publication Year: 2008

Since the 1970s, Americans have witnessed a pyrrhic war on crime, with sobering numbers at once chilling and cautionary. Our imprisoned population has increased five-fold, with a commensurate spike in fiscal costs that many now see as unsupportable into the future. As American society confronts a multitude of new challenges ranging from terrorism to the disappearance of middle-class jobs to global warming, the war on crime may be up for reconsideration for the first time in a generation or more. Relatively low crime rates indicate that the public mood may be swinging toward declaring victory and moving on.

However, to declare that the war is over is dangerous and inaccurate, and After the War on Crime reveals that the impact of this war reaches far beyond statistics; simply moving on is impossible. The war has been most devastating to those affected by increased rates and longer terms of incarceration, but its reach has also reshaped a sweeping range of social institutions, including law enforcement, politics, schooling, healthcare, and social welfare. The war has also profoundly altered conceptions of race and community.

It is time to consider the tasks reconstruction must tackle. To do so requires first a critical assessment of how this war has remade our society, and then creative thinking about how government, foundations, communities, and activists should respond. After the War on Crime accelerates this reassessment with original essays by a diverse, interdisciplinary group of scholars as well as policy professionals and community activists. The volume's immediate goal is to spark a fresh conversation about the war on crime and its consequences; its long-term aspiration is to develop a clear understanding of how we got here and of where we should go.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. 1-20

The last three decades have witnessed a Pyrrhic war on crime, with sobering numbers at once chilling and cautionary. Since the 1970s, our imprisoned population has increased fi ve-fold, with a commensurate spike in fiscal costs that many now see as unsupportable into the future. As...

Part I: Crime, War, and Governance

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pp. 21-70

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1. The Place of the Prison in the New Government of Poverty

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pp. 23-36

Grasping the changing roles of the penal state in the post-Fordist and post-Keynesian age requires a double rupture. One must first break out of the dominant paradigm of “crime and punishment,” incarnated by criminology and criminal law, which keeps us confi ned within a narrow...

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2. America Doesn’t Stop at the Rio Grande: Democracy and the War on Crime

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pp. 37-47

As numerous scholars have shown, the war on crime was launched at a time of decreasing crime rates; its rhetoric reflected specific anxieties about race, class, and the shift ing balance of power in contemporary society; and its policies have served as a primary mechanism by which...

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3. From the New Deal to the Crime Deal

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pp. 48-60

The post-9/11 terrorism policy debate in the United States sometimes sounds as if governance is largely a function of liberty and security. This two-way model is appealing, in part because of its optimism (security can be obtained if only we sacrifice enough liberty), and in part because it...

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4. The Great Penal Experiment: Lessons for Social Justice

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pp. 61-70

The United States has, for more than a generation, engaged in what might be called “the great penal experiment.” In 1972, the prison population was about 200,000 and the total incarcerated population was about 300,000. In every year since 1971, the prison population has grown, typically...

Part II: A War-Torn Country: Race, Community, and Politics

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pp. 71-142

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5. The Code of the Streets

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pp. 73-88

Of all the problems besetting the poor, inner-city, African American community, none is more pressing than that of interpersonal violence and aggression. It wreaks havoc daily with the lives of community residents and increasingly spills over into downtown and residential middle-class...

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6. The Contemporary Penal Subject(s)

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pp. 89-105

The well-documented late-twentieth-century war on crime in America and the explosion in the use of highly punitive sanctions that came with it has spawned new conceptualizations of the criminal/penal subject across a number of arenas. These constructions differ in fundamental ways from...

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7. The Punitive City Revisited: The Transformation of Urban Social Control

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pp. 106-122

Nearly thirty years ago, in a provocative essay titled, “The Punitive City,” Stanley Cohen identified the emergence and characteristics of a new model of “community-based control.” This community-based regime, he argued, increasingly supplemented traditional state control institutions...

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8. Frightening Citizens and a Pedagogy of Violence

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pp. 123-142

Our son, Brian, took mostly honors classes as a high school senior. His observation about the teacher in one of his regular courses, however, illustrates the depth of the problems we face in education today. “This teacher is crazy,” he told us. “It is like asking a question is against the rules. I try...

Part III: A New Reconstruction

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pp. 143-221

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9. Smart on Crime

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pp. 145-150

In this essay, I will discuss the intersection between law enforcement and social justice, and what I think is a truly radical notion — the promise of real public safety in all our communities. To that end, I believe that those individuals in law enforcement must take responsibility for crime...

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10. Rebelling against the War on Low-Income, of Color, and Immigrant Communities

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pp. 151-165

For nearly three decades, I have been among those promoting an idea of progressive law practice that complements, meshes with, and, at its best, serves as one shining example of my rebellious philosophy. The Center for Community Problem Solving at New York University, which I launched...

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11. Of Taints and Time: The Racial Origins and Effects of Florida’s Felony Disenfranchisement Law

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pp. 166-186

Since this chapter was written, the Florida government has signifi cantly limited, though not eliminated, its policy of permanent disenfranchisement. In April 2007, the state rules that govern the restoration of voting rights after felony convictions were amended. Those rules now allow some...

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12. The Politics of the War against the Young

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pp. 187-206

Without question, our young people have paid a heavy price in the socalled war against crime. The most vulnerable political targets of the demagogues on crime policy were adolescents (Krisberg 2005). The next most vulnerable political targets were women who were incarcerated in...

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13. Transformative Justice and the Dismantling of Slavery’s Legacy in Post-Modern America

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pp. 207-221

Slavery was technically abolished in the United States 150 years ago, but the legacy of that atrocity persists at the beginning of the twenty-first century in a “war on crime” that has resulted in the mass incarceration of young American black men, a phenomenon that has been described as...

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Afterword: Strategies of Resistance

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pp. 223-228

In light of the present reality of 2007, we are desperately in need of new rhetorical and political strategies. Th ere’s something happening in the country that is a kind of musical chairs of racialized policing and racialized oppression. In the 1990s, this policing and repression was aimed at...


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pp. 229-230


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pp. 231-238

E-ISBN-13: 9780814728505
E-ISBN-10: 0814728502
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814727607
Print-ISBN-10: 0814727603

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Crime -- Government policy -- United States.
  • Discrimination in criminal justice administration -- United States.
  • Criminal justice, Administration of -- United States.
  • Crime -- Political aspects -- United States.
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