Rutgers University Press

Critical Issues in Crime and Society

Edited by Raymond J. Michalowski

Published by: Rutgers University Press

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Critical Issues in Crime and Society

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The Last Neighborhood Cops

The Rise and Fall of Community Policing in New York Public Housing

Fritz Umbach

In recent years, community policing has transformed American law enforcement by promising to build trust between citizens and officers. Today, three-quarters of American police departments claim to embrace the strategy. But decades before the phrase was coined, the New York City Housing Authority Police Department (HAPD) had pioneered community-based crime-fighting strategies.



The Last Neighborhood Cops reveals the forgotten history of the residents and cops who forged community policing in the public housing complexes of New York City during the second half of the twentieth century. Through a combination of poignant storytelling and historical analysis, Fritz Umbach draws on buried and confidential police records and voices of retired officers and older residents to help explore the rise and fall of the HAPD's community-based strategy, while questioning its tactical effectiveness. The result is a unique perspective on contemporary debates of community policing and historical developments chronicling the influence of poor and working-class populations on public policy making.

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Life after Death Row

Exonerees' Search for Community and Identity

Saundra D Westervelt and Kimberly J Cook

Life after Death Row examines the post-incarceration struggles of individuals who have been wrongly convicted of capital crimes, sentenced to death, and subsequently exonerated.

Saundra D. Westervelt and Kimberly J. Cook present eighteen exonerees’ stories, focusing on three central areas: the invisibility of the innocent after release, the complicity of the justice system in that invisibility, and personal trauma management. Contrary to popular belief, exonerees are not automatically compensated by the state or provided adequate assistance in the transition to post-prison life. With no time and little support, many struggle to find homes, financial security, and community. They have limited or obsolete employment skills and difficulty managing such daily tasks as grocery shopping or banking. They struggle to regain independence, self-sufficiency, and identity.

            Drawing upon research on trauma, recovery, coping, and stigma, the authors weave a nuanced fabric of grief, loss, resilience, hope, and meaning to provide the richest account to date of the struggles faced by people striving to reclaim their lives after years of wrongful incarceration.

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Mass Deception

Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq

Scott A. Bonn

The attacks of 9/11 led to a war on Iraq, although there was neither tangible evidence that Saddam Hussein was linked to Osama bin Laden nor proof of weapons of mass destruction. Why, then, did the Iraq war garner so much acceptance in the United States during its primary stages? Mass Deception argues that the George W. Bush administration manufactured public support for the war on Iraq, introducing a unique, integrated, and interdisciplinary theory called "critical communication" to explain how and why political elites and the news media periodically create public panics that benefit both parties.

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Mean Lives, Mean Laws

Oklahoma's Women Prisoners

Susan F. Sharp

 Oklahoma has long held the dubious honor of having the highest female incarceration rate in the country, nearly twice the national average. In this compelling new book, sociologist Susan Sharp sets out to discover just what has gone so wrong in the state of Oklahoma—and what that might tell us about trends in female incarceration nationwide.

The culmination of over a decade of original research, Mean Lives, Mean Laws exposes a Kafkaesque criminal justice system, one that has no problem with treating women as collateral damage in the War on Drugs or with stripping female prisoners of their parental rights. Yet it also reveals the individual histories of women who were jailed in Oklahoma, providing intimate portraits of their lives before, during, and after their imprisonment. We witness the impoverished and abusive conditions in which many of these women were raised; we get a vivid portrait of their everyday lives behind bars; and we glimpse the struggles that lead many ex-convicts to fall back into the penal system.

Through an innovative methodology that combines statistical rigor with extensive personal interviews, Sharp shows how female incarceration affects not only individuals, but also families and communities. Putting a human face on a growing social problem, Mean Lives, Mean Laws raises important questions about both the state of Oklahoma and the state of the nation.

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Neither Villain nor Victim

Empowerment and Agency among Women Substance Abusers

Edited by Tammy L. Anderson

Female drug addicts are often stereotyped either as promiscuous, lazy, and selfish, or as weak, scared, and trapped into addiction. These depictions typify the "pathology and powerlessness" narrative that has historically characterized popular and academic conversations about female substance abusers. Neither Villain Nor Victim attempts to correct these polarizing perspectives by presenting a critical feminist analysis of the drug world. By shifting the discussion to one centered on women's agency and empowerment, this book reveals the complex experiences and social relationships of women addicts. Essays explore a range of topics, including the many ways that women negotiate the illicit drug world, how former drug addicts manage the more intimate aspects of their lives as they try to achieve abstinence, how women tend to use intervention resources more positively than their male counterparts, and how society can improve its response to female substance abusers by moving away from social controls (such as the criminalization of prostitution) and rehabilitative programs that have been shown to fail women in the long term. Advancing important new perspectives about the position of women in the drug world, this book is essential reading in courses on women and crime, feminist theory, and criminal justice.

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New African Cinema

Valérie K. Orlando

New African Cinema examines the pressing social, cultural, economic, and historical issues explored by African filmmakers from the early post-colonial years into the new millennium. Offering an overview of the development of postcolonial African cinema since the 1960s, Valérie K. Orlando highlights the variations in content and themes that reflect the socio-cultural and political environments of filmmakers and the cultures they depict in their films.  
 
Orlando illuminates the diverse themes evident in the works of filmmakers such as Ousmane Sembène’s Ceddo (Senegal, 1977), Sarah Maldoror’s Sambizanga (Angola, 1972), Assia Djebar’s La Nouba des femmes de Mont Chenoua (The Circle of women of Mount Chenoua, Algeria, 1978), Zézé Gamboa’s The Hero (Angola, 2004) and Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu (Mauritania, 2014), among others. Orlando also considers the influence of major African film schools and their traditions, as well as European and American influences on the marketing and distribution of African film. For those familiar with the polemics of African film, or new to them, Orlando offers a cogent analytical approach that is engaging.
 

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Policing Dissent

Social Control and the Anti-Globalization Movement

Luis A. Fernandez

In November 1999, fifty-thousand anti-globalization activists converged on Seattle to shut down the World Trade Organization's Ministerial Meeting. Using innovative and network-based strategies, the protesters left police flummoxed, desperately searching for ways to control the crowds in Seattle and the emerging anti-corporate globalization movement. Faced with these network-based tactics, law enforcement agencies transformed their policing and social control mechanisms to manage this new threat . In Policing Dissent, sociologist Luis A. Fernandez provides a firsthand account of the changing nature of control efforts employed by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies when confronted with mass activism. Based on ethnographic research, and using an incisive, cutting-edge theoretical framework, Fernandez maps the use of legal, physical, and psychological approaches. Policing Dissent also offers readers the richness of experiential detail and engaging stories often lacking in studies of police practices and social movements. This book does not merely seek to explain the causal relationship between repression and mobilization. Rather, it shows how social control strategies act on the mind and body of protesters.

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Prison and Social Death

Joshua M. Price

The United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. To be sentenced to prison is to face systematic violence, humiliation, and, perhaps worst of all, separation from family and community. It is, to borrow Orlando Patterson’s term for the utter isolation of slavery, to suffer “social death.” In Prison and Social Death, Joshua Price exposes the unexamined cost that prisoners pay while incarcerated and after release, drawing upon hundreds of often harrowing interviews conducted with people in prison, parolees, and their families.

 
Price argues that the prison separates prisoners from desperately needed communities of support from parents, spouses, and children. Moreover, this isolation of people in prison renders them highly vulnerable to other forms of violence, including sexual violence. Price stresses that the violence they face goes beyond physical abuse by prison guards and it involves institutionalized forms of mistreatment, ranging from abysmally poor health care to routine practices that are arguably abusive, such as pat-downs, cavity searches, and the shackling of pregnant women. And social death does not end with prison. The condition is permanent, following people after they are released from prison. Finding housing, employment, receiving social welfare benefits, and regaining voting rights are all hindered by various legal and other hurdles. The mechanisms of social death, Price shows, are also informal and cultural. Ex-prisoners face numerous forms of distrust and are permanently stigmatized by other citizens around them.

 
A compelling blend of solidarity, civil rights activism, and social research, Prison and Social Death offers a unique look at the American prison and the excessive and unnecessary damage it inflicts on prisoners and parolees.

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Reading Prisoners

Literature, Literacy, and the Transformation of American Punishment, 1700–1845

Jodi Schorb

Shining new light on early American prison literature—from its origins in last words, dying warnings, and gallows literature to its later works of autobiography, exposé, and imaginative literature—Reading Prisoners weaves together insights about the rise of the early American penitentiary, the history of early American literacy instruction, and the transformation of crime writing in the “long” eighteenth century. Looking first at colonial America—an era often said to devalue jailhouse literacy—Jodi Schorb reveals that in fact this era launched the literate prisoner into public prominence. Criminal confessions published between 1700 and 1740, she shows, were crucial “literacy events” that sparked widespread public fascination with the reading habits of the condemned, consistent with the evangelical revivalism that culminated in the first Great Awakening. By century’s end, narratives by condemned criminals helped an audience of new writers navigate the perils and promises of expanded literacy.Schorb takes us off the scaffold and inside the private world of the first penitentiaries—such as Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Prison and New York’s Newgate, Auburn, and Sing Sing. She unveils the long and contentious struggle over the value of prisoner education that ultimately led to sporadic efforts to supply prisoners with books and education. Indeed, a new philosophy emerged, one that argued that prisoners were best served by silence and hard labor, not by reading and writing—a stance that a new generation of convict authors vociferously protested.The staggering rise of mass incarceration in America since the 1970s has brought the issue of prisoner rehabilitation once again to the fore. Reading Prisoners offers vital background to the ongoing, crucial debates over the benefits of prisoner education.

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Real Gangstas

Legitimacy, Reputation, and Violence in the Intergang Environment

Timothy R. Lauger

Street gangs are a major concern for residents in many inner-city communities. However, gangs’ secretive and, at times, delinquent tendencies limit most people’s exposure to the realities of gang life. Based on eighteen months of qualitative research on the streets of Indianapolis, Real Gangstas provides a unique and intimate look at the lives of street gang members as they negotiate a dangerous peer environment in a major midwestern city.

            Timothy R. Lauger interviewed and observed a mix of fifty-five gang members, former gang members, and non-gang street offenders. He spent much of his fieldwork time in the company of a particular gang, the “Down for Whatever Boyz,” who allowed him to watch and record many of their day-to-day activities and conversations. Through this extensive research, Lauger is able to understand and explain the reasons for gang membership, including a chaotic family life, poverty, and the need for violent self-assertion in order to foster the creation of a personal identity.

            Although the book exposes many troubling aspects of gang life, it is not a simple descriptive or a sensationalistic account of urban despair and violence. Steeped in the tradition of analytical ethnography, the study develops a central theoretical argument: combinations of street gangs within cities shape individual gang member behavior within those urban settings. Within Indianapolis, members of rival gangs interact on a routine basis within an ambiguous and unstable environment. Participants believe that many of their contemporaries claiming gang affiliations are not actually “real” gang members, but instead are imposters who gain access to the advantages of gang membership through fraud and pretense. Consequently, the ability to discern “real” gang members—or to present oneself successfully as a real gang member—is a critical part of gangland Indianapolis.

Real Gangstas offers an objective and fair characterization of active gang members,  successfully balancing the seemingly conflicting idea that they generally seem like normal teenagers, yet are abnormally concerned with—and too often involved in—violence. Lauger takes readers to the edge of an actual gang conflict, providing a rare and up-close look at the troubling processes that facilitate hostility and violence.

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