In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Christopher Uggen Introduction: Who We Punish: The Carcerai State T H E N E W S C H O O L C O N F E R E N C E FR O M W H I C H T H IS SPEC IA L IS S U E derives charged some of the field’s m ost thoughtful researchers and theorists with taking up the question of who we punish. A fundam en­ tal point cutting across the papers in this volume is a stubborn social fact: those we punish do not represent a random draw from the general population of citizens. More critically, those we punish do not repre­ sent a random draw from the general population of those com m itting crime. Instead, those we punish are overwhelmingly poor, dispropor­ tionately m en of color, and disenfranchised in both the literal and figu­ rative sense of the word. Punishm ent can be viewed as a transm ission belt linking disad­ vantaged status origins to im m iserated adult outcomes. More precisely, punishm ent appears to function as a transform er that “steps u p ” or exacerbates economic and social inequalities. Jonathon Simon provides a social history of the carceral state, from the optimism of the New Deal and Great Society eras to the m ark­ edly m ore pessim istic contem porary period. Here, and in Governing through Crime, his new book, Simon argues that the War on Crime—and the logic of protecting “u s” from “th em ”—has spilled over to affect our schools, families, workplaces, and other institutions. Among other prescriptions, he urges citizens to “just say no to criminal law.” Bruce W estern next carves into sharp relief the astonishing inequalities in punishm ent rates. Most pointedly, he shows how im pris­ onm ent has become a routine event in the life course for young African social research Voi 74 : No 2 : Summer 2007 467 Am erican males w ith less th an a high school education. By placing incarceration rates alongside group- and cohort-specific rates of other life events, such as entry into military service or attainm ent of a post­ secondary degree, W estern adroitly contextualizes the scope and social concentration of punishm ent in the United States. Scholars such as Bruce W estern have conducted painstaking research to docum ent inequalities in US incarceration rates by age, race, and gender. Yet the path from conviction in a crim inal court to im prisonm ent in a state or federal penitentiary is perhaps the least ambiguous form of punishm ent in the contem porary United States. W riters such as Mark Dow are today docum enting America’s “im m i­ gration prisons” and the experiences of the thousands of im migrants and adm inistrative detainees who languish w ithin them . Many such inm ates are legal US residents who have not been convicted of crimes, yet find themselves in a legal and adm inistrative no-m an’s-land oper­ ating well outside the constitutional protections accorded US citizens. Dow raises provocative fundam ental questions about such “im prison­ m ent w ithout punishm ent.” Most critically, he asks w hether such indi­ viduals should be prisoners at all. Loma Rhodes offers the fourth and final perspective on who we punish. Rhodes brings an anthropologist’s eye to the design of prisons, from Jerem y B entham ’s eighteenth-century panopticon to m odern American supermax facilities. She describes contem porary supermax prisons as “hardening” institutions in light of the extrem e physical and social isolation o f inmates. She details the “social deterioration” occur­ ring in such environm ents w hen inm ates cannot experience the feed­ back of everyday interaction. Moreover, Dow helps show how a prison’s physical environm ent engenders inm ates’ crude resistance strategiesblocking the tiny window th at links them to others, fantasizing about revenge or escape, and throw ing bodily fluids at correctional officers. Rhodes’ vocabulary of hardening would appear to apply equally well to life outside the prison gates. The unforgiving nature o f the carceral state described by Jonathon Simon and its treatm ent of im mi­ grant detainees described...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 467-469
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.