In 1988, anti-drug activist Herman Wrice raided a Philadelphia “crack house,” an event that precipitated a citywide anti-drug movement. This essay explores how these activists sought to close the crack houses across the city. An object of social regulation and legal prohibition, the crack house was also a commonsense marker of racialized drug users’ sensationalized failures to comport with the dominant moral strictures of middle-class domesticity. However, the campaign against crack houses in Philadelphia was led by a grassroots movement composed of Black and Latinx residents. This essay explores the history of an individual and an organization that emerged as leaders of this movement and national models for community policing of the drug trade: Herman Wrice and United Neighbors Against Drugs. I show how these activists engaged with the carceral state and negotiated a politics of municipal austerity to expel illicit economies from their neighborhoods and seek structural solutions to persistent racial inequality. The new public investment they won was channeled through the carceral state and facilitated what I call the “carceral redevelopment” of their neighborhoods. The history of their agitation against crack houses also draws into focus the political conflict that existed between these activists and their neighbors who participated in the drug economy.


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pp. 119-143
Launched on MUSE
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