punishment and inequality in america burce western pdf

Punishment And Inequality In America Burce Western Pdf

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Punishment’s place: the local concentration of mass incarceration

American crime policy took an unexpected turn in the latter part of the twenty-first century, entering a new penal regime. From the s to the early s, the incarceration rate in the United States averaged inmates per , persons.

This rate of incarceration varied so little in the United States and internationally that many scholars believed the nation and the world were experiencing a stable equilibrium of punishment.

Often obscured by national trends are the profound variations in incarceration rates across states, cities, and especially local communities within cities. Like the geographically concentrated nature of criminal offending by individuals, a small number of communities bear the disproportionate brunt of U.

Although the inhabitants of such communities experience incarceration as a disturbingly common occurrence, for most other communities and most other Americans incarceration is quite rare. This spatial inequality in punishment helps explain the widespread invisibility of mass incarceration to the average American.

Motivated by this reality, our essay examines the spatial concentration of incarceration, focusing on its geographic manifestations in the quintessentially American city of Chicago. Assembling census data, crime rates, and court records into a common geographic referent, we explore rates of community-level incarceration from to to probe three general questions:. How does incarceration impact neighborhoods differentially? What is the nature of spatial inequality in imprisonment rates across communities?

What are the key correlates? For example, how do community-level features such as the crime rate and the concentration of poverty relate to the intensity of incarceration, across time and neighborhoods? Overall, we demonstrate that mass incarceration is a phenomenon that is experienced locally and that follows a stable pattern over time. Hot spots for incarceration are hardly random; instead, they are systematically predicted by key social characteristics.

In particular, the combination of poverty, unemployment, family disruption, and racial isolation is bound up with high levels of incarceration even when adjusting for the rate of crime that a community experiences. These factors suggest a self-reinforcing cycle that keeps some communities trapped in a negative feedback loop.

The stability and place-based nature of incarceration have broad implications for how we think about policy responses. Is Chicago is a unique case or does it follow the general pattern of crime and punishment in late-twentieth-century America that has drawn attention from scholars?

Figure 1 displays the temporal pattern of imprisonment juxtaposed with the overall crime rate for the period from to We measure the imprisonment rate by dividing the number of unique, Chicago-resident felony defendants sentenced to the Illinois Department of Corrections from the Circuit Court of Cook County by the number of Chicago inhabitants aged eighteen to sixty-four according to the Census.

Similarly, we exclude older residents because, while society is aging, very few prisoners are over the age of sixty-five. These data were gathered from the electronic records of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Mirroring national trends, the Chicago crime rate peaked at the beginning of the s 11, offenses per , persons and then declined throughout the remainder of the s and into the early s.

Yet the imprisonment rate that began its rise in the s data not shown continued to increase even after the crime rate peaked, climbing rapidly after and peaking in at prisoners per , adult inhabitants. In just four years, the rate of imprisonment had increased 60 percent. It subsequently hovered near that all-time high, fluctuating between and prisoners per , adult inhabitants from to These Chicago trends, as depicted in Figure 1 , are broadly consistent with trends in crime and incarceration throughout the United States.

Although the aggregate relationship between incarceration and crime is not the main focus of this paper, Figure 1 permits an overall assessment of the temporal connection. On the one hand, year-to-year changes in crime and imprisonment rates are not strongly correlated with each other when considering short temporal lags over the entire period. If mass incarceration functions as an effective criminal deterrent or tool of incapacitation, then crime decreases in years greater than t should follow imprisonment increases in year t.

Yet the actual pattern observed in Figure 1 suggests that increases or decreases in the imprisonment rate do not always lead to short-term decreases or increases in the crime rate, and vice versa, after about On the other hand, the beginning of the crime drop in the s corresponds to a rapid rise in incarceration.

Therefore, the dynamic relationship between imprisonment and crime from to is generally negative. However, the pattern is complex, and it is not possible to draw conclusions about cause and effect. To what extent is mass incarceration concentrated? Unlike the temporal trends for imprisonment, the answer is unambiguous: punishment is distinctly concentrated by place. Figure 2 displays rates of imprisonment per , persons aged eighteen to sixty-four by community areas of Chicago for the period to Community areas average populations of approximately 38, persons; they are widely recognized by residents and, in most cases, have well-known geographic borders.

Census tracts are nested within community areas and are smaller, averaging approximately 4, persons. The patterns for tracts not shown are nearly identical to community areas. The basic pattern of concentration is stark. Large swaths of the city, especially in the southwest and northwest, remain relatively untouched by the imprisonment boom. In these areas, the incarceration rate ranges from nearly zero to less than per , adult residents.

By contrast, there is a dense and spatially contiguous cluster of areas in near-west and south-central Chicago that have rates of incarceration some eight times higher or more. Note especially the line of communities stretching south from the Loop and west into to the suburban boundaries of the city for example, the community of Austin that produce a disproportionate share of prisoners. Does this pattern change over time? Despite a leveling-off in the overall intensity of punishment as foretold by Figure 1 , there is a great deal of stability in the spatial logic of incarceration.

Figure 3 presents imprisonment rates for the most recent period of available data, to As in to , prisoners are primarily from the south and west sides of Chicago. The simple correlation between the rates across time is greater than 0. The main difference between the two time periods is that incarceration intensified its grip on the far west and south sides of the city. Not surprisingly, some areas that were already at the high end of the crime and incarceration distributions also saw improvements.

By contrast, the areas of Oakland, Grand Boulevard, and Washington Park on the near- to mid-south side each experienced a decline of between 30 and 50 percent. Perhaps not coincidentally, some of these improving areas especially Oakland and Grand Boulevard saw large-scale changes or planned interventions that may explain the unexpectedly large declines, such as city investments in mixed-income housing, the demolition of high-rise public housing projects, and the steady in-migration of the African American middle class.

Overall, the data in Figures 1 — 3 paint a picture of patterned stability and change in incarceration. Like the rest of the United States, Chicago has seen a boom in imprisonment, with rates increasing more than 50 percent from after a period of prior increases. These increases and subsequent temporal variations do not appear to track the crime rate closely, although in a broad sense it is clear that at the end of the twentieth century, crime approached record lows as incarceration hovered around its peak.

As noted earlier, whether this occurrence is a causal effect of imprisonment on reducing crime or an artifact we cannot say. We can be certain, however, that against the march of time there is a fundamental inequality in the reach of incarceration across communities.

Large areas of Chicago have escaped the brunt of the incarceration regime, while a small band of communities on the west, far west, south, and far south sides of Chicago are highly affected.

This general pattern is stable, with already susceptible communities such as West Garfield Park and Austin on the west side undergoing dramatic growth beyond preexisting vulnerability. We have demonstrated that imprisonment is not randomly inscribed across the urban landscape.

This is in part the case. To take the most straightforward example, we calculated the rate of crime disaggregated by those forms that tend to generate the most public attention and that have been implicated in the imprisonment run-up: violence assault, rape, and homicide , robbery, drug-related offenses, and burglary. At the community level, these crimes cluster together and correlate highly with later incarceration rates. For example, violence and drug crimes during the period to are both correlated at greater than 0.

Because prison sentencing does not occur instantaneously following an incidence of crime, we allowed for a lag effect by comparing two intervals of time that include multiple years, simultaneously allowing for variability in temporal lag patterns and reducing measurement error in both crime and incarceration rates. We also created a summary measure that combines information from the four major categories of crime. The results confirmed that all four crime rates correlate strongly with each other and form a single factor based on a principal components analysis.

To capture the common variance, we calculated the first principal component, which is a simple linear combination of the four crime rates weighted by their association with the common factor. One might argue that arrest rates are a more direct measure of criminal offender production as opposed to the criminal offense production reflected in the crime rate. But high rates of citizen-reported crime are the more public face of victimization and demands for action against crime, and thus may be more relevant in terms of generating demand for punishment and reinforcing negative reputations about safety in select communities.

Previous research has also shown that arrest rates and estimates of criminal offending rates are closely related to the crime rate, in large part because offenders tend to commit crimes relatively close to home. We do not have arrest data across all relevant years in question that would allow us to pursue this issue further, thus we rely on the summary crime rate for the main analysis. We find that incarceration rates are very tightly connected at the neighborhood level with prior rates of crime.

Specifically, consistent with our expectations, the crime factor correlates 0. There is a line of theoretical work arguing that concentrated inequality exacerbates existing patterns of criminal justice punishment. In particular, the attributions and perceptions of dangerousness attached to stigmatized and spatially concentrated minority groups have been hypothesized to increase the intensity of both unofficial beliefs about social disorder 10 and official decisions to punish through incarceration.

We examined the broad contours of this thesis by estimating the relationship between dimensions of concentrated poverty and later incarceration, adjusting for the crime rate.

Prior work on the Chicago data, and on national figures as well, has shown that correlated aspects of urban disadvantage tend to cluster, particularly the percentage of the population that is in poverty, unemployed, on welfare, and in single-parent, female-headed families.

All of these factors are more prevalent in segregated African American areas as indicated by the percentage of African Americans. But disadvantage also co-varies with the crime rate; in fact, the correlation between disadvantage and the crime rate is equal to that of disadvantage and incarceration 0.

Under these conditions, it is difficult to estimate independent associations other than with a simple model in which both the crime rate and disadvantage are allowed to predict later incarceration. Nevertheless, this finding suggests that both factors have explanatory relevance, especially at the tract level, where we have more cases and, as a consequence, greater statistical power. Figure 4 evaluates our claim, visually reflecting the magnitude of associations.

The incarceration rate per , is graphed on the left axis. The bars refer to the indicators of the crime rate combined six-year average of burglary, robbery, violence, and drugs and the concentrated disadvantage scale, each split into equal thirds. At each level of the crime rate, incarceration rates increase monotonically with concentrated disadvantage. In fact, communities that experienced high disadvantage experienced incarceration rates more than three times higher than communities with a similar crime rate.

At all levels of concentrated disadvantage, crime rates significantly predict later incarceration as well. Analysis not shown confirmed that this pattern is maintained when racial composition percent of the population that is African American is entered as a separate control and not included in the disadvantage scale, and when the arrest rate of neighborhood residents an indicator of offender production is controlled.

We also explored the possibility of a reverse pathway of influence, whereby incarceration was specified as a predictor of future concentrated disadvantage independent of the crime rate leading up to that point.

The magnitude of the predictive association between incarceration and future disadvantage was similar to that of crime and disadvantage, and again, the relationship held when racial composition was considered as a separate control from the disadvantage factor. What we appear to observe, then, is a mutually reinforcing social process: disadvantage and crime work together to drive up the incarceration rate. This combined influence in turn deepens the spatial concentration of disadvantage, even if at the same time it reduces crime through incapacitation.

In such a reinforcing system with possible countervailing effects at the aggregate temporal scale, it is difficult, if not impossible, to estimate the overall net effect of incarceration. Moreover, one can argue that there is measurement error or misspecification in the nature of our crime rate control, a reality we acknowledge and have discussed above.

But we have measured those offenses that are known to the criminal justice system and that have been shown to drive public opinion and, we suggest, incarceration decisions.

Punishment’s place: the local concentration of mass incarceration

Skip to search form Skip to main content You are currently offline. Some features of the site may not work correctly. Western and Meredith A. Kleykamp and J. Western , Meredith A.

The recent explosion of imprisonment is exacting heavy costs on American society and exacerbating inequality. Punishment and Inequality in America profiles how the growth in incarceration came about and the toll it is taking on the social and economic fabric of many American communities. Book jacket. Read more Rating: not yet rated 0 with reviews - Be the first. Table of contents Kostenfrei.

Punishment and inequality in America

Bruce Prichart Western born July 1, [2] is an Australian-born American sociologist and a professor of sociology at Columbia University. He has been called "one of the leading academic experts on American incarceration. Western was born in Australia , to a white native Australian father who taught at the University of Queensland , and a Thai international student mother. His father was John Western. He taught at Harvard University from to , where he was a professor of sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the director of the Kennedy School's Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy.

Bruce Western, Punishment and Inequality in America. Bruce Western has produced some superb quantitative empirical research in the past decade and a half, from his early work on corporatism, unions and wages e. Western, , ; Western and Healy, to his more recent study of the causes and consequences of incarceration in the United States, of which Punishment and Inequality in America is the culmination.

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Crime , Punishment , and American Inequality

Punishment and Inequality in America. Bruce Western. Over the last thirty years, the prison population in the United States has increased more than seven-fold to over two million people, including vastly disproportionate numbers of minorities and people with little education. For some racial and educational groups, incarceration has become a depressingly regular experience, and prison culture and influence pervade their communities. Almost 60 percent of black male high school drop-outs in their early thirties have spent time in prison. In Punishment and Inequality in America, sociologist Bruce Western explores the recent era of mass incarceration and the serious social and economic consequences it has wrought.

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1 Comments

  1. Pinigeme

    American crime policy took an unexpected turn in the latter part of the twenty-first century, entering a new penal regime.

    15.04.2021 at 13:14 Reply

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