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The history of the idea of democracy is curious; the history of democracies is
puzzling. .
There are two striking historical facts . First, political leaders of extraordinarily
diverse views profess to be democrats. Political regimes of all kinds describe
themselves as democracies. Yet what these regimes say and do is often
substantially different from one to another throughout the world. Democracy
appears to legitimate modern political life: rule-making and law enforcement
seem justified and appropriate when they are ‘ democratic’. But it has not always
been so . From ancient Greece to the present day the majority of political
thinkers have been highly critical of the theory and practice of democracy. A
general commitment to democracy is a very recent phenomenon. –
Second, while many states today may be democratic, the history of their
political institutions reveals the fragility and vulnerability of democratic
arrangements. The history of twentieth-century Europe alone makes clear that
democracy is a remarkably difficult form of government to create and sustain:
fascism , Nazism and Stalinism came very close to eradicating it altogether.
Democracy has evolved through intensive social struggles and is frequently
sacrificed in such struggles. This book is about the idea of democracy, but in
exploring the idea we cannot escape too far from aspects of its history in thought
and practice.
While the word ‘democracy’ came into English in the sixteenth century from
the French democratie, its origins are Greek. ‘Democracy’ is derived from
demokratia, the root meanings of which are demos (people) and kratos (rule).
Democracy means a form of government in which, in contradistinction to
monarchies and aristocracies, the people rule. Democracy entails a political
community in which there is some form of political equality among the
people. ‘Rule by the people ‘ may appear an unambiguous concept, but
appearances are deceptive. The history of the idea of democracy is complex
and is marked by conflicting conceptions. There is plenty of scope for
Definitional problems emerge with each element of the phrase: ‘rule’? – ‘rule
by’? – ‘the people’? To begin with ‘the people’:
• Who are to be considered ‘the people’?
• What kind of participation is envisaged for them?
• What conditions are assumed to be conducive to participation? Can
the disincentives and incentives, or costs and benefits, of participation be
2 Introduction
The idea of ‘rule’ evokes a plethora of issues:
• How broadly or narrowly is the scope of rule to be construed? Or, what is the
appropriate field of democratic activity?
• If ‘rule’ is to cover ‘the political’ what is meant by this? Does it cover: (a) law
and order? (b) relations between states? (c) the economy? (d) the domestic or
private sphere?
Does ‘rule by’ entail the obligation to obey?
• Must the rules of ‘the people’ be obeyed? What is the place of obligation and
• What roles are permitted for those who are avowedly and actively ‘non-
• Under what circumstances, if any, are democracies entitled to resort to
coercion against some of their own people or against those outside the sphere
of legitimate rule?
The potential areas for disagreement do not stop here. For, from ancient
Greece to the contemporary world, there have also been fundamentally different
opinions expressed about the general conditions or prerequisites of successful
‘rule by the people’. Do the people have, for instance, to be literate before
becoming democrats? Is a certain level of social wealth necessary for the main-
tenance of a democracy? Can democracies be maintained during times of
national emergency or war? These and a host of other issues have ensured that
the meaning of democracy has remained, and probably always will remain,
There is much significant history in the attempt to restrict the meaning of ‘the
people’ to certain groups: among others, owners of property, white men,
educated men, men, those with particular skills and occupations, white adults,
adults. There is also a telling story in the various conceptions and debates about
what is to count as ‘rule’ by ‘the people’. The range of possible positions
includes, as one commentator usefully summarized them:
1 That all should govern, in the sense that all should be involved in legislating,
in deciding on general policy, in applying laws and in governmental
2 That all should be personally involved in crucial decision-making, that is to
say, in deciding general laws and matters of general policy.
3 That rulers should be accountable to the ruled; they should, in other words,
be obliged to justify their actions to the ruled and be removable by the ruled.
4 That rulers should be accountable to the representatives of the ruled.
5 That rulers should be chosen by the ruled.
6 That rulers should be chosen by the representatives of the ruled.
7 That rulers should act in the interests of the ruled. (Lively, 1975, p. 30)
Positions taken deriv~ in part from different ways of justifying democracy.
Democracy has been defended on the grounds that it comes closest among the
alternatives to achieving one or more of the following fundamental values or
goods: rightful authority, political equality, liberty, moral self-development, the
common interest, a fair moral compromise, binding decisions that take
everyone’s interest inti
efficient decisions. Wi
to determine whether < form of life in which regulation) or an aid to c those voted into power· the scope of democra alternatively, should important ends? These are extreme democracy, the chief t help to illuminate whyl focusing on the chief v options we face today. themselves in a simple1 confusing, partly beca because the issues a important to say also all such accounts, by a democratic ideas and hold on our political, s' precise nature of this v· clarified later, but it do democratic theorists The book is divided · democracy: the classic conception of a self, protective and develo1 elaborated in two diffe democracy); and the M five more recent mode conflict: competitive ell democracy and deliber problems of democrati should democracy m appraisal of the conte context of the nation-st; of dense interconnecti Thus, the concerns conceptions of democ the slow re-emergence and, from the late sixt, tyranny and the absol the late eighteenth anc 1 It is important to note ttl 2 and 3 explore the leading construed? Or, what is the this? Does it cover: (a) law tiomy? (d) the domestic or ;le place of obligation and wedly and actively 'non- :ies entitled to resort to t those outside the sphere here. For, from ancient tl fundamentally different 1rerequisites of successful ice, to be literate before 1 necessary for the main- 11tained during times of issues have ensured that 11.bly always will remain, strict the meaning of 'the 1f property, white men, ccupations, white adults, >tions and debates about
~e of possible positions
involved in legislating,
and in governmental
lion-making, that is to
hould, in other words,
:movable by the ruled.
es of the ruled.
the ruled.
ely, 1975, p. 30)
f justifying democracy.
Imes closest among the
fundamentaJ values or
~self-development, the
g decisions that take
Introduction 3
everyone’s interest into account, social utility, the satisfaction of wants,
efficient decisions. Within the history of the clash of positions lies the struggle
to determine whether democracy will mean some kind of popular power (a
form of life in which citizens are engaged in self-government and self-
regulation) or an aid to decision-making (a means to legitimate the decisions of
those voted into power- ‘representatives’ – from time to time). What should be
the scope of democracy? To what domains of life should it be applied? Or,
alternatively, should democracy be clearly delimited to maintain other
important ends?
These are extremely difficult questions. Analysis of the variants of
democracy, the chief task of this book, does not resolve them, although it may
help to illuminate why certain positions are more attractive than others. In
focusing on the chief variants, this volume will set out some of the political
options we face today. But it is as well to say that these options do not present
themselves in a simple, clear-cut manner. The history of democracy is often
confusing, partly because this is still very much an active history, and partly
because the issues are very complex (R. Williams, 1976, pp. 82-7). It is
important to say also that my account of the myriad of issues is helped, as are
all such accounts, by a particular position within this active history: a belief that
democratic ideas and practices can in the long run be protected only if their
hold on our political, social and economic life is extended and deepened. The
precise nature of this view and the reasons I have for holding it will, I hope, be
clarified later, but it does mean that I am inevitably more sympathetic to some
democratic theorists than others.
The book is divided into three parts. Part One sets out four classic models of
democracy: the classical idea of democracy in ancient Athens; the republican
conception of a self-governing community (elaborated in two variants:
protective and developmental republicanism);’ liberal democracy (again,
elaborated in two different variants: protective democracy and developmental
democracy); and the Marxist conception of direct democracy. Part Two explores
five more recent models that have spawned intensive political discussion and
conflict: competitive elitist democracy, pluralism, legal democracy, participatory
democracy and deliberative democracy. Part Three examines some of the central
problems of democratic theory and practice, and addresses the question: what
should democracy mean today? This question is pursued by means of an
appraisal of the contemporary relevance of the democratic heritage within the
context of the nation-state as well as against the background of the development
of dense interconnections among states and societies.
Thus, the concerns of Models of Democracy span some of the earliest
conceptions of democracy, the eclipse of these ideas for nearly two millerinia,
the slow re-emergence of democratic notions in the course of the Renaissance
and, from the late sixteenth century, during the struggle of liberalism against
tyranny and the absolutist state, the reformulation of the idea of democracy in
the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in both the liberal and Marxist
1 It is important to note that not all conceptions of republicanism were democratic. Chapters
2 and 3 explore the leading conceptions and their relation to democracy.
The single greatest political transforma-
tion of the post-civil rights era in Ameri-
ca is the joint rolling back of the stingy
social state and rolling out of the gargan-
tuan penal state that have remade the
country’s strati½cation, cities, and civic
culture, and are recasting the very char-
acter of “blackness” itself. Together, these
two concurrent and convergent thrusts
have effectively redrawn the perimeter,
mission, and modalities of action of pub-
lic authority when it comes to managing
the deprived and stigmatized populations
stuck at the bottom of the class, ethnic,
and urban hierarchy. The concomitant
downsizing of the welfare wing and up-
sizing of the criminal justice wing of the
American state have not been driven by
raw trends in poverty and crime, but
fueled by a politics of resentment toward
categories deemed undeserving and un-
ruly. Chief among those stigmatized pop-
ulations are the public-aid recipients and
the street criminals framed as the two de-
monic ½gureheads of the “black under-
class” that came to dominate the journal-
istic, scholarly, and policy debate on the
plight of urban America1 in the revan-
chist decades that digested the civil dis-
orders of the 1960s and the stagflation of
the 1970s, and then witnessed the biggest
carceral boom in world history.2
In this article, I show that the stupen-
dous expansion and intensi½cation of the
activities of the American police, criminal
courts, and prison over the past thirty
years have been ½nely targeted, ½rst by
class, second by race, and third by place,
leading not to mass incarceration but to
the hyperincarceration of (sub)proletari-
an African American men from the im-
ploding ghetto. This triple selectivity re-
veals that the building of the hyperactive
and hypertrophic penal state that has
made the United States world champion
in incarceration is at once a delayed reac-
tion to the civil rights movement and the
ghetto riots of the mid-1960s3 and a disci-
plinary instrument unfurled to foster the
neoliberal revolution by helping to im-
pose insecure labor as the normal hori-
zon of work for the unskilled fractions of
the postindustrial laboring class.4 The
double coupling of the prison with the
dilapidated hyperghetto, on the one side,
and with supervisory workfare, on the
other, is not a moral dilemma–as recent-
ly argued by Glenn Loury in his Tanner
Lecture5–but a political quandary call-
ing for an expanded analysis of the nexus
of class inequality, ethnic stigma, and the
state in the age of social insecurity. Re-
versing the racialized penalization of
74 DædalusSummer 2010
Loïc Wacquant
Class, race & hyperincarceration
in revanchist America
© 2010 by Loïc Wacquant
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poverty in the crumbling inner city re-
quires a different policy response than
mass incarceration would and calls for
an analysis of the political obstacles to
this response, which must go beyond
“trickle-down” penal reform to encom-
pass the multifaceted role of the state in
producing and entrenching marginality.
The tale of the unexpected and expo-
nential growth of jails and prisons over
the past three decades in America after
a half-century of carceral stability has
often been told. But the raw increase of
the population behind bars–from about
380,000 in 1975 to 2 million in 2000 and
some 2.4 million today (counting juve-
niles and persons held in police lockups,
who are not registered by of½cial correc-
tional statistics)–is only part of the story
of the multisided expansion of the penal
state.6 Four distinctive yet submerged
dimensions of America’s punitive turn
after the close of the Fordist era form the
backdrop to my analysis of the deploy-
ment of the disciplinary tentacles of the
state toward the poor.
First, this phenomenal increase is re-
markable for having been fueled, not by
the lengthening of the average sentence
as in previous periods of carceral infla-
tion, but primarily by the surge in jail and
prison admissions. Thus the number of
people committed to state and federal
penitentiaries by the courts ballooned
from 159,000 in 1980 to 665,000 in 1997
(accounting for more than 80 percent of
inmate growth during that period) before
stabilizing at about a half-million annu-
ally after 2002. This surge sharply differ-
entiates the United States from Western
European countries, most of which have
also witnessed a steady, if comparatively
modest, rise in incarceration over the past
two decades, but one where growing
stock is not due to increases in flow.7
A major contributor to this “vertical”
growth of the carceral system in Ameri-
ca is the steep escalation in the volume
of persons arrested by the police and the
vastly enlarged role assumed by jails as
frontline dams of social disorders in the
city. This police hyperactivism has been
disproportionate to and disjoined from
trends in crime. One example: in New
York City, under the campaign of “zero
tolerance” promoted by then-Mayor
Rudolph Giuliani, the number of arrests
increased by 40 percent between 1993
and 1998 to top 376,000 while crime de-
creased by 54 percent to reach 323,000,
meaning that the police arrested more
persons than it recorded offenses by the
end of that period, compared to half as
many at the start. Even though a grow-
ing share of these arrests were abusive
and did not lead to charges, admissions
to jail rose by one-fourth, causing ram-
pant congestion and daily pandemoni-
um in the city’s custodial facilities.8
As a result of intensi½ed policing cou-
pled with a rising propensity to con½ne
miscreants, American jails have become
gargantuan operations processing a dozen
million bodies each year nationwide, as
well as huge drains on the budgets of
counties and pivotal institutions in the
lives of the (sub)proletariat of the big
cities.9 Indeed, because they treat vastly
more people than do prisons, under con-
ditions that are more chaotic due to high
turnover, endemic overcrowding, popu-
lation heterogeneity, and the administra-
tive shift to bare-bones managerialism
(the two top priorities of jail wardens are
to minimize violent incidents and to hold
down staff overtime), jails create more
social disruption and family turmoil at
the bottom of the urban order than do
prisons. Yet they have remained largely
under the radar of researchers and policy
analysts alike.10
Second, the vertical rise of the penal
system has been exceeded by its “hori-
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76 DædalusSummer 2010
zontal” spread: the ranks of those kept in
the long shadow of the prison via probation
and parole have swelled even more than
the population under lock, to about 4 mil-
lion and 1 million, respectively. As a re-
sult, the total population under criminal
justice supervision bloated from 1.8 mil-
lion in 1980 to 6.4 million by 2000 and
7.4 million in 2007. Probation and parole
should be incorporated into the debate
on the penal state, not only because they
concern a much larger population than
that of convicts (in 1998, eleven states
each held in excess of 100,000 probation-
ers under their heel, more than France
did, with 87,000), but also because both
are more likely to lead (back) to impris-
onment than not: two in ½ve probation-
ers and six in ten parolees who exited this
status in 1997 were returned to custody
within three years, either because they
had committed a new offense or because
they had violated one or another admin-
istrative condition of their release (fail-
ing an alcohol test or losing a job, miss-
ing an appointment with their parole of-
½cer, or traveling outside of their county
of assignment without permission, for
example). The purpose and functioning
of parole have changed drastically over
the past thirty years, from spring toward
rehabilitation to penal trap, so that parole
is now properly construed as an extension
of the custodial system, rather than an
alternative to it.11
The reach of penal authorities has
also been dramatically enlarged beyond
probation and parole by the exponential
growth in the size, scope, and uses of
criminal justice databases that, as of
2000, contained roughly sixty million
½les on an estimated thirty-½ve million
individuals. Novel panoptic measures in-
clude the diffusion of of½cial “rap sheets”
through the Internet, the routinization
of “background checks” by employers
and realtors, the spread of public noti½-
cation statutes (and related laws seek-
ing to expurgate speci½c categories of
convicts, such as sex offenders, from the
social body), and the shift from old-style
½ngerprints and mug shots to dna prints
coordinated by the fbi.12 These institu-
tional tentacles, and the routine practices
of pro½ling, surveillance, and enclosure
at a distance that they permit, severely
curtail the life chances of former convicts
and their families by stretching the effects
of judicial stigma on the labor, housing,
and marital markets as well as into daily
life.13 Legislators have further ampli½ed
these sanctions by adding a raft of restric-
tions on the access of ex-felons to public
services, privileges, and bene½ts, from
public housing and public employment
to college scholarships, parenting, and
voting rights.14
Third, the advent of penal “big gov-
ernment” was made possible by aston-
ishing increases in funding and person-
nel. Prison and jail expenditures in Amer-
ica jumped from $7 billion in 1980 to $57
billion in 2000 and exceeded $70 billion
in 2007, even as crime ½rst stagnated and
then declined steadily after 1993. (Mean-
while, criminal justice expenditures grew
sevenfold, from $33 billion to $216 bil-
lion.) This budgetary boom of 660 per-
cent–amounting to a veritable carceral
Marshall Plan during a period when suc-
cessive administrations proclaimed to
rein in public spending–½nanced the
infusion of an additional one million
criminal justice staff, which has made
corrections the third largest employer
in the nation, behind only Manpower
Inc. and Wal-Mart, with a monthly pay-
roll of $2.4 billion.
The upsizing of the carceral function
of government has been rigorously pro-
portional to the downsizing of its wel-
fare role. In 1980, the country spent
three times as much on its two main
assistance programs ($11 billion for
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DædalusSummer 2010 77
Aid to Families with Dependent Chil-
dren [afdc] and $10 billion for food
stamps) than on corrections ($7 bil-
lion). By 1996, when ‘‘welfare reform’’
replaced the right to public assistance
by the obligation to accept insecure
employment as a condition of support,
the carceral budget came to double the
sums allocated to either afdc or food
stamps ($54 billion compared to $20 bil-
lion and $27 billion, respectively). Simi-
larly, during the 1990s alone, Washing-
ton cut funding for public housing by
$17 billion (a reduction of 61 percent)
and boosted corrections by $19 billion
(an increase of 171 percent), effectively
making the construction of prisons the
nation’s main housing program for the
Fourth, the building of America’s
gigantic penal state is a nationwide en-
deavor and a bipartisan achievement. Many
scholars have rightly stressed that the
United States does not have a criminal
justice system so much as a loose patch-
work of independent jurisdictions beset
by administrative fragmentation and pol-
icy dispersal bordering on incoherence.15
In light of wide regional and state varia-
tions, others have highlighted the role of
“local political culture” and modes of
“civic engagement” in determining the
mix and intensity of penal sanctions.16
Still others have reported that Republi-
can governors, a large African American
urban population, and “a state’s religious
and political culture” exert a signi½cant
influence on incarceration rates.17 Yet for
all these and other geographic disparities
and peculiarities, it remains that, over
the past thirty-odd years, penal escala-
tion has left no corner of the country un-
touched and has brought about de facto
uni½cation in the aggressive deployment
of punishment. Aside from Maine and
Kansas, all states saw their correctional
counts grow by more than 50 percent be-
tween 1985 and 1995, at the peak of the
carceral boom. Everywhere the ideal of
rehabilitation has been abandoned or
drastically downgraded, making retribu-
tion and neutralization the main practi-
cal rationale for con½nement.
Increases in the civic salience of crime
and distrust in government have pushed
all jurisdictions toward greater punitive-
ness.18 Moreover, policy control over
criminal justice has migrated to the feder-
al level, where it has grown steadily more
symbolic and less substantive since the
1970s.19 Indeed, this national slant is one
of the distinctive causes of the severity of
the punitive turn, as it strikes at impov-
erished minority districts in the city.20
This national trajectory has been uninter-
rupted by changes in political majority
in statehouses, Congress, and the White
House, as both parties have reflexively
supported penal activism and expanded
incarceration.21 Republicans will claim
that they are “tougher on crime,” but
Democratic majorities have run up the
carceral tab in California, Illinois, Michi-
gan, and New York. It was a Democratic
president, Jimmy Carter (former governor
of Georgia, one of the country’s most re-
pressive states), who jump-started Amer-
ica’s great “carceral leap forward.” And
another Democratic president (and for-
mer governor of another superpunitive
state, Arkansas), Bill Clinton, who pushed
for the most costly crime bill in world
history (the Violent Crime Control and
Law Enforcement Act of 1994), oversaw
the single largest expansion of incarcer-
ation in the annals of democratic so-
cieties: Clinton tallied an increase of
465,000 convicts for an added $15 bil-
lion, compared to 288,000 convicts for a
boost of $8 billion for Ronald Reagan.
The foregoing indicates that the foot-
print of the penal state on the national body
is much broader and heavier than usually
Class, race
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78 DædalusSummer 2010
depicted. At the same time, it is also con-
siderably more pointed than conveyed by
the current debate. It has become conven-
tional among justice activists, journalists,
and analysts of the U.S. carceral scene to
designate the unprecedented and unpar-
alleled expansion of the American cor-
rectional system at the close of the twen-
tieth century as “mass incarceration.”22
The term was (re)introduced in the na-
tional prison debate in the late 1990s
(until then, it had been used to refer to
the internment of Japanese Americans in
concentration camps during World War
II) and was soon codi½ed by David Gar-
land at the interdisciplinary conference
on “Mass Incarceration: Social Causes
and Consequences,” held at New York
University in 2000, which boosted re-
search on the topic.23 The designation of
mass incarceration is intuitively appeal-
ing because it helps spotlight the outlier
status of the United States on the world
scene, dramatize the condition at hand,
and thus draw scholarly and public atten-
tion to it. But, much as it has been useful
in terms of mobilizing intellectual and
civic resources, the notion obscures sig-
nal features of the phenomenon.
Mass incarceration is a mischaracteri-
zation of what is better termed hyperin-
carceration. This is not a mere termino-
logical quibble, for the change in word-
ing points to a different depiction of the
punitive turn, which leads to a different
causal model and thence to different pol-
icy prescriptions. Mass incarceration sug-
gests that con½nement concerns large
swaths of the citizenry (as with the mass
media, mass culture, and mass unem-
ployment), implying that the penal net
has been flung far and wide across social
and physical space. This is triply inaccu-
rate. First, the prevalence of penal con-
½nement in the United States, while ex-
treme by international standards, can
hardly be said to concern the masses.
Indeed, a rate of 0.75 percent compares
quite favorably with the incidence of
such woes as latent tuberculosis infec-
tion (estimated at 4.2 percent) and se-
vere alcohol dependency (3.81 percent),
ailments which no one would seriously
contend have reached mass proportions
in the United States.24 Next, the expan-
sion and intensi½cation of the activities
of the police, courts, and prison over the
past quarter-century have been anything
but broad and indiscriminate.25 They
have been ½nely targeted, ½rst by class,
second by that disguised brand of eth-
nicity called race, and third by place.
This cumulative targeting has led to the
hyperincarceration of one particular cate-
gory, lower-class African American men
trapped in the crumbling ghetto, while leav-
ing the rest of society–including, most
remarkably, middle- and upper-class Afri-
can Americans–practically untouched.
Third, and more important still, this
triple selectivity is a constitutive property of
the phenomenon: had the penal state been
rolled out indiscriminately by policies
resulting in the capture of vast numbers
of whites and well-to-do citizens, capsiz-
ing their families and decimating their
neighborhoods as it has for inner-city
African Americans, its growth would
have been speedily derailed and eventu-
ally stopped by political counteraction.
“Mass” incarceration is socially tolerable
and therefore workable as public policy
only so long as it does not reach the masses:
it is a ½gure of speech, which hides the
multiple ½lters that operate to point the
penal dagger.26
Class, not race, is the ½rst ½lter of se-
lection for incarceration. The welcome
focus on race, crime, and punishment
that has dominated discussions of the
prison boom has obliterated the fact that
inmates are ½rst and foremost poor people.
Indeed, this monotonic class recruitment
is a constant of penal history since the
on mass
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DædalusSummer 2010 79
invention of houses of correction in the
late sixteenth century27 and a fact con-
½rmed by the annals of U.S. incarcera-
tion.28 Consider the social pro½le of the
clientele of the nation’s jails–the gate-
way into America’s carceral archipelago.
This clientele is drawn overwhelmingly
from the most precarious fractions of the
urban working class29: fewer than half
of inmates held a full-time job at the time
of arraignment and two-thirds issue from
households with an annual income com-
ing to less than half the “poverty line”;
only 13 percent have some postsecondary
education (compared to a national rate
above one-half ); 60 percent did not grow
up with both parents, including 14 per-
cent raised in foster homes or orphan-
ages; and every other detainee has had
a member of his family behind bars. The
regular clients of America’s jails suffer
from acute material insecurity, cultural
deprivation, and social denudement–
only 16 percent of them are married,
compared to 58 percent for men of their
age bracket nationwide. They also include
disproportionate numbers of the home-
less, the mentally ill, the alcohol- and
drug-addicted, and the severely handi-
capped: nearly one in four suffers from a
physical, psychic, or emotional ailment
serious enough to hamper his or her
ability to work. And they come mostly
from deprived and stigmatized neigh-
borhoods that have been devastated by
the double retrenchment of the formal
labor market and the welfare state from
the urban core.30 Conversely, very few
members of the middle and upper classes
ever sojourn at the “Graybar hotel,” es-
pecially for committing the minor to
middling crimes that account for the
bulk of prison convictions. (In 1997, 11
percent of new court commitments to
state penitentiaries were for public order
offenses, 30 percent for narcotics convic-
tions, and 28 percent for property crimes.)
Martha Stewart and Bernie Madoff are
but spectacular exceptions that spotlight
this stringent class rule.
Race comes second. But the ethnic
transformation of America’s prison has
been at once more dramatic and more
puzzling than generally recognized. To
start, the ethnoracial makeup of convicts
has completely flip-flopped in four decades,
turning over from 70 percent white and
30 percent “others” at the close of World
War II to 70 percent African American
and Latino versus 30 percent white by
century’s end. This inversion, which ac-
celerated after the mid-1970s, is all the
more stunning when the criminal popu-
lation has both shrunk and become whiter
during that period: the share of African
Americans among individuals arrested by
the police for the four most serious vio-
lent offenses (murder, rape, robbery, and
aggravated assault) dropped from 51 per-
cent in 1973 to 43 percent in 1996,31 and it
continued to decline steadily for each of
those four crimes until at least 2006.32
Next, the rapid “blackening” of the
prison population even as serious crime
“whitened” is due exclusively to the astro-
nomical increase in the incarceration
rates of lower-class African Americans.
In his book Punishment and Inequality in
America, sociologist Bruce Western pro-
duces a stunning statistic: whereas the
cumulative risk of imprisonment for
African American males without a high-
school diploma tripled between 1979 and
1999, to reach the astonishing rate of 59
percent, the lifetime chance of serving
time for African American men with
some college education decreased from 6
percent to 5 percent.33 Here again, the
media melodrama around the arrest of
Harvard University star professor Henry
Louis Gates in Summer 2009 has hidden
the fact that middle- and upper-class Afri-
can Americans are better off under the
present penal regime than they were thir-
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ty years ago. It has played to the national
obsession for the black-white duality,
which obfuscates the fact that class dis-
proportionality inside each ethnic category
is greater than the racial disproportionality
between them: African American men
are eight times more likely to sojourn
behind bars than European American
men (7.9 percent versus 1.0 percent in
2000), but the lifetime probability of
serving time in prison for African
American males who did not com-
plete their secondary education is
twelve times that for African Amer-
ican males who went to college (58.9
percent versus 4.9 percent), whereas
that class gap among white men stands
at sixteen to one (11.2 percent versus
0.7 percent).34 The fact that these ra-
tios were considerably lower two de-
cades ago for both African Americans
and European Americans (of the order
of one to three and one to eight, respec-
tively) con½rms that enlarged imprison-
ment has struck very selectively by class
inside of race, which again refutes the
diagnosis of a “mass” phenomenon.
How was such double, nested selec-
tivity achieved? How is it possible that
criminal laws ostensibly written to
avoid class and color bias would lead
to throwing so many (sub)proletarian
African American men under lock, and
not other African American men?35
The class gradient in racialized impris-
onment was obtained by targeting one
particular place: the remnants of the dark
ghetto. I insist here on the word remnants,
because the ghetto of old, which held in
its grip a uni½ed, if strati½ed, African
American community, is no more. The
communal Black Belt of the Fordist era,
described by a long lineage of distin-
guished African American sociologists,
from W. E. B. Du Bois and E. Franklin
Frazier to Drake and Cayton to Kenneth
Clark, imploded in the 1960s, to be re-
placed by a dual and decentered struc-
ture of seclusion composed of a degrad-
ed hyperghetto doubly segregated by race
and class, on the one hand, and the satel-
lite African American middle-class districts
that mushroomed in the adjacent areas
vacated by the mass exodus of whites
to the suburbs, on the other.36
But to detect the tightening linkage
between the decaying ghetto and the
booming prison requires that one ef-
fects two analytic moves. First, one
must break out of the narrow ambit
of the “crime and punishment” para-
digm that continues to hamstring the
scholarly and policy debate, in spite
of its increasingly glaring inadequacy.
A simple ratio suf½ces to demonstrate
that crime cannot be the cause behind
carceral hyperinflation: the number
of clients of state and federal prisons
boomed from 21 convicts per thousand
“index crimes” in 1975 to 125 per thou-
sand in 2005. In other words, holding
the crime rate constant shows that the
American penal state is six times more
punitive today than it was three decades
ago.37 Instead of getting sidetracked into
investigations of the crime-punishment
(dis)connection, one must recognize that
the prison is not a mere technical imple-
ment of government designed to stem
offending, but a core state capacity de-
voted to managing dispossessed and dis-
honored populations. Returning to the
early history of the prison in the long
sixteenth century readily discloses that
penal bondage developed, not to ½ght
crime, but to dramatize the authority
of rulers, and to repress idleness and
enforce morality among vagrants, beg-
gars, and assorted categories cast adrift
by the advent of capitalism.38 The rise
of the prison was part and parcel of the
building of the early modern state to
discipline the nascent urban proletariat
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and to stage sovereignty for the bene½t
of the emerging citizenry. The same is
true four centuries later in the dualizing
metropolis of neoliberal capitalism.39
A second analytic shift is needed to
ferret out the causal connection between
hyperghettoization and hyperincarcera-
tion: to realize that the ghetto is not a
segregated quarter, a poor neighborhood,
or an urban district marred by housing
dilapidation, violence, vice, or disrepute,
but an instrument of ethnoracial control in
the city. Another return to social history
demonstrates that a ghetto is a sociospa-
tial contraption through which a domi-
nant ethnic category secludes a subordi-
nate group and restricts its life chances in
order to both exploit and exclude it from
the life-sphere of the dominant. Like the
Jewish ghetto in Renaissance Europe, the
Black Belt of the American metropolis in
the Fordist age combined four elements
–stigma, constraint, spatial con½nement,
and institutional encasement–to permit
the economic extraction and social ostra-
cization of a population deemed congen-
itally inferior, de½led and de½ling by vir-
tue of its lineal connection to bondage.
Succeeding chattel slavery and Jim Crow,
the ghetto was the third “peculiar institu-
tion” entrusted with de½ning, con½ning,
and controlling African Americans in the
urban industrial order.40
Penal expansion after the mid-1970s is
a political response to the collapse of the
ghetto. But why did the ghetto collapse?
Three causal series converged to under-
cut the “black city within the white” that
hemmed in African Americans from the
1920s to the 1960s. The ½rst is the post-
industrial economic transition that shift-
ed employment from manufacturing to
services, from central city to suburb, and
from the Rustbelt to the Sunbelt and low-
wage foreign countries. Together with re-
newed immigration, this shift made Afri-
can American workers redundant and
undercut the role of the ghetto as a reser-
voir of unskilled labor. The second cause
is the political displacement provoked by
the Great White Migration to the sub-
urbs: from the 1950s to the 1970s, millions
of white families fled the metropolis in
reaction to the influx of African Ameri-
cans from the rural South. This demo-
graphic upheaval, subsidized by the fed-
eral government and bolstered by the
courts, weakened cities in the national
electoral system and reduced the political
pull of African Americans. The third force
behind the breakdown of the ghetto as
ethnoracial container is African Ameri-
can protest, fostered by the accumulation
of social and symbolic capital correlative
of ghettoization, culminating with the
civil rights legislation, the budding of
Black Power activism, and the eruption
of urban riots that rocked the country
between 1964 and 1968.
Unlike Jim Crow, then, the ghetto was
not dismantled by forceful government
action. It was left to crumble onto itself,
trapping lower-class African Americans
in a vortex of unemployment, poverty,
and crime abetted by the joint withdrawal
of the wage-labor market and the welfare
state, while the growing African Ameri-
can middle class achieved limited social
and spatial separation by colonizing the
districts adjacent to the historic Black
Belt.41 As the ghetto lost its economic
function of labor extraction and proved
unable to ensure ethnoracial closure, the
prison was called on to help contain a
dishonored population widely viewed as
deviant, destitute, and dangerous. This
coupling occurred because, as previously
suggested, ghetto and prison belong to
the same organizational genus, namely,
institutions of forced con½nement: the ghetto
is a sort of “ethnoracial prison” in the
city, while the prison functions in the
manner of a “judicial ghetto” at large.
Both are charged with enfolding a stig-
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matized category so as to defuse the ma-
terial and/or symbolic threat it poses for
the broader society from which it has
been extruded.
To be sure, the structural homology
and functional surrogacy of ghetto and
prison do not mandate that the former
be replaced by or coupled with the lat-
ter. For that to happen, speci½c policy
choices had to be made, implemented,
and supported. This support sprang from
the fearful reaction of whites to the ur-
ban riots and related racial upheavals of
the 1960s and from the rising political
resentment generated by government
powerlessness in the face of the stagfla-
tion of 1970s and the subsequent spread
of social insecurity along three tacks.
First, middle-class whites accelerated
their exodus out of the capsizing cities,
which enabled the federal government
to dismantle programs essential to the
succor of inner-city residents. Second,
working-class whites joined their mid-
dle-class brethren in turning against the
welfare state to demand that public aid
be curtailed–leading to the “end of wel-
fare as we know it” in 1996. Third, whites
across the class spectrum allied to offer
ardent political backing for the “law and
order” measures that primed the penal
pump and harnessed it to the hyperghet-
to. The meeting ground and theater of
these three political thrusts was the “re-
vanchist city”42 in which increasing in-
equality, diffusing social precariousness,
and festering marginality fed citizens’
rancor over the alleged excessive gener-
osity of welfare and leniency of criminal
justice toward poor African Americans.
Two trains of converging changes then
bolstered the knitting of the hyperghetto
and the prison into a carceral mesh en-
snaring a population of lower-class Afri-
can Americans rejected by the deregulat-
ed labor market and the dereliction of
public institutions in the inner city.43
On the one side, the ghetto was “prisonized”
as its class composition became monoto-
nously poor, its internal social relations
grew stamped by distrust and fear, and its
indigenous organizations waned to be re-
placed by the social control institutions
of the state. On the other side, the prison
was “ghettoized” as rigid racial partition
came to pervade custodial facilities; the
predatory culture of the street supplant-
ed the “convict code” that had tradition-
ally organized the “inmate society”44;
rehabilitation was abandoned in favor of
neutralization; and the stigma of criminal
conviction was deepened and diffused in
ways that make it akin to racial dishonor.
The resulting symbiosis between hyper-
ghetto and prison not only perpetuates
the socioeconomic marginality and sym-
bolic taint of the African American sub-
proletariat, feeding the runaway growth
of the carceral system. It also plays a key
role in the revamping of “race” by asso-
ciating blackness with devious violence
and dangerousness,45 the rede½nition of
the citizenry via the production of a ra-
cialized public culture of vili½cation of
criminals, and the construction of a post-
Keynesian state that replaces the social-
welfare treatment of poverty with its
punitive containment.
Yet the tightening nexus between the
hyperghetto and the prison does not tell
the whole story of the frenetic growth of
the penal institution in America after the
civil rights revolution. In Punishing the
Poor, I show that the unleashing of a vo-
racious prison apparatus after the mid-
1970s partakes of a broader restructur-
ing of the state tending to criminalize
poverty and its consequences so as to
impress insecure, underpaid jobs as the
modal employment situation of the un-
skilled segments of the postindustrial
proletariat. The sudden hypertrophy of
the penal state was thus matched and
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complemented by the planned atrophy
of the social state, culminating with the
1996 law on Personal Responsibility and
Work Opportunity, which replaced the
right to “welfare” with the obligation
of “workfare.” Each in its fashion, work-
fare and prisonfare respond, not just
to the crisis of the ghetto as a device
for the sociospatial seclusion of Afri-
can Americans, but to the repudiation
of the Fordist wage-work compact and
of the Keynesian social compromise of
the postwar decades. Together, they en-
snare the marginal populations of the
metropolis in a carceral-assistential net
designed to steer them toward dereg-
ulated employment through moral re-
training and material suasion and, if
they prove too recalcitrant and disrup-
tive, to warehouse them in the devas-
tated core of the urban Black Belt and
in the penitentiaries that have become
its distant yet direct satellites.
The workfare revolution and the penal
explosion are the two sides of the same
historical coin, two facets of the reengi-
neering and masculinizing of the state on
the way to the establishment of a novel
political regime that may be character-
ized as liberal-paternalist: it practices
laissez-faire at the top, toward corpo-
rations and the privileged, but it is in-
trusive and disciplinary at the bottom,
when it comes to dealing with the con-
squences of social disinvestment and
economic deregulation for the lower
class and its territories. And, just as ra-
cial stigma was pivotal to the junction
of hyperghetto and prison, the taint of
“blackness” was epicentral to the re-
strictive and punitive overhaul of social
welfare at century’s end. In the wake of
the ghetto mutinies of the 1960s, the
diffusion of blackened images of crime
fueled rising hostility toward criminals
and fostered (white) demands for expan-
sive prison policies narrowly aimed at ret-
ribution and neutralization.46 During
the same years, the spread of blackened
images of urban destitution and depen-
dency similarly fostered mounting re-
sentment toward public aid, bolstering
(white) support for restrictive welfare
measures centered on deterrence and
compulsion.47 Race turns out to be the
symbolic linchpin that coordinated
the synergistic transformation of these
two sectors of public policy toward the
Again, like the joining of hyperghetto
and prison, this second institutional pair-
ing feeding carceral growth can be better
understood by paying attention to the
structural, functional, and cultural simi-
larities between workfare and prisonfare
as “people-processing organizations”49
targeted on problem populations and
neighborhoods. It was tightened by the
transformation of welfare in a punitive
direction and by the expansion of the pe-
nal system to “treat” more and more of
the traditional clientele of welfare. Both
programs of state action are narrowly
directed at the bottom of the class and
ethnic hierarchy; both effectively assume
that their recipients are “guilty until pro-
ven innocent” and that their conduct
must be closely supervised as well as
recti½ed by restrictive and coercive mea-
sures; and both use deterrence and stig-
ma to achieve behavioral modi½cation.
In the era of hypermobile capital and
fragmented wage-work, the monitoring
of the precarious segments of the work-
ing class is no longer handled solely by
the maternal social arm of the welfare
state, as portrayed by Frances Fox Piven
and Richard Cloward in their classic 1971
study Regulating the Poor.50 It entails a
double regulation through the virile and
controlling arms of workfare and prisonfare
acting in unison. This dynamic coupling of
social and penal policy at the bottom of
the class and ethnic structure operates
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through a familiar division of labor be-
tween the sexes: the public aid bureau-
cracy, reconverted into an administra-
tive springboard to subpoverty employ-
ment, takes up the task of inculcating
the duty of working for work’s sake to
poor women (and indirectly to their chil-
dren), while the penal quartet formed by
the police, the court, the prison, and the
probation or parole of½cer shoulders the
mission of taming their men–that is, the
boyfriends or husbands, brothers, and
sons of these poor women. Welfare pro-
vision and criminal justice are animated
by the same punitive and paternalist phi-
losophy that stresses the “individual re-
sponsibility” of the “client”; they both
rely on case supervision and bureaucratic
surveillance, deterrence and stigma, and
graduated sanctions aimed at modifying
behavior to enforce compliance with
work and civility; and they reach pub-
lics of roughly comparable size. In 2001,
2.1 million households received Tempo-
rary Assistance to Needy Families, for
a total of some 6 million bene½ciaries,
while the carceral population topped
2.1 million and the stock under criminal
justice supervision surpassed 6.5 million.
In addition, welfare recipients and in-
mates have nearly identical social pro½les
and extensive mutual ties of descent and
alliance con½rming that they are the two
gendered components of the same popu-
lation. Both categories live below 50 per-
cent of the federal poverty line (for one-
half and two-thirds of them, respective-
ly); both are disproportionately African
American and Hispanic (37 percent and
18 percent versus 41 percent and 19 per-
cent); the majority did not ½nish high
school; and many suffer from serious
physical and mental disabilities limiting
their workforce participation (44 percent
of afdc mothers as against 37 percent of
jail inmates). And they are closely bound
to one another by kin and marital and
social bonds, reside overwhelmingly in
the same impoverished households and
barren neighborhoods, and face the
same bleak life horizon at the bottom
of the class and ethnic structure. This
intertwinement indicates that we cannot
hope to untie the knot of class, race, and
imprisonment, and thus explain hyper-
incarceration, if we do not relink prison-
fare and workfare, which in turn implies
that we must bring the social wing of the
state and its transformations into our
analytic and policy purview.
Revanchism as public policy toward
the dispossessed has thrust the country
into a historical cul-de-sac, as the dou-
ble coupling of hyperghettoization and
hyperincarceration, on the one hand, and
workfare and prisonfare, on the other,
damages both society and the state. For
society, the spiral of penal escalation has
become self-reinforcing as well as self-
defeating: the carceral Moloch actively
destabilizes the precarious fractions of
the postindustrial proletariat it strikes
with special zeal, truncates the life op-
tions of its members, and further despoils
inner-city neighborhoods, thereby re-
producing the very social disorders, ma-
terial insecurity, and symbolic stain it is
supposed to alleviate. As a result, the pop-
ulation behind bars has kept on growing
even as the overall crime rate dropped
precipitously for some ½fteen years, yield-
ing a paradoxical pattern of carceral levi-
tation. For the state, the penalization of
poverty turns out to be ½nancially ruin-
ous, as it competes with, and eventually
consumes, the funds and staff needed to
sustain essential public services such as
schooling, health, transportation, and
social protection.51 Moreover, the pu-
nitive and panoptic logic that propels
criminal justice seeps into and erodes
the shielding capacities of the welfare
sector, for instance by inflecting the
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practices of child protective services
in ways that turn them into adjuncts of
the penal apparatus.52 It similarly un-
dercuts the educational springboard,
as depleted inner-city schools serving a
clientele roiled by mass unemployment
and penal disruption come to prioritize
and manage issues of student discipline
through a prism of crime control.53 Last-
ly, the law-and-order guignol diverts the
attention of elected of½cials and saps the
energy of bureaucratic managers charged
with handling the problem populations
and territories of the dualizing city.
If the diagnosis of the rise of the penal
state in America sketched here is correct,
and hyperincarceration proceeding along
steep gradients of class, race, and space
–rather than mass incarceration–is the
offshoot of a novel government of social
insecurity installed to absorb the shock
of the crash of the ghetto and normalize
precarious wage labor, then policies
aimed at shrinking the carceral state
must effectively reverse revanchism. They
must go well beyond criminal justice re-
form to encompass the gamut of govern-
ment programs that collectively set the
life chances of the poor, and whose con-
current turnaround toward restriction
and discipline after the mid-1970s have
boosted the incidence, intensity, and dur-
ation of marginality at the bottom of the
class and ethnic order.54
A variety of cogent proposals for re-
ducing America’s overreliance on con-
½nement to check the reverberations of
urban dispossession and dishonor have
been put forward on the penal front over
the past decade.55 These proposals range
from the renewal of intermediate sanc-
tions, the diversion of low-level drug of-
fenders, the abolition of mandatory sen-
tencing, and the generalized reduction of
the length of prison terms, to the reform
of parole revocation, the incorporation
of ½scal and social impacts into judicial
proceedings, and the promotion of re-
storative justice. Whatever the technical
means chosen, achieving sustained car-
ceral deflation will require insulating
judicial and correctional professionals
from the converging pressures of the
media and politicians, and rehabilitating
rehabilitation through a public campaign
debunking the neoconservative myth
that “nothing works” when it comes to
reforming offenders.56
Deep and broad justice reform is ur-
gently needed to reduce the astronomical
½nancial costs, skewed social and admin-
istrative burdens, and rippling crimino-
genic effects of continued hyperincarcer-
ation. But generic measures to diminish
the size and reach of the prison across
the board will leave largely untouched
the sprouting epicenter of carceral
growth–that is, the urban wastelands
where race, class, and the penal state
meet and mesh–unless they are com-
bined with a concerted attack on labor
degradation and social desolation in the
decaying hyperghetto. For that to hap-
pen, the downsizing of the penal wing
must be accompanied by the reconstruc-
tion of the economic and social capaci-
ties of the state and by their active de-
ployment in and around the devastated
districts of the segregated metropolis.
The programmed dereliction of public
institutions in the inner city must be
remedied through massive investment
in schools, social services, health care,
and unfettered access to drug and alco-
hol rehabilitation. A Works Progress
Administration-style public works pro-
gram aimed at the vestiges of the historic
Black Belt would help at once to rebuild
its decrepit infrastructure, to improve
housing conditions, and to offer eco-
nomic sustenance and civic incorpora-
tion to local residents.57
In sum, the diagnosis of hyperincarcer-
ation implies that puncturing America’s
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bloated and voracious penal state will
take more than a full-bore political com-
mitment to ½ghting social inequality and
ethnic marginality through progressive
and inclusive government programs on
the economic, social, and justice fronts.
It will necessitate also a spatially targeted
policy to break the noxious nexus now
binding hyperghettoization, restrictive
workfare, and expansive prisonfare in
the racialized urban core.
1 Michael B. Katz, ed., The “Underclass” Debate: Views from History (Princeton, N.J.: Prince-
ton University Press, 1995); Alice O’Connor, Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy,
and the Poor in Twentieth-Century U.S. History (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press,
2 See Neil Smith for a stimulating discussion of the notion of revanche as an extended and
multiform “visceral reaction in the public discourse against the liberalism of the post-
1960s period and an all-out attack on the social policy structure that emanated from the
New Deal and the immediate postwar era”; Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier: Gentri-
½cation and the Revanchist City (New York: Routledge, 1996), 42. See also Michael Flamm
for a painstaking account of how the conflation of racial tumult, antiwar protest, civil
disorder, and street crime laid the social foundation for the political demand for “law
and order” in the wake of the class and racial dislocations of the 1960s; Michael W.
Flamm, Law and Order: Street Crime, Civil Unrest, and the Crisis of Liberalism in the 1960s
(New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).
3 Loïc Wacquant, Deadly Symbiosis: Race and the Rise of the Penal State (Cambridge: Polity
Press, 2010).
4 Loïc Wacquant, Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity (Durham,
N.C.: Duke University Press, 2009).
5 Glenn C. Loury, “Racial Stigma, Mass Incarceration, and American Values,” Tanner Lec-
tures on Human Values, Stanford University, April 4–6, 2007. A revised version is includ-
ed in Glenn C. Loury, with Pamela Karlan, Tommie Shelby, and Loïc Wacquant, Race, In-
carceration, and American Values (Cambridge, Mass.: mit Press, 2008).
6 Wacquant, Punishing the Poor, chap. 4–5.
7 Frieder Dünkel and Sonja Snacken, Les Prisons en Europe (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2005).
8 Wacquant, Punishing the Poor, 262–263, 121–125. The spiteful tenor of Giuliani’s cam-
paign of “class cleansing” of the streets and its strident racial overtones are captured by
Neil Smith, “Giuliani Time: The Revanchist 1990s,” Social Text 57 (Winter 1998): 1–20.
9 The sheer scale of American jails puts them in a class of their own. In 2000, the three
largest custodial complexes in the Western world were the jails of Los Angeles (23,000 in-
mates), New York (18,000), and Chicago (10,000). By contrast, the largest penitentiary
center in Europe, the Fleury-Mérogis prison just south of Paris, held 3,900 and is consid-
ered grotesquely oversized by European standards.
10 The last close-up study of the daily functioning of a big-city jail and its impact on the
urban poor, John Irwin’s ½ne ethnography of San Francisco’s jail, dates from thirty years
ago. See John Irwin, The Jail: Managing the Underclass in American Society (Berkeley: Univer-
sity of California Press, 1985).
11 Joan Petersilia, When Prisoners Come Home: Parole and Prisoner Reentry (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2003).
12 The national dna database from crime scenes, persons “known to the police,” and (for-
mer) convicts compiled by the fbi (under the Combined dna Index System [codis]
on mass
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program) more than doubled over the past ½ve years alone to reach eight million offender
pro½les. Its explosive expansion, fed by technological innovation and organizational im-
peratives, is springing a new “racialized dragnet” thrown primarily at lower-class African
American men due to their massive overrepresentation among persons stopped by police;
Troy Duster, “The Exponential Growth of National and State dna Databases: ‘Cold Hits’
and a Newly Combustible Intersection of Genomics, Forensics and Race,” paper presented
to the cssi, University of California, Berkeley, February 24, 2010.
13 Devah Pager, Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration (Chica-
go: University of Chicago Press, 2007); David Thacher, “The Rise of Criminal Background
Screening in Rental Housing,” Law & Social Inquiry 31 (1) (2008): 5–30; Richard Tewksbury
and Matthew B. Lees, “Sex Offenders on Campus: University-Based Sex Offender Regis-
tries and the Collateral Consequences of Registration,” Federal Probation 70 (3) (2006):
50–57. For an extended analysis of ramifying penal disabilities outside of prison walls,
see Megan L. Comfort, “Punishment Beyond the Legal Offender,” Annual Review of Law
and Social Science 3 (2007): 271–296.
14 Kathleen M. Olivares, Velmer S. Burton, Jr., and Francis T. Cullen, “Collateral Conse-
quences of a Felony Conviction: A National Study of State Legal Codes Ten Year Later,”
Federal Probation 60 (3) (1996): 10–17.
15 Franklin E. Zimring and Gordon Hawkins, The Scale of Imprisonment (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1991); Michael Tonry, “Fragmentation of Sentencing and Corrections
in America,” Alternatives to Incarceration 6 (2): 9–13.
16 Vanessa Barker, The Politics of Imprisonment: How the Democratic Process Shapes the Way
America Punishes Offenders (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
17 David F. Greenberg and Valerie West, “State Prison Populations and Their Growth,
1971–1991,” Criminology 39 (1) (2001): 615–654; David Jacobs and Jason T. Carmichael,
“Politics of Punishment across Time and Space: A Pooled Time-Series Analysis of Im-
prisonment Rates,” Social Forces 80 (1) (2001): 61–89. But see Kevin B. Smith, “The Pol-
itics of Punishment: Evaluating Political Explanations of Incarceration Rates,” The Jour-
nal of Politics 66 (3) (2004): 925–938.
18 Franklin E. Zimring and David T. Johnson, “Public Opinion and the Governance of Pun-
ishment in Democratic Political Systems,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political
and Social Science 605 (2006): 265–280.
19 Nancy E. Marion and Willard M. Oliver, “Congress, Crime, and Budgetary Responsive-
ness: A Study in Symbolic Politics,” Criminal Justice Policy Review 20 (2) (2009): 115–135.
20 Lisa L. Miller, The Perils of Federalism: Race, Poverty, and the Politics of Crime Control (New
York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
21 “The war on crime–with its constituent imagery that melded the burning cities of the
1960s urban riots with the face of [Willie] Horton as (every) black man, murderer, rapist
of a white woman–remade party af½liations and then remade the parties themselves, as
the war came to be embraced and stridently promoted by Republicans and Democrats
alike”; Mary Louise Frampton, Ian Haney-López, and Jonathan Simon, eds., After the
War on Crime: Race, Democracy, and a New Reconstruction (New York: New York Univer-
sity Press, 2008), 7.
22 See, for example, Joel Dyer, The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Pro½ts From
Crime (New York: Basic Books, 1999); Paul Wright and Tara Herivel, eds., Prison Nation:
The Warehousing of America’s Poor (New York: Routledge, 2003); Michael Jacobson, Down-
sizing Prisons: How to Reduce Crime and End Mass Incarceration (New York: New York Uni-
versity Press, 2005); Marie Gottschalk, The Prison and the Gallows: The Politics of Mass
Incarceration in America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); and Todd R.
Clear, Imprisoning Communities: How Mass Incarceration Makes Disadvantaged Neighbor-
hoods Worse (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
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23 David Garland, ed., Mass Imprisonment: Social Causes and Consequences (London: Sage,
2001). Ironically, the generalized notion was ½rst broached, not in the U.S. prison debate,
but in Western Europe by the French justice of½cial and scholar Jean-Paul Jean in a discus-
sion of the “mass incarceration of drug addicts” in France’s jails; Jean-Paul Jean, “Mettre
½n à l’incarcération de masse des toxicomanes,” Esprit 10 (1995): 130–131. (I used the term
myself in several publications between 1997 and 2005, so this conceptual revision is in part
a self-critique.)
24 Diane E. Bennett et al., “Prevalence of Tuberculosis Infection in the United States Popu-
lation: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2000,” American
Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 177 (2008): 348–355; Bridget F. Grant et al.,
“The 12-month Prevalence and Trends in dsm-iv Alcohol Abuse and Dependence: Unit-
ed States, 1991–1992 and 2001–2002,” Alcohol Research & Health 74 (3) (2004): 223–234.
25 To be sure, David Garland singles out two “esssential features” that de½ne mass incarcer-
ation: “sheer numbers” (that is, “a rate of imprisonment and a size of prison population
that is markedly above the historical and comparative norm for societies of this type”) and
“the social concentration of mass imprisonment’s effects” (“when it becomes the impris-
onment of whole groups of the population,” in this case “young black males in large urban
centers”); Garland, Mass Imprisonment, 5–6. But it is not clear why the ½rst property would
not suf½ce to characterize the phenomenon, nor what “markedly above” entails. Next,
there is a logical contradiction between the two features of mass reach and concentrated
impact (no other mass phenomenon “bene½ts” a narrow and well-bounded population).
Lastly, Bernard Harcourt has pointed out that the United States had rates of forcible cus-
tody exceeding 600 per 100,000 residents from 1938 to 1962, if statistics on penal con½ne-
ment and mental asylums are merged; Bernard Harcourt, “From the Asylum to the Prison:
Rethinking the Incarceration Revolution,” Texas Law Review 84 (2006): 1751–1786. These
de½nitional troubles suggest that the mass characterization is an ad hoc designation crafted
inductively to suit the peculiarities of U.S. incarceration trends at the twentieth century’s
close (as Garland observes, “a new name to describe an altogether new phenomenon”).
26 The martial trope of the “war on crime” has similarly hindered the analysis of the trans-
formation and workings of criminal policy. This belligerent designation–espoused by
advocates and critics of enlarged incarceration alike–is triply misleading: it passes civil-
ian measures aimed at citizens for a military campaign against foreign foes; it purports to
½ght “crime” generically when it targets a narrow strand of illegalities (street offenses in
the segregated lower-class districts of the city); and it abstracts the criminal justice wing
from the broader revamping of the state entailing the simultaneous restriction of welfare
and expansion of prisonfare.
27 Pieter Spierenburg, The Prison Experience: Disciplinary Institutions and Their Inmates in Early
Modern Europe (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1991).
28 David Rothman, The Discovery of the Asylum: Social Order and Disorder in the New Republic
(New York: Aldine, 1971); Scott Christianson, With Liberty for Some: Five Hundred Years of
Imprisonment in America (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998). The only excep-
tions to this class rule are the periods and countries in which the prison is used extensive-
ly as an instrument of political repression; Aryeh Neier, “Con½ning Dissent: The Politi-
cal Prison,” in The Oxford History of Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society,
ed. Norval Morris and David Rothman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995),
29 Wacquant, Punishing the Poor, chap. 2.
30 William Julius Wilson, When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor (New York:
Knopf, 1996); Loïc Wacquant, Urban Outcasts: A Comparative Sociology of Advanced Margin-
ality (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2008).
31 Michael Tonry, Malign Neglect: Race, Class, and Punishment in America (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1995), 17.
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DædalusSummer 2010 89
32 Michael Tonry and Matthew Melewski, “The Malign Effects of Drug and Crime Control
Policies on Black Americans,” Crime & Justice 37 (2008): 18.
33 Bruce Western, Punishment and Inequality in America (New York: Russell Sage Foundation,
2006), 27.
34 Cf. ibid., 17, 27.
35 Lower-class African American women come next as the category with the fastest increase
in incarceration over the past two decades, leading to more African American females being
under lock than there are total women con½ned in all of Western Europe. But their capture
comes largely as a by-product of the aggressive rolling out of penal policies aimed primar-
ily at their lovers, kin, and neighbors. (Men make up 94 percent of all convicts in the nation.)
In any case, the number of female inmates pales before the ranks of the millions of girl-
friends and wives of convicts who are subjected to “secondary prisonization” due to the
judicial status of their partner; Megan Comfort, Doing Time Together: Love and Family in
the Shadow of the Prison (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).
36 Wacquant, Urban Outcasts, 117–118.
37 The increase of this index of punitiveness is 299 percent for “violent crimes” as compared
with 495 percent for “index crimes” (aggregating violent crime and the major categories of
property crime), con½rming that the penal state has grown especially more severe toward
lesser offenses and thus con½nes many more marginal delinquents than in the past.
38 Georg Rusche and Otto Kirscheimer, Punishment and Social Structure, rev. ed. (New Bruns-
wick, N.J.: Transaction Press, 2003); Catharina Lis and Hugo Soly, Poverty and Capitalism
in Pre-Industrial Europe (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1979); Spierenburg,
The Prison Experience.
39 Loïc Wacquant, “Crafting the Neoliberal State: Workfare, Prisonfare and Social Insecuri-
ty,” Sociological Forum 25 (2) (2010): 197–220.
40 Loïc Wacquant, “Deadly Symbiosis: When Ghetto and Prison Meet and Mesh,” Punish-
ment & Society 3 (1) (2001): 95–133.
41 Wilson, When Work Disappears; Mary Patillo-McCoy, Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril
among the Black Middle Class (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999).
42 Smith, The New Urban Frontier.
43 Wacquant, Deadly Symbiosis, chap. 3.
44 Gresham Sykes, The Society of Captives: A Study in a Maximum Security Prison (Princeton,
N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1958).
45 Loïc Wacquant, “Race as Civic Felony,” International Social Science Journal 181 (Spring
2005): 127–142.
46 John Irwin, Prisons in Turmoil (Boston: Beacon Press, 1980).
47 Martin Gilens, Why Americans Hate Welfare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999);
Sanford F. Schram, Joe Soss, and Richard C. Fording, eds., Race and the Politics of Welfare
Reform (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003).
48 In the media and policy debates leading up to the 1996 termination of welfare, three racial-
ized ½gures offered lurid incarnations of “dependency”: the flamboyant and wily “welfare
queen,” the immature and irresponsible “teenage mother,” and the aimless and jobless
“deadbeat dad.” All three were stereotypically portrayed as African American residents of
the dilapidated inner city.
49 Yeheskel Hasenfeld, “People Processing Organizations: An Exchange Approach,” American
Sociological Review 37 (3) (1972): 256–263.
50 Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Wel-
fare, expanded edition (New York: Vintage, 1993; ½rst published in 1971).
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51 This is well illustrated by the current predicament of California, a state that employs more
prison guards than it does social workers: it just slashed its higher education budgets and
increased college tuition by 30 percent in response to a de½cit of $20 billion in 2009, when
it spends an extravagant $10 billion on corrections (more than its yearly outlay for univer-
sities for ½fteen years running). The state now faces a stark choice between sending its
children to college or continuing to throw masses of minor offenders behind bars for
brutally long terms.
52 Dorothy E. Roberts, “Criminal Justice and Black Families: The Collateral Damage of Over-
enforcement,” U.C. Davis Law Review 34 (2000): 1005–1028.
53 Paul J. Hirsch½eld, “Preparing for Prison? The Criminalization of School Discipline in the
usa,” Theoretical Criminology 12 (1) (February 2008 ): 79–101.
54 Wacquant, Urban Outcasts, 69–91, 280–287.
55 Michael Tonry, ed., Penal Reform in Overcrowded Times (New York: Oxford University Press,
2001); Dorothy E. Roberts, “The Social and Moral Cost of Mass Incarceration in African
American Communities,” Stanford Law Review 56 (5) (2004): 1271–1305; Jacobson, Down-
sizing Prisons; Marie Gottschalk, “Dismantling the Carceral State: The Future of Penal
Policy Reform,” Texas Law Review 84 (2005): 1693–1750; Marc Mauer and the Sentencing
Project, Race to Incarcerate, rev. ed. (New York: Free Press, 2006); James Austin and Todd
R. Clear, “Reducing Mass Incarceration: Implications of the Iron Law of Prison Popula-
tions,” Harvard Law & Policy Review 3 (2007): 307–324.
56 Contrary to the dominant public vision, research has consistently shown the superior-
ity of rehabilitation over retribution. “Supervision and sanctions, at best, show mod-
est mean reductions in recidivism and, in some instances, have the opposite effect and
increase reoffense rates. The mean recidivism effects found in studies of rehabilitation
treatment, by comparison, are consistently positive and relatively large”; Mark W. Lip-
sey and Francis T. Cullen, “The Effectiveness of Correctional Rehabilitation: A Review
of Systematic Reviews,” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 3 (2007): 297–320. That
hardened criminals do change and turn their lives around is shown by Shadd Maruna,
Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild Their Lives (Washington, D.C.: Ameri-
can Psychological Association, 2001); that even “lifers” imprisoned for homicide ½nd
pathways to redemption is demonstrated by John Irwin, Lifers: Seeking Redemption in
Prison (New York: Routledge, 2009).
57 See the powerful arguments of Mary Pattillo for immediately “investing in poor black neigh-
borhoods ‘as is,’” instead of pursuing long-term strategies of dispersal or mixing that are
both inef½cient and detrimental to the pressing needs and distinct interests of the urban
minority poor; Mary Pattillo, “Investing in Poor Black Neighborhoods ‘As Is,’” in Legacy
of Racial Discrimination and Segregation in Public Housing, ed. Margery Turner, Susan Popkin,
and Lynette Rawlings (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, 2008), 31–46.
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