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Cheap on Crime

Cheap on Crime: Recession-Era Politics and the Transformation of American Punishment

Hadar Aviram
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Cheap on Crime
    Book Description:

    After forty years of increasing prison construction and incarceration rates, winds of change are blowing through the American correctional system. The 2008 financial crisis demonstrated the unsustainability of the incarceration project, thereby empowering policy makers to reform punishment through fiscal prudence and austerity. InCheap on Crime,Hadar Aviram draws on years of archival and journalistic research and builds on social history and economics literature to show the powerful impact of recession-era discourse on the death penalty, the war on drugs, incarceration practices, prison health care, and other aspects of the American correctional landscape.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-96032-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-10)

    At five-thirty on a San Francisco summer morning, Aquatic Park is still shrouded in menacing darkness. Figures in heavy coats and swim parkas slowly make their way toward a grassy patch overlooking the water, sipping hot beverages and donning their swim gear. Shortly before sunrise, as we listen to a briefing about this morning’s currents and water temperature, we can already see it looming in the dark: Alcatraz Prison, standing proud and somber upon The Rock. Today is race day.

    Even after many years of experience in open water races, including several successful Alcatraz crossings, the mile-and-a-half swim course from...

    (pp. 11-25)

    This book maps and explores the impact of the financial crisis on the American correctional landscape and examines how scarcity and austerity, real and perceived, have changed the discourses and policies that characterized the past forty years of mass incarceration. The Great Recession catapulted financial scarcity to the top of the list of American concerns, yielding humonetarianism—a set of rhetorical arguments, political strategies, correctional policies, and cultural perceptions that focuses on cost-saving and financial prudence as its raison d’être. Assessing the extent to which this new discourse can achieve real and lasting change to the American penal system as...

    (pp. 26-47)

    Various scholars have tried to pinpoint the events that made sentencing and corrections nationwide take a punitive turn. By now the story of increased punitiveness and the mass incarceration crisis has become received wisdom in the field for all but a few.In Governing through Crime,¹ Jonathan Simon relies on this literature to tell two complementary stories. The first story is one of top-down political initiatives sweeping federal and local legislatures, as well as the American public, toward punitive legislation, beginning with the Nixon election campaign and its backlash against the Warren Court and the civil rights movement and continuing...

    (pp. 48-57)

    “Many Contra Costa Crooks Won’t Be Prosecuted,” read aSan Francisco Chronicleheadline in 2009.¹ The story proceeded as follows:

    District Attorney Robert Kochly also said that beginning May 4, his office will no longer prosecute felony drug cases involving smaller amounts of narcotics. That means anyone caught with less than a gram of methamphetamine or cocaine, less than 0.5 grams of heroin and fewer than five pills of ecstasy, OxyContin or Vicodin won’t be charged.

    People who are suspected of misdemeanor drug crimes, break minor traffic laws, shoplift, trespass or commit misdemeanor vandalism will also be in the clear....

  9. 4 THE NEW CORRECTIONAL DISCOURSE OF SCARCITY: From Ideals to Money on Death Row
    (pp. 58-77)

    InGoverning through Crime,¹ Jonathan Simon speaks of the language of public safety adopted by politicians of all stripes who, regardless of party affiliation, tried to avoid appearing “soft on crime” like the plague. But recession-era politics have proven to be game changing, at least with respect to the sayable and permissible in political conversation. Lawmakers, politicians, judges, and activists across the political spectrum are willing to propose nonpunitive criminal justice policies and changes, deeming them politically viable when defended as a measure of fiscal prudence rather than humanitarian concern or belief in the rehabilitative ideal.

    This chapter addresses the...

  10. 5 THE NEW COALITIONS OF FINANCIAL PRUDENCE: From Tough on Crime to the Drug Truce
    (pp. 78-97)

    The first marijuana legalization campaign advertisement broadcast in Washington State featured Kate Pippinger, a white woman described as a “Washington mom.” Seated at a café, holding a mug, dressed in a cardigan, with a string of pearls at her neck and shoulder-length hair, Pippinger looks straight at the camera and says:

    I don’t like it personally, but it’s time for a conversation about legalizing marijuana. It’s a multi-million-dollar industry in Washington State and we get no benefit. What if we regulate it, have background checks for retailers, stiff penalties for selling to minors?¹

    We could tax it to fund schools...

  11. 6 THE NEW CARCERAL WHEELING AND DEALING: From Incapacitation to the Inmate Export Business
    (pp. 98-119)

    The death penalty abolition and marijuana legalization campaigns, using humonetarian discourse to bridge ideological chasms and reform the criminal justice system, presented the public with seemingly straightforward decisions about fiscal priorities. But things become more complicated when tackling more ambiguous, polycentric questions pertaining to incarceration policies. As many commentators have argued, it is very difficult to understand the monumental growth in incarceration without the context of neoliberalism, which includes, but is not limited to, the retreat of the state from its caretaking function, the despair of rehabilitative goals, and the focus on profitable and managerial goals. Although this chapter attempts...

  12. 7 THE NEW INMATE AS A FISCAL SUBJECT: From Ward to Consumer
    (pp. 120-149)

    In 1777 a horrified John Howard observed of conditions in English prisons:

    There are prisons, into which whoever looks will, at first sight of the people confined there, be convinced, that there is some great error in the management of them; the sallow meagre countenances declare, without words, that they are very miserable; many who went in healthy, are in a few months changed into emaciated dejected objects. Some are seen pining under diseases, “sick and in prison”; expiring on the floors, in loathsome cells, of pestilential fevers, and the confluent small-pox; victims, I must say not to the cruelty,...

    (pp. 150-170)

    The previous chapters highlighted the complex and intricate ways in which the public conversation about American punishment was transformed by the introduction of emergency cost considerations. Speaking about financial prudence has freed politicians, administrators, and even law enforcement agents to advocate for policies that go against the grain of a four-decade-long project of mass incarceration. And while localities vary in their response to humonetarian discourse, political campaigns for change, such as death penalty abolition, scaling down of the war on drugs, and habitual offender law reform, have been successful in many states in which such reforms failed prior to the...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 171-228)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 229-252)