Imprisoning Communities: How Mass Incarceration Makes Disadvantaged Neighborhoods Worse

Research output: Book/ReportBook

788 Scopus citations


At no time in history, and certainly in no other democratic society, have prisons been filled so quickly and to such capacity than in the United States. And nowhere has this growth been more concentrated than in the disadvantaged-and primarily minority-neighborhoods of America's largest urban cities. In the most impoverished places, as much as 20% of the adult men are locked up on any given day, and there is hardly a family without a father, son, brother, or uncle who has not been behind bars. While the effects of going to and returning home from prison are well-documented, little attention has been paid to the impact of removal on neighborhoods where large numbers of individuals have been imprisoned. In the first detailed, empirical exploration of the effects of mass incarceration on poor places, this book demonstrates that in high doses incarceration contributes to the very social problems it is intended to solve-it breaks up family and social networks; deprives siblings, spouses, and parents of emotional and financial support; threatens the economic and political infrastructure of already struggling neighborhoods; and destabilizes the community, thus further reducing public safety. Especially at risk are children who, research shows, are more likely to commit a crime if a father or brother has been to prison. Demonstrating that the current incarceration policy in urban America does more harm than good, from increasing crime to widening racial disparities and diminished life chances for youths, the book argues that we cannot overcome the problem of mass incarceration concentrated in poor places without incorporating an idea of community justice into our failing correctional and criminal justice systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages280
ISBN (Electronic)9780199943944
ISBN (Print)9780195305791
StatePublished - May 24 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


  • Children
  • Community justice
  • Disadvantaged neighborhoods
  • Impoverished places
  • Incarceration
  • Removal


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