Breaking the Habit: Lessons from a High-Incarceration Neighborhood

2015-07-21T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Ryan L. Lugalia-Hollon
This dissertation decodes some of the unanswered questions about the ascent and persistence of concentrated incarceration, augmenting current theories of how the phenomenon is made, and remade, over time. At the core of this study is an awareness that crime levels are not purely responsible for local incarceration rates and that within places of concentrated incarceration, human trajectories are routinely shaped by conditions and events that are outside the control of individual actors. Whereas existing studies of concentrated incarceration describe it as the result of a generic cycle of disadvantage, crime, and imprisonment, I offer a qualitative examination of how local incarceration rates unfold in the context of specific policy logics and institutional actions. Through this examination, I argue that concentrated incarceration’s historical staying power results from a series of entrenched policy-neighborhood interactions that emerge due to structural deficiencies within the labor market and public safety system, as well as other vital urban domains. Furthermore, I demonstrate that these policy-neighborhood interactions produce what Ruth Wilson Gilmore calls the ‘availability of carceral objects,’ whereby prison repopulation is ensured through severely constricted routes for human development and punitive stakes for those who cannot access those routes. It is through this punitive alchemy that neighborhood subjects are transformed into objects in the Illinois prison system, so that loved ones and neighbors become little more than managerial units in the eyes of the prison.