Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 3, p. 237, 2009
25 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2009 Last revised: 23 Oct 2009
Date Written: October 21, 2009
In the United States today, incarceration is more than just a mode of criminal punishment. It is a distinct cultural practice with its own aesthetic and technique, a practice that has emerged in recent decades as a catch-all mechanism for managing social ills. In this essay, I argue that this emergent carceral system has become self-generating - that American-style incarceration, through the conditions it inflicts, produces the very conduct society claims to abhor and thereby guarantees a steady supply of offenders whose incarceration the public will continue to demand. I argue, moreover, that this reproductive process works to create a class of permanently marginalized and degraded noncitizens - disproportionately poor people of color - who are marked out by the fact of their incarceration for perpetual social exclusion and ongoing social control. This essay serves as the Foreword to a symposium in the Harvard Law & Policy Review addressing the costs of mass incarceration.
Keywords: imprisonment, corrections, administration of criminal justice
JEL Classification: K14, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation