Unemployment and Racial Differences in Imprisonment
Race and Crime, p. 189, 1987
21 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2013
Date Written: 1987
Conventional wisdom about the criminal justice system suggests that extralegal factors such as race or employment status should not affect sentencing outcomes. In this paper we examine an alternative model of the relationship between imprisonment and unemployment and race. The model suggests that penal practices are shaped by the labor market conditions of a system of production and that prisons, as part of a larger set of institutions providing support for economically-dependent populations, help to regulate the most superfluous group of workers in the industrial economy of the Northern states of the United States -- unemployed black workers who comprise a large fraction of the pool of "reserve" workers necessary for price stability and economic expansion. We find support for the structural model that links black imprisonment (and Northern imprisonment in general) to manufacturing output and black unemployment.
Keywords: imprisonment, racial differences, unemployment
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