Families and the Moral Economy of Incarceration
CRIMINAL JUSTICE, Judah & Bryant, eds., 2004
23 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2009
Date Written: 2004
This chapter examines the moral economy of incarceration from the perspective of one family. Derrick and Londa's story, neither one of flagrant injustice nor triumph against the odds, shows a family facing addiction, the criminal justice system's response to it, and the mixture of hardship and relief that incarceration brings to many families of drug offenders. Stories like theirs are almost entirely absent from current debates over incarceration rates and accountability. Indeed, the historical lack of the familial and community perspective of those most affected by incarceration can help to explain the willingness of states to accept mass-incarceration as a default response to social disorder. Once we begin attending to the accounts of people directly affected by criminal sanctions, however, we can begin to understand how our policies have exacerbated the very social problems they were intended to remedy. By holding offenders unaccountable to their families and communities, incarceration, at least as it is currently practiced, frustrates the fundamental norms of reciprocity that form the basis of social order itself.
Keywords: criminal law, incarceration, family life, urban ethnography
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