The Prison-Crime Relationship in Low Income communities

Todd R. Clear, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

As a theory of public safety, incarceration is based on the premise of "addition by subtraction:" removing people from their communities subtracts deficits and promotes safety. This paper argues that very high concentrations of incarceration may well have a negative impact on public safety by leaving communities less capable of sustaining the informal social control that undergirds public safety. This happens not only because incarceration, experienced at high levels, has the inevitable result of removing valuable assets from the community, but also because the concentration of incarceration affects the community capacity of those who are left behind. Data from a series of studies in Tallahassee, Florida, are used to explain how "coercive mobility" has negative effects on (1) what people do privately with intimate relations, (2) what people do collectively in social relations, and (3) the normative views people develop regarding criminal conduct argument.

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Updated 05/20/2006