After the War on Crime: Race, Democracy, and a New Reconstruction

After the War on Crime: Race, Democracy, and a New Reconstruction

After the War on Crime: Race, Democracy, and a New Reconstruction

After the War on Crime: Race, Democracy, and a New Reconstruction

Synopsis

Since the 1970s, Americans have witnessed a Pyrrhic war on crime, with sobering numbers at once chilling and cautionary. Our imprisoned population has increased five-fold, with a commensurate spike in fiscal costs that many now see as unsupportable into the future. As American society confronts a multitude of new challenges ranging from terrorism to the disappearance of middle-class jobs to global warming, the war on crime may be up for reconsideration for the first time in a generation or more. Relatively low crime rates indicate that the public mood may be swinging towards declaring victory and moving on. However, to declare that the war is over is dangerous and inaccurate, and After the War on Crime reveals that the impact of this war reaches far beyond statistics; simply moving on is impossible. The war has been most devastating to those affected by increased rates and longer terms of incarceration, but its reach has also reshaped a sweeping range of social institutions, including law enforcement, politics, schooling, healthcare, and social welfare. The war has also profoundly altered conceptions of race and community. It is time to consider the tasks reconstruction must tackle. To do so requires first a critical assessment of how this war has remade our society, and then creative thinking about how government, foundations, communities, and activists should respond. After the War on Crime accelerates this reassessment with original essays by a diverse, interdisciplinary group of scholars as well as policy professionals and community activists. The volume's immediate goal is to spark a fresh conversation about the war on crime and its consequences; its long-term aspiration is to develop a clear understanding of how we got here and of where we should go.

Excerpt

Jonathan Simon, Ian Haney López, and Mary Louise Frampton

The last three decades have witnessed a Pyrrhic war on crime, with sobering numbers at once chilling and cautionary. Since the 1970s, our imprisoned population has increased five-fold, with a commensurate spike in fiscal costs that many now see as unsupportable into the future. As American society confronts a multitude of new challenges ranging from terrorism to the disappearance of middle-class jobs to global warming, the war on crime may be up for reconsideration for the first time in a generation or more. It is not that the public is no longer concerned about crime; as we shall see, crime remains central to how we have learned to think and act collectively. But, as relatively low crime rates confront scary problems from other sides of the social experience, the mood may be swinging toward declaring victory and moving on.

However, the society-altering impact of this war reaches far beyond the flat numbers; simply moving on is impossible. Over the last thirty-plus years, the government response to social disorder encompassed under the rubric of the war on crime has fundamentally transformed us. the war's impact has been most devastating on those individuals swept up by increased rates and longer terms of incarceration, their families, and the communities bound by strained ties to these prisoners—but it is not confined to them. This impact has instead extended to how society views governance, reshaping not only a wide range of social institutions but also the way we conceive of ourselves. the very concept of policing has changed, as has the place of crime in electoral politics; increasingly, too, schooling, public health, and social welfare overlap with the criminal justice system. Meanwhile, how we view our most basic tasks as individuals—how to raise children, where to live, how to be a good parent, employee, and . . .

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