City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965

City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965

City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965

City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965

Synopsis

Los Angeles incarcerates more people than any other city in the United States, which imprisons more people than any other nation on Earth. This book explains how the City of Angels became the capital city of the world’s leading incarcerator. Marshaling more than two centuries of evidence, historian Kelly Lytle Hernández unmasks how histories of native elimination, immigrant exclusion, and black disappearance drove the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles. In this telling, which spans from the Spanish colonial era to the outbreak of the 1965 Watts Rebellion, Hernández documents the persistent historical bond between the racial fantasies of conquest, namely its settler colonial form, and the eliminatory capacities of incarceration.

But City of Inmates is also a chronicle of resilience and rebellion, documenting how targeted peoples and communities have always fought back. They busted out of jail, forced Supreme Court rulings, advanced revolution across bars and borders, and, as in the summer of 1965, set fire to the belly of the city. With these acts those who fought the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles altered the course of history in the city, the borderlands, and beyond. This book recounts how the dynamics of conquest met deep reservoirs of rebellion as Los Angeles became the City of Inmates, the nation’s carceral core. It is a story that is far from over.

Excerpt

Mass incarceration is mass elimination. That is the punch line of this book. I had trouble arriving at such an unsettling idea, but the collection of two centuries of evidence documenting the long rise of incarceration in Los Angeles left me no other interpretation. Incarceration operates as a means of purging, removing, caging, containing, erasing, disappearing, and eliminating targeted populations from land, life, and society in the United States.

Why Los Angeles? Los Angeles is a hub of incarceration, imprisoning more people than any other city in the United States, which incarcerates more people than any other nation on earth. Each night, nearly 17,000 men, women, and youth are locked somewhere in Los Angeles County’s $1 billion system of jails, detention centers, and one penal farm. There are also eighty-eight other municipal jails, more than twenty juvenile detention halls and camps, and two federal facilities sited within the county. and just over the mountains lining the northeastern edge of Los Angeles County, Geo Group, a private prison company, operates a large immigrant detention center that contracts with the federal government to hold the spillover of deportees from the city. Therefore, in both size and scope, the project of human caging in Los Angeles is massive. Some say no city in the world incarcerates more people than Los Angeles. If so, Los Angeles, the City of Angels, is, in fact, the City of Inmates, the carceral capital of the world.

By explaining when, why, and how Los Angeles became the City of Inmates, this book digs up the roots of the nation’s carceral core. It is a story that has never been told before.

When I first began to research the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles, I quickly learned that L.A.’s penal habits took root much earlier than what scholars generally define as “The Age of Mass Incarceration.” Mass incarceration is a relatively recent development, with sparks and triggers particular to the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Federal, state, and local authorities steadily expanded the nation’s imprisoning capacity to crush the political insurgencies of the 1960s as well as warehouse, disci-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.