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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $30.95

288 pp.
2 b/w line illustrations, 6 1/8" x 9 1/4"


Publication date:
March 2009

Imprint: OUP US

Imprisoning Communities

How Mass Incarceration Makes Disadvantaged Neighborhoods Worse

Todd R. Clear

Series : Studies in Crime and Public Policy

At no time in history, and certainly in no other democratic society, have prisons been filled so quickly and to such capacity than in the United States. And nowhere has this growth been more concentrated than in the disadvantaged--and primarily minority--neighborhoods of America's largest urban cities. In the most impoverished places, as much as 20% of the adult men are locked up on any given day, and there is hardly a family without a father, son, brother, or uncle who has not been behind bars.

While the effects of going to and returning home from prison are well-documented, little attention has been paid to the impact of removal on neighborhoods where large numbers of individuals have been imprisoned. In the first detailed, empirical exploration of the effects of mass incarceration on poor places, Imprisoning Communities demonstrates that in high doses incarceration contributes to the very social problems it is intended to solve: it breaks up family and social networks; deprives siblings, spouses, and parents of emotional and financial support; and threatens the economic and political infrastructure of already struggling neighborhoods. Especially at risk are children who, research shows, are more likely to commit a crime if a father or brother has been to prison. Clear makes the counterintuitive point that when incarceration concentrates at high levels, crime rates will go up. Removal, in other words, has exactly the opposite of its intended effect: it destabilizes the community, thus further reducing public safety.

Demonstrating that the current incarceration policy in urban America does more harm than good, from increasing crime to widening racial disparities and diminished life chances for youths, Todd Clear argues that we cannot overcome the problem of mass incarceration concentrated in poor places without incorporating an idea of community justice into our failing correctional and criminal justice systems.

Readership : Students and scholars of criminal justice, criminology, sociology, law, public policy, and public administration; corrections, probation, and parole officers and administrators; anyone passionate about the criminal justice system, especially the effects of mass imprisonment.

1. The problem of concentrated incarceration
2. Incarceration and crime
3. The problem of mass incarceration concentrated in poor places
4. Communities, coercive mobility, and public safety
5. Death by a thousand little cuts: studies of the impact of incarceration
6. In their own voices: people in high incarceration communities talk about the impact of incarceration
7. The impact of incarceration on community safety
8. Dealing with concentrated incarceration-the case for community justice
Appendix: Imagining a Strategy of Community Justice

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Todd R. Clear is a Distinguished Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and founding editor of the journal Criminology & Public Policy. He is the author of eleven books and numerous articles and book chapters on criminal justice issues ranging from corrections and sentencing to community justice.

Thinking about Crime - Michael Tonry
Governing through Crime - Jonathan Simon
Arbitrary Justice - Angela J. Davis
Making Sense - Margot Northey and Joan McKibbin

Special Features

  • Bringing new empirical evdience to bear on the understudied problem of the consequences of mass incarceration, Todd Clear demonstrates how mass incarceration actually leads to more in crime in America's cities.
  • As prison populations continue to grow, the strains and stresses mass imprisonment places on communities, prisoners, and the entire criminal justice system will continue to dominate the public debate on crime.