Katherine Beckett - May 10, 2012

Thursday, May 10 , 2012 | 4:00pm-6:00pm | Engineering 189

Katherine Beckett, Professor
Department of Sociology and Law, Societies & Justice Program
University of Washington

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Banished: The New Social Control in Urban America

With urban poverty rising and affordable housing disappearing, the homeless and other “disorderly” people continue to occupy public space in many American cities. Concerned about the alleged ill effects their presence inflicts on property values and public safety, many cities have wholeheartedly embraced “zero-tolerance” or “broken window” policing efforts to clear the streets of unwanted people. Through an almost completely unnoticed set of practices, these people are banned from occupying certain spaces. Once zoned out, they are subject to arrest if they return-effectively banished from public places. Banished is the first exploration of these new tactics that dramatically enhance the power of the police to monitor and arrest thousands of city dwellers. Drawing upon an extensive body of data, the authors chart the rise of banishment in Seattle, a city on the leading edge of this emerging trend, to establish how it works and explore its ramifications. They demonstrate that, although the practice allows police and public officials to appear responsive to concerns about urban disorder, it is a highly questionable policy: it is expensive, does not reduce crime, and does not address the underlying conditions that generate urban poverty. Moreover, interviews with the banished themselves reveal that exclusion makes their lives and their path to self-sufficiency immeasurably more difficult.

At a time when more and more cities and governments in the U.S. and Europe resort to the criminal justice system to solve complex social problems, Banished provides a vital and timely challenge to exclusionary strategies that diminish the life circumstances and rights of those it targets.


About the Author

Professor Beckett has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles, books chapters, and reports in the areas of criminal law and punishment, social control, inequality, and public policy.  She has also published 3 books “Banished:  The New Social Control in Urban America” (with Steve Herbert), “The Politics of Injustice:  Crime and Punishment in America” (with Theodore Sasson), and “Making Crime Pay:  Law and Order in Contemporary American Politics“.

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