Category Archives: Criminalization of Poverty
New Article: Kenneth Stahl, Mobility and Community in Urban Policy, Urban Lawyer forthcoming 2014. Abstract below:
Urban policymakers have long debated whether to focus on people or on places. Should the government give poor people the means to leave deteriorated neighborhoods, or attempt to bolster such neighborhoods by reinforcing the social norms of the community? Should cities direct the police to crack down on low-level crime, or foster informal connections between the police and local institutions? Definitive answers to these questions have been elusive, but Robert Sampson’s new book GREAT AMERICAN CITY, perhaps the most ambitious work of urban sociology in a generation, provides some needed insight. Using a massive set of data, Sampson demonstrates that people are ineluctable products of their local environments, and he concludes that “place-based” policies that focus on building community are more likely to be successful than policies premised on the assumption of individual mobility and choice.
This essay revisits the “people v. places” debate in light of GREAT AMERICAN CITY. Though the book is sure to have a tremendous impact on that debate, Sampson devotes relatively little attention to the policy implications of his work, and thus I attempt to articulate and probe what I see as the book’s major policy implications. Principally, I interpret Sampson’s work as an implicit challenge to the predominant public choice model of local government, which conceptualizes urban residents as mobile individuals who make locational choices regardless of social context. Seen in this light, GREAT AMERICAN CITY raises important questions about the wisdom of policymakers’ longstanding reliance on the public choice model, but also leaves much to speculation. I further argue that Sampson’s findings – particularly regarding the difficulties that disadvantaged neighborhoods face in overcoming the stigma of crime and poverty – give reason to doubt the viability of some of the place-based policies he champions, which risk further stigmatizing such neighborhoods. Finally, I argue that in light of Sampson’s findings, efforts to aid disadvantaged communities might be most effective if they undertook to induce people to stay in such communities, a possibility that Sampson does not explore. I conclude that, despite some shortcomings, GREAT AMERICAN CITY is worthy of the highest praise, for it clarifies a wide range of questions for policymakers and opens broad vistas for future research.
New Article: Beth A. Colgan, Reviving the Excessive Fines Clause, 102 Calif. L. Rev. 277 (2014). Abstract below:
Millions of American adults and children struggle with debt stemming from economic sanctions issued by the criminal and juvenile courts. For those unable to pay, the consequences — including incarceration, exclusion from public benefits, and persistent poverty — can be draconian and perpetual. The Supreme Court has nevertheless concluded that many of these concerns lie outside the scope of the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause. In interpreting the Clause, the Court relied upon a limited set of historical sources to restrict “fines” to sanctions that are punitive in nature and paid exclusively to the government, and to define “excessive” as referring to — either exclusively or primarily — the proportionality between the crime’s gravity and the amount of the fine.
This Article takes the Court at its word by assuming history is constitutionally relevant, but it challenges the Court’s limited use of history by providing the first detailed analysis of colonial and early American statutory and court records regarding fines. This robust historical analysis belies the Court’s use of history to announce historical “truths” to limit the scope of the Clause, by showing significant evidence that contradicts those limitations. The Article uses the historical record to identify questions regarding the Clause’s meaning, to assess the quality of the historical evidence suggesting an answer to such questions, and then to consider that evidence — according to its value — within a debate that incorporates contemporary understandings of just punishment. Under the resulting interpretation, the historical evidence articulated in this Article would support an understanding of a “fine” as a deprivation of anything of economic value in response to a public offense. “Excessive,” in turn, would be assessed through a broad understanding of proportionality that takes account of both offense and offender characteristics, as well as the effect of the fine on the individual. The proposed interpretation more faithfully reflects the history and its limitations, and broadens the Clause’s scope to provide greater individual protections.
Report: Marc Mauer & Virginia McCalmont, A Lifetime of Punishment: The Impact of the Felony Drug Ban on Welfare Benefits (Sentencing Project, Revised version 2014).
-Thanks to Juliet Brodie for the the heads up!
Available here — There are too many great articles to list out and the website has them all with abstracts. After the jump is the cut and paste from the Yale L.J. website. If anyone wants to write a post reviewing any of these articles, send it to me and I’ll post it. GREAT STUFF!
New Article: Ilan Wurman, Note, Drug Testing Welfare Recipients as a Constitutional Condition, 65 Stan. L. Rev. 1153 (2013). Abstract below:
This Note challenges the prior and current scholarship on suspicionless drug testing of welfare recipients, and the Supreme Court’s special needs doctrine more broadly, by applying the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions to the cases. It contends that the Fourth Amendment’s special needs doctrine is insufficient, because conditioning welfare benefits on drug testing may fail the special needs test but still be a constitutional condition. This Note argues that, where the unconstitutional conditions doctrine could otherwise apply, the doctrine is in fact necessary to apply; that doing so resolves certain contradictions and fictions that currently exist in the Fourth Amendment doctrine, while better explaining some of the Fourth Amendment cases; and that conditioning welfare on drug testing is more likely to be constitutional under the unconstitutional conditions doctrine than under the current Fourth Amendment approach, which would instead stop the inquiry with the special needs doctrine.
New Article: Kaaryn Gustafson, Degradation Ceremonies and the Criminalization of Low-Income Women, 3 U.C. Irvine Law Review __ (forthcoming 2013). Abstract below:
This article, a call for both empirical social scientists and critical race theorists to engage with each other in careful interpretive analysis, applies sociologist Harold Garfinkel’s concept of ceremonial degradation to policies, practices, and proposals targeting low-income women of color in the United States. This article offers several examples of degradation ceremonies, including: excessive penalties and extrajudicial public shaming for women convicted of welfare fraud; mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients; high-publicity criminal prosecutions of mothers who violate school district residency requirements to enroll their children in more affluent schools; and tough criminal penalties for those who possess stolen infant formula or other necessities low-income Americans have difficulty obtaining. This article also describes some of the functions served by degradation ceremonies, including: the legitimation of material inequality, the perpetuation of social and economic myths, the policing of status quo distributions of property, and the satisfaction of the public’s emotional desire for sadomasochistic ritual. The article’s final section calls upon policy makers and scholars to acknowledge the degradation of low-income women that now occurs through policy and practice and offers broader suggestions for subverting the ceremonial degradation of the poor.
New Book: Margaret Colgate Love, Jenny Roberts & Cecilia Klingele, Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions: Law, Policy and Practice (2013).
-Congrats to the authors! =)