Incarceration And Police Surveillance Among Black Males And The Criminal Justice System

Incarceration And Police Surveillance Among Black Males And The Criminal Justice System

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“On the run: Wanted Med in the Philadelphia Ghetto” by Alice Goffman (2009), explores the dysfunctional relationship between individuals in “ghettos” and the criminal justice system. Incarceration rates in the United States have increased seven times over 40 years among Black men with limited education (Goffman 2009:339). Incarceration leads to the discrimination and disadvantage of Black males; socially and economically (Goffman 2009:339). Additionally, increased incarcerations influence the amount of policing in communities. Subsequently, increased incarcerations of individuals from poor communities, results in increased policing in their neighbourhoods. Goffman (2009) focuses her study on the rate of incarceration and police surveillance amongst poor black males and how it affects their lives; more specifically the lives of nine Black males on 6th Street in Philadelphia.

Despite statistics indicating the numbers of people who violate their probation, or the increase of police officers, they do not explain why individuals decide to violate their probation or why the number of police increase. Goffman (2009) conducts a qualitative longitudinal study by observing the lives of nine Black males who reside in a Philadelphia ghetto over a time period of six years. Through her observations, she seeks to have an extended ethnographic view (Goffman 2009:340) of how individuals live their lives in heavily policed and surveyed ghetto communities and its effect on mass imprisonment. First, to inform her study, she makes use of two main theories which connect to surveillance and why deviants continue to commit deviant acts; Michel Foucault’s Panopticon theory and the labelling theory.

Foucault theorized that moder...

... middle of paper ...

...nded for information about other suspects (Goffman 2009:343).
As a result of police using strategies such as the ones mentioned, the men found themselves avoiding institutions, relationships they had, dangerous places, and interactions (Goffman 2009:340). They also cultivated secrecy and unpredictability (Goffman 2009:351). For example, the men would make it difficult for the police to show up to a specific address because they avoided being predictable with wherever they went (Goffman 2009:351). Goffman’s findings truly emphasized the difficulty of racial minorities in society. When any of the men had prior run-ins with the law, their tainted records restricted them from being a part of the society. Such status’ restricted them from entering the job market, being able to open bank accounts, renting apartments, and acquiring driver’s license’s (Goffman 2009:353)

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