[Marxism] The American Police State - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 18 07:42:03 MST 2013

(Erwin Goffman's daughter)

In a book coming out this spring, Goffman, now a 31-year-old assistant 
professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, documents how the 
expansion of America's penal system is reshaping life for the poor black 
families who exist under the watch of its police, prison guards, and 
parole officers.

Starting in the mid-1970s, the United States stiffened its laws on drugs 
and violent crime and ratcheted up the police presence on city streets. 
The number of people in American jails and prisons has risen fivefold 
over the past 40 years. There are now roughly six million people under 
criminal-justice supervision. "In modern history," Goffman writes, "only 
the forced labor camps of the former U.S.S.R. under Stalin approached 
these levels of penal confinement."

Goffman's book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City 
(University of Chicago Press), is an up-close account of that prison 
boom told largely through the story of a group of young friends in 
Philadelphia's 6th Street neighborhood. (The location and names in the 
book are pseudonyms.) The study describes how fear of confinement has 
transformed work, health, and family life, causing men to disengage from 
the very mainstream institutions that might put them on a better path.


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