Several new studies suggest that social and spatial incarceration of young males has become part of the developmental ecology of adolescence in the nation's poorest neighborhoods. This concentration began in the 1970s, and has grown steadily through the last quarter century.1 The story of young men such as Cesar in Random Family illustrates the pervasive effects of both direct and vicarious prison experiences for young men and women in poor neighborhoods. 2 Studies of street life such as Random Family, Code of the Streets,3 and American Project4 show how these experiences are now internalized in the social and psychological fabric of neighborhood life, a constant reality in the background of childhood socialization, and an everyday contingency for young men as they navigate the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Some studies show that within neighborhoods, incarceration leads to more incarceration over time in a spiraling dynamic.5 Other recent studies show that the risks of going to jail or prison grow over time for persons living in poor neighborhoods, contributing to the accumulation of social and economic adversity for people living in these areas, and depreciating the overall well being of the neighborhood itself.6
Jeffery Fagan, Valerie West & Jan Holland,
Neighborhood, Crime, and Incarceration in New York City,
Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev.
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