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The concentration of incarceration in social groups and areas has emerged in the past decade as a topic of research and policy interest. This interest was fueled by several factors: persistent continued growth of incarceration through the 1990s, even as crime rates fell nationally for over seven years; persistent racial disparities in incarceration; assessments of the collateral consequences of incarceration that potentially aggravate the causal dynamics that lead to elevated crime rates; rapid growth in the number of returning prisoners to their communities; an influx that may strain social control in neighborhoods where social and economic disadvantages have already created acute crime risks. While there is consistent evidence of the social concentration of incarceration among poor non-white males, there have been few studies of the spatial concentration of incarceration in neighborhoods in the nation's large cities. Recent evidence suggests that the growing social concentration of incarceration is tied to the spatial concentration of incarceration in poor urban neighborhoods. In 1996-97, Professor Todd Clear and his colleagues examined the effects of incarceration admissions and returns in Tallahassee, Florida neighborhoods using a two-wave panel design. Professors James Lynch and William Sabol estimated incarceration rates by neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland, focusing on concentration of prisoners spatially and temporally.8 These 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, as well as to the overall well-being of the neighborhood itself. These studies notwithstanding, incarceration has generally been omitted as an ecological factor in the production of crime, particularly in research on crime in neighborhoods.


Criminal Law | Law | Law Enforcement and Corrections


This article was initially published in Volume 30 of the Fordham Urban Law Journal and is republished with permission.