by Lynne Haney
University of California Press
A profound portrait of the hidden injustices that trap fathers in a cycle of punishment and debt.
In the first study of its kind, sociologist Lynne Haney travels into state institutions across the country to document the experiences of the millions of fathers cycling through the criminal justice and child support systems. Prisons of Debt shows how these systems work together to create complex entanglements--rather than "piling up" in men's lives, these entanglements form feedback loops of disadvantage. The prison-child support pipeline flows in both directions, deepening parents' debt and criminal justice involvement.
Through moving accounts of men struggling to be fathers from behind prison walls and under the weight of support debt, Prisons of Debt exposes how the criminalization of child support undermines the most essential of familial relationships. Haney argues that these state systems can end up producing exactly the kind of parent they fear and loathe: bitter, unreliable, and cyclical fathers. Based on observations of 1,200 child support cases and interviews with 145 indebted fathers in New York, California, and Florida, Prisons of Debt reveals the actual practices of child support adjudication and enforcement alongside the lived realities of fathers trapped in those systems. The result is a rigorously documented analysis of how poor men are too often denied their rights of citizenship and of fatherhood.
"Prisons of Debt is an absolutely compelling and tragic account of how the child support and criminal legal systems jointly produce mass indebtedness among the most disadvantaged fathers, thereby exacerbating the problems they are supposed to solve. Lynne Haney's astute ethnographic observations, and her gripping in-depth interviews with fathers caught up in these intersecting systems, dismantle the 'deadbeat dad' trope, echoed in media and in court, to reveal the exceptionally high cost of our current child support policies for children, families, and society."--Mona Lynch, author of Hard Bargains: The Coercive Power of Drug Laws in Federal Court
"This is an important book, extremely well researched, documented, illustrated, and argued. It provides a deep and thorough understanding of poverty governance and the mechanisms by which inequality is institutionally organized and reproduced. The ethnography and interviews are expertly woven through the text to provide rich, and at times dramatic, testimonies of the institutional processes central to the book."--Timothy Black, coauthor of It's a Setup: Fathering from the Social and Economic Margins
About the Author:
Lynne Haney is Professor of Sociology at New York University and author of the award-winning books Offending Women and Inventing the Needy. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Fulbright New Century Scholars Program.