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Punishing Places: The Geography of Mass Imprisonment

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by Jessica T. Simes

University of California Press

10/26/2021, paperback

SKU: 9780520380332


Punishing Places applies a unique spatial analysis to mass incarceration in the United States. It demonstrates that our highest imprisonment rates are now in small cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Jessica Simes argues that mass incarceration should be conceptualized as one of the legacies of U.S. racial residential segregation, but that a focus on large cities has diverted vital scholarly and policy attention away from communities affected most by mass incarceration today. This book presents novel measures for estimating the community-level effects of incarceration using spatial, quantitative, and qualitative methods. This analysis has broad and urgent implications for policy reforms aimed at ameliorating the community effects of mass incarceration and promoting alternatives to the carceral system.


"Utilizing a unique and rare dataset, Simes shows that preoccupation with urban areas and crime has led to a myopic focus on big cities to the exclusion of smaller cities in terms of understanding the contribution of the interaction between neighborhood disadvantage and imprisonment." -- Tracey L. Meares, Yale Law School

"Building on research showing that mass incarceration both reflects and perpetuates racial and social inequality, Punishing Places shows that the carceral state causes harm not only - or even predominantly - in large urban areas, but also in small cities, suburbs, and rural areas across the United States. The original and important analyses presented in this book demand that we shift our gaze, to recognize and explore how mass incarceration matters in the lives of the dispossessed - especially for those who live in places far from the urban centers that have a grip on our collective imagination." -- Katherine Beckett, Chair and Professor, Law, Societies & Justice Department​ and Professor of Sociology, University of Washington

"Through masterful analysis and superb insight, Punishing Places challenges conventional wisdom about the American criminal legal system. Moving our field of vision beyond urban centers to small cities and rural towns--places sorely overlooked in scholarship and reporting -- Simes reveals that mass incarceration is far more pervasive, excessive, and damaging than most imagine. This remarkably important book not only captures the vulnerabilities and losses facing marginalized places, but gives us hopeful steps for reversing the tide and making these communities whole." -- Forrest Stuart, author of Down, Out, and Under Arrest

"Incredibly well-conceived. Draws scholarly attention to under-studied places, while also providing important theoretical insights into how place serves as an important marker of the imprisonment experience." -- Elizabeth Brown, author of Race and Crime: Geographies of Injustice

About the Author:

Jessica T. Simes is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boston University.