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The Price of Carceral Citizenship: Punishment, Surveillance, and Social Welfare Policy in an Age of Carceral Expansion


From Michigan Journal of Race & Law

The unprecedented rise in the number of people held in U.S. jails and prisons has garnered considerable attention from policymakers, activists, and academics alike. Signaled in part by Michelle Alexander’s New York Times bestseller, The New Jim Crow, and the unlikely coalition of activists, policymakers, celebrities, and business leaders on both sides of the political aisle who have pledged to end mass incarceration in our lifetime, the prison system has returned to public policy discourse in a way that was unforeseen less than a decade ago. On any given day in 2014, just over 2.3 million people were held in U.S. jails and prisons. This figure represents a tenfold increase in the inmate census since 1973 and about 22 percent of the world’s prisoner population. Unfortunately, while the causes and consequences of mass incarceration warrant rigorous examination, the focus on arrest and imprisonment has left a curious, yet equally historic phenomenon hidden in plain sight—the rise of a supervised society, and with it, an alternate track of citizenship.