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On the Run : Fugitive Life in an American City
by Alice Goffman


Overview - Forty years in, the War on Drugs has done almost nothing to prevent drugs from being sold or used, but it has nonetheless created a little-known surveillance state in America's most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Arrest quotas and high-tech surveillance techniques criminalize entire blocks, and transform the very associations that should stabilize young lives--family, relationships, jobs--into liabilities, as the police use such relationships to track down suspects, demand information, and threaten consequences.  Read more...

 
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More About On the Run by Alice Goffman
 
 
 
Overview
Forty years in, the War on Drugs has done almost nothing to prevent drugs from being sold or used, but it has nonetheless created a little-known surveillance state in America's most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Arrest quotas and high-tech surveillance techniques criminalize entire blocks, and transform the very associations that should stabilize young lives--family, relationships, jobs--into liabilities, as the police use such relationships to track down suspects, demand information, and threaten consequences.

Alice Goffman spent six years living in one such neighborhood in Philadelphia, and her close observations and often harrowing stories reveal the pernicious effects of this pervasive policing. Goffman introduces us to an unforgettable cast of young African American men who are caught up in this web of warrants and surveillance--some of them small-time drug dealers, others just ordinary guys dealing with limited choices. All find the web of presumed criminality, built as it is on the very associations and friendships that make up a life, nearly impossible to escape. We watch as the pleasures of summer-evening stoop-sitting are shattered by the arrival of a carful of cops looking to serve a warrant; we watch--and can't help but be shocked--as teenagers teach their younger siblings and cousins how to run from the police (and, crucially, to keep away from friends and family so they can stay hidden); and we see, over and over, the relentless toll that the presumption of criminality takes on families--and futures.

While not denying the problems of the drug trade, and the violence that often accompanies it, through her gripping accounts of daily life in the forgotten neighborhoods of America's cities, Goffman makes it impossible for us to ignore the very real human costs of our failed response--the blighting of entire neighborhoods, and the needless sacrifice of whole generations.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780226136714
  • ISBN-10: 022613671X
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publish Date: May 2014
  • Page Count: 277
  • Dimensions: 9.46 x 6.44 x 1.07 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.25 pounds

Series: Fieldwork Encounters and Discoveries (Hardcover)

Related Categories

Books > Social Science > Criminology
Books > Social Science > Sociology - Urban
Books > Social Science > Ethnic Studies - African American Studies - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-02-10
  • Reviewer: Staff

When University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist Goffman, at the time a sophomore college student, moved into a lower-income black neighborhood in Philadelphia, she began a six-year immersion in the swelling world of fugitives in America, where nearly five million people are on probation or parole. In her first book, Goffman offers an ethnographic account focusing on the impact of probation and parole practices on one community, where living under “fear of capture and confinement” transforms lives. Opportunities for employment, access to medical care, and availability of housing are affected, and relationships are stressed by heavy surveillance, as well as by police threats and violence directed at people linked to former prisoners. Residents fashion ingenious coping methods: the bail office may serve as a bank; a hospital janitor may mend a broken arm; an underground economy provides essential documents. Though Goffman is white, this is markedly not a tale about a white woman in a black world; “A Methodical Note,” appended to the text, details her gradual, intimate access to this community. This is a remarkable chronicle, informed by Goffman’s scholarship, detailed from personal experience as “participant observer,” and related with honesty and compassion. (Apr.)

 
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