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While more people are incarcerated in the United States than in any other nation in the history of the western world, the prison is but one (comparatively) small part of a vast carceral landscape. The 600,000 people released each year join nearly 5 million people already on probation or parole, 12 million who are processed through a county jail, 19 million U.S. adults estimated to have a felony conviction, and the staggering 79 million Americans with a criminal record. But the size of the U.S. carceral state is second in consequence to its reach. Incarcerated people are greeted by more than 48,000 laws, policies and administrative sanctions upon release that limit their participation in the labor and housing markets, in the culture and civic life of the city, and even within their families. They are subject to rules other people are not subject to, and shoulder responsibilities other people are not expected to shoulder. They live in a “supervised society,” a hidden social world we’ve produced through our laws, policies and everyday practices, and in fact, occupy an alternate form of political membership—what Professor Reuben Jonathan Miller calls “carceral citizenship.”
Join Professor Miller as he examines the afterlife of mass incarceration, attending to how U.S. criminal justice policy has changed the social life of the city and altered the contours of American Democracy one (most often poor black American) family at a time. Drawing on ethnographic data collected across three iconic American cities—Chicago, Detroit, and New York—we will explore what it means to live in a supervised society and how we might find our way out.
Reuben Jonathan Miller is an Assistant Professor in the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration (SSA). His research examines life at the intersections of race, poverty, crime control, and social welfare policy. He is the author of Halfway Home: Race, Punishment and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration (February 2021), based on 15 years of research and practice with currently and formerly incarcerated men, women, their families, partners, and friends.