‘Incarceration hot spots’ inculcate a vicious brand of hopelessness
ATLANTA — Crime rates have dropped in the United States over the past 15 years, yet prison populations have soared. The U.S. incarceration rate now exceeds that of other industrialized nations by five times or more, with almost 2.3 million people behind bars and another 5 million on parole or probation.
A major reason for this apparent paradox has gone largely ignored, according to Harvard University sociologist Robert Sampson. Certain disadvantaged sections of cities have acted as incarceration hot spots in the midst of a general downturn in crime, Sampson reported at a press conference August 16 at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting.
Ballooning incarceration rates in these poor, predominantly black neighborhoods, especially among young men, create a sense of collective cynicism and fatalism that fuels further misconduct and imprisonment, Sampson said. He and sociology graduate student Charles Loeffler of Harvard describe their findi