Judah Schept



“Keep Local Kids Local”: Departed Capital, Derelict Land, and (Neo)Liberal Detention

Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in a small and progressive Midwestern city, this article examines discourses and practices of juvenile justice policy that purport to reject the politics of mass incarceration and yet which embrace local carceral expansion. In a community otherwise critical of the carceral state, there was substantial and passionate support for a juvenile facility that would have dramatically expanded the capacity of the community to detain its youth. Through discourses of child-saving, racialized notions of “real criminals” inhabiting facilities outside the city, and a belief in the capacity of the community to create benevolent institutions, local officials at once imagined an exceptional community capable of extraordinary incarceration and relied on racial and class tropes from prior eras to justify increased detention of youth. Using the concept of carceral habitus, this article argues that local expansion of institutional and non-institutional capacity for adjudicated youth reflected the work neoliberal punishment performs in structuring its own reproduction. This included a variety of actuarial techniques of knowledge production that circulate in the community and that structured and constrained the circulating vocabularies with which to discuss the central issues and the policy options available to city and county officials. In the context of growing national attention to the problem of mass incarceration, this article cautions against policies that might further instantiate the carceral state under the guises of local control and benevolent governance.

juvenile detention, local control, racialization

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 41, No. 4 (2014): 40-61


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