Reverberations of Inequality Conference

September 20, 2019

Keynote: Raj Chetty

Panel 1, "Health and Inequality": Chloe Bird, Elaine Hernandez, Bruce Link

Panel 2, "Barriers to Social Mobility": Sam Friedman, Michael Kraus

Panel 3, "Policy Responses to Inequality": David Daley, Susan Dynarski, Brishen Rogers

Preying on the Poor: Criminal Justice as Revenue Racket (Joe Soss) October 17, 2019

IN MARCH 2015, AMERICANS LEARNED from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that the city of Ferguson, Missouri had been operating a “predatory system of government.” Police officers were acting as street-level enforcers for a program — aggressively promoted by city officials — using fines and fees to  extract resources from poor communities of color and deliver them to municipal coffers. JOE SOSS argues that what the DOJ discovered in Ferguson is not an anomaly in U.S. history or of contemporary American governance. Based on an ongoing book project with Joshua Page, Soss offers a political analysis of the origins, operations, and consequences of revenue-centered criminal justice practices that have grown dramatically in the U.S. since the 1990s. Under this policy regime, governments and corporations draw revenue streams from fine-centered policing, court fees, bail systems, prison charges, civil asset forfeiture, and much more. These and related practices have a long pre-history in earlier uses of predatory governance to advance American state and nation building, order the political economy, and manage race, class, and gender inequalities. Connecting this history to the present, Soss explains the processes of institutional conversion that turned the criminal justice field into a highly regressive system of revenue extraction and clarify how financialized criminal justice practices matter for social inequalities in the United States today.