Reentry to Nothing: Urban Marginality After Mass Incarceration

Sponsored by Stanford Law School, History Department


Thursday, April 20, 2017
12:45 pm – 2:00 pm
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Stanford Law School, room 285
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This presentation draws some preliminary reflections from a 3-year ethnographic study among a group of ex-prisoners facing the challenges of reentry in Oakland, California. Every day, an average of 1,700 prisoners are released from county jails, state prisons, and federal penitentiaries in the United States and dumped into the segregated neighborhoods from which they were forcefully taken years before. In the wake of broad cost-reduction strategies affecting community supervision programs and social services, the experiences of these returning prisoners suggest the emergence of a low-intensity/low-cost model of urban containment that devolves largely to market forces and non-profit agencies. This barely regulated collection of private forces, backed by the ever-present threat of prison or jail, is all that is left in a postindustrial city stripped bare of the community networks and welfare services that existed before the neoliberal punitive turn of the 1980s and 1990s. In this paper, I will present some materials from the field in an attempt to illuminate the survival strategies adopted by ex-prisoners and their families and to illustrate how the cycle of incarceration and reentry operates as a powerful engine in the reproduction of social inequality.


About the Speaker

Alessandro De Giorgi is Associate Professor at the Department of Justice Studies, San Jose State University (e-mail: He received his PhD in Criminology from Keele University (United Kingdom) in 2005. Before joining the Department of Justice Studies, he was a Research Fellow in Criminology at the University of Bologna (Italy) and a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society, University of California, Berkeley. His teaching and research interests include critical theories of punishment and social control, urban ethnography, and radical political economy. He is the author of Rethinking the Political Economy of Punishment: Perspectives on Post-Fordism and Penal Politics (Ashgate, 2006). Currently, he is conducting ethnographic research on the socioeconomic dimensions of concentrated incarceration and prisoner reentry in West Oakland, California.

Admission Info

Free and Open to the Public