mardi 30 août 2011

City & Prison.

Spatial Information Design Lab, Million Dollar Blocks, 2006.

The United States currently has more than 2 million people locked up in jails and prisons. A disproportionate number of them come from a very few neighborhoods in the country’s biggest cities. In many places the concentration is so dense that states are spending in excess of a million dollars a year to incarcerate the residents of single city blocks. When these people are released and reenter their communities, roughly forty percent do not stay more than three years before they are reincarcerated.

Using rarely accessible data from the criminal justice system, the Spatial Information Design Lab and the Justice Mapping Center have created maps of these “million dollar blocks” and of the city-prison-city-prison migration flow for five of the nation’s cities. The maps suggest that the criminal justice system has become the predominant government institution in these communities and that public investment in this system has resulted in significant costs to other elements of our civic infrastructure - education, housing, health, and family. Prisons and jails form the distant exostructure of many American cities today.

Have prisons and jails become the mass housing of our time? How has the war on drugs affected incarceration rates? What are the differences between crime maps and prison admission maps? What are the relationships between prison populations and poor communities? Has incarceration become a response to poverty rather than to crime? What are the relationships between jailed populations and homeless ones?

The relationships implied by these questions become evident when criminal justice data is aggregated geographically and visualized in maps. The focus shifts away from a case-by-case analysis of the crime and punishment of an individual, away from the geographic notation of crime events, and toward a geography of incarceration and return.

The maps pose difficult ethical and political questions for policy makers and designers. When they are linked to other urban, social, and economic indicators of incarceration, they also suggest new strategies for approaching urban design and criminal justice reform together.

Spatial Information Design Lab & Justice Mapping Center, Architecture and Justice, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, 2006, p.5.

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