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Doing Time on the Outside: Incarceration and Family Life in Urban America Hardcover – May 10, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Braman reveals the devastating toll mass incarceration takes on the parents, partners, and children left behind."
--- Katherine S. Newman


"Anyone concerned about the future of urban America should read this book. "
---Jeremy Travis, The Urban Institute

About the Author

Donald Braman holds a Ph.D. in anthropology and is currently in law school at Yale. This is his first book.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press (May 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 047211381X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472113811
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,142,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I'd read Braman's other work in books edited by Marc Mauer and Jeremy Travis. This is much more in depth, but presents the same basic arguments. Instead of the tired poltical arguments about the criminal justice system, it tells the stories of actual families. The stories are moving and the families are presented "warts and all." The arguement of the book is that, by undermining family formation and community cohesion, mass imprisonment is actually exacerbating social disorder.

The criminals here are real criminals, not liberal fairy tale versions: They kill people, sell drugs, and steal things. They then get sent to prison while their families and communities pick up the tab.

What makes this book stand out from the crowd of other books on the criminal justice system are the stories of the criminal offenders and their families. What you come to realize is that the criminals are getting off lightly while their families - especially their kids - struggle to survive. It doesn't tie the stories up in a pretty bow. Instead it shows how hard it is to hold criminal offenders accountable.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Doing Time on the Outside, Braman communicates the findings of a three year ethnographic study through a series of personal stories which detail the experiences of families and neighborhoods while one of its members is incarcerated. Using narratives from interviews coupled with statistical data, Braman argues that the current criminal justice system does not demand enough accountability from offenders. Instead, families and other members of the community are left to assume the inmate's responsibilities and the burden associated with his or her absence.
In his first chapter, "A Public Debate," Braman uses interview excerpts from black residents of Washington D.C.'s Eighth Ward to present the opposing sides to bringing a new correctional facility to their neighborhood. While the economic hardships associated with visiting inmates would be diminished for some, the stigma of having an institution of that sort in the neighborhood outweighed the benefits for others. In the remaining three chapters of the book's first part, he presents familiar information explaining how various, seemingly independent, formal and informal policies have systematically created an extreme disparity of opportunity in urban centers with a growing black population. He mentions that cut-backs in child welfare programs for working families, segregation, housing policies and urban renewal effectively devastated the inner city poor, forcing many to relocate to remote housing projects in D.C.'s periphery. Part One of Braman's book provides a useful context and background about the underlying causes of mass incarceration.
In the remaining three parts of the book, Braman examines material burdens as well as stigma and shame through the anthropological concepts of kinship, exchange, silence, and stigma.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Braman's ethnography brings to light a dangerous fact about mass incarceration: it makes disadvantaged communities worse and damages the lives of those impacted--both the incarcerated and their families. Braman argues that removing an individual from the home and community absolves him/her from personal responsibilities to the family. An individual cannot be a responsible family member and provide for his/her kin while imprisoned. Families are negatively affected because of what Braman calls "collateral damages" that come in the form of lost household income and family support (for example, child care, house cleaning, emotional support). He also explains the damages to the community upon return of the incarcerated as a drain on family and community resources.

There are a number of other key issues that Braman brings to the forefront of his discussion on mass incarceration's effect on the family and community. Besides the importance of recognizing personal responsibility that is lacking in other studies on the subject matter, Braman also brings to light the importance of kinship and family ties, especially in the poor black community where common stereotypes belittle family values. The case studies in Braman's ethnography fight to keep their families intact against all odds. Another key idea discussed is the issue of shame and isolation in the community despite mass incarceration being commonplace. Many people are so blighted by the prison stigma that their interactions with others are limited and even devalued.

Braman's study is essential to understanding the perils of mass incarceration on poor urban communities.
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Format: Hardcover
It is great to read a book that gives a view into such a marginalized population. The insight Braman brings through his presentation of these real people with complex problems is very powerful.
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Format: Hardcover
Once I got started I couldn't put this book down. It is not light reading and requires that you really dig into to the stories to understand the effect of their loved ones incarceration on their family and community. My only constructive feedback to the author is that he focused soley on inner city families in his research, I would suggest also looking at working class and middle class families enduring this plight as well. While the struggles are similar the social costs and social stigma associated with being a spouse/family member of someone who is incarcerated are perhaps greater. This is a must read for law students or anyone in a criminal justice profession looking to understand incarceration from the families' perspective. The real life stories were touching, real and identified real life experiences with the cost of incarceration - from visits far from home, lost of childcare, support and income from the incarcerated family member, high cost of phone calls (with kickbacks going to the prisons)and more.
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