On the Institutional Reproduction of Poverty: Race, Criminal Justice and Public Scholarship

November 14, 2018  • Posted in Podcasts  •  0 Comments

Vicky Lawson: What, in this moment, what do you see as the priority topics for research on impoverishment, on inequality?

Alexes Harris: I think the priority topics would actually be more of a priority frame: for us to think more about the intersectionality of institutions and how they lead to poverty, sustain poverty, reproduce poverty. And so thinking about the failure of institutions – so educational systems in impoverished communities and the types of teachers; the skill sets that teachers have within those school systems; the structure for supporting youth who come from impoverished families; programs that allow youth to be successful and be prepared and eligible to go into college. So the educational system is one institution. The criminal justice system would be another system that we have to sort of include in our framework when we are understanding poverty – particularly the maintenance of poverty.

So my research focuses on monetary sanctions: the fines and fees that are assessed to individuals. But there’s a whole realm of monetary sanctions that people face when they make contact with our systems of justice – not even serious crimes, Superior Court – but from traffic tickets and municipal fines and fees that really inhibit individuals’ abilities to be successful in life and moving forward with their life. Even if they make a really bad mistake and pay their dues by going to jail, being on probation, they have this – simply because of poverty, they have this permanent relationship with the criminal justice system.


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