Book Review: In search of safety: Confronting inequality in women’s imprisonment

Published date01 December 2018
Date01 December 2018
Subject MatterBook Reviews
choices. Shelby argues that a just society, or social order, does not spread societ y’s wealth so that
everyone is equal but rather ensures that everyone has the same life chances. By its very nature, the
ghetto systemically and dramatically reduces the life chances of its residents and must be abol-
ished out of a sense of justice.
According to Shelby,the ghetto is a racially segregatedurban neighborhood with multipleforms of
disadvantage.These disadvantages arewhat severely restricts the life chancesof ghetto residents. They
include such thingsas a lack of job opportunities, a lack of resources, inadequate public services, and
substandard schools, which tend to leadto high levels of poverty, unemployment, underemployment,
and violent street crime. Ghetto residents are stigmatized and unjustly disadvantaged withlittle spatial
or economic mobility. Although forced racial segregation is clearly immoral and unjust, and the
segregation of Black people is strongly correlated with concentrated disadvantages, Shelby argues
that forced integration is unethical, impractical, and likely to exacerbate the burden of the disadvan-
taged. These disadvantages are much more than just racial segregation. Also, to help certain individ-
uals escape theghetto does not solve the problemand actually tends to further disadvantage those who
are left behind. The ghetto is an enduring sign that our social order remains profoundly unjust so its
eliminationmust be the goal. Strategically,to eliminate the disadvantages that areintegral to the ghetto
is to abolish the ghetto. Therefore, the movement must focuson economically empowering theghetto
poor, eliminatinghousing discrimination, allowing for true reproductivefreedom, expanding employ-
ment opportunities, and providing quality schools and other public services.
One of the most interesting aspects of Shelby’s Dark Ghettos is that he argues that ghetto
residents have responsibilities and duties as well and must play an integral role in its abolition or
the Third Reconstruction. He argues that the duty of just ice imposes duties on all individuals,
including those who are disadvantaged. Ghetto residents have a duty of justice to resist their
oppression. Those outside the ghetto have a duty of justice to remove the disadvantages which are
essential to the ghetto’s continuation, but they must not do so on their own. It is ethical, moral, and
practical to engage the ghetto residents in a form of fusion politics so that anything proposed comes
from the people and respects their human dignity and self-determination.
In conclusion, Shelby notes that abolishing the ghetto should not simply be seen as overcoming
racial prejudice or a war on poverty but as dramatic and important step in the process of transforming
the structure of our unjust society. He also notes that this movement, whether we call it the Third
Reconstruction, Black Lives Matter, ghetto abolitionism, or something else, must reach beyond
achieving civil rights or ending institutional racism. This movement must strive for economic justice
and a fair criminal justice system. In this regard, the abolition of the ghetto would not just benefit
ghetto residents, but all those who are unjustly disadvantaged.
Owen, B., Wells, J., & Pollock, J. (2017).
In search of safety: Confronting inequality in women’s imprisonment. Oakland: University of California Press. xi,
260 pp. $29.95, ISBN 9780520288720.
Reviewed by: John T. Whitehead, Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, East Tennessee State University,
Johnson City, TN, USA.
DOI: 10.1177/0734016817737350
In this book, Owen, Wells, and Pollock present in-depth results of focus group research with women
prisoners and staff on how women experience and respond to incarceration. The thesis of this book is
516 Criminal Justice Review 43(4)

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