Posted in gentrification, homelessness, law, marginalization, tourism, urban studies

Banished: The New Social Control in Urban America

Beckett, Katherine, and Steven Kelly Herbert. Banished: The New Social Control in Urban America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Using Seattle, Washington as their case study, Beckett and Herbert examine the growing use of legal tools that criminalize poverty and limit the movement of people labeled “undesirable.” They label the use of these tools as “banishment.” As Seattle began reconstructing its image as a tourist destination, downtown business associations and anti-crime organizations campaigned to clear the streets of visual reminders of poverty. Beckett and Herbert assert that banishment is a legal alternative for loitering and vagrancy laws, which were decreed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (14). Police officers are allowed to stop and issue trespass admonishments for no reason other than deeming someone to be lacking a “legitimate purpose” for being there (56). Hundreds of people are prevented from going to parks and businesses. Violating orders subjects people to arrest, trial, and jail; yet, following these orders isolates these same people from their community, so most people do not obey them.

Banished is a good resource for understanding the legal means police have at their disposal to prevent certain people from public places. Although the book focuses on Seattle, the methods are applicable to any American city that wishes to exclude certain people from their resources. The book raises awareness about ongoing gentrification efforts and the damaging effects of excluding people from public spaces.