Trading Democracy for Justice: Criminal Convictions and the Decline of Neighborhood Political Participation


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

The vast array of social, economic, and political consequences of America’s experiment with mass incarceration are continuing to be documented and understood with greater clarity. Traci Burch’s book, Trading Democracy for Justice, was published only two years ago as of this writing, at a time when the discussion around incarceration and political behavior was nascent and largely limited to felon disenfranchisement laws. In that context, Burch’s book is particularly notable, as it brings attention to a broader range of political ramifications. Mainly, Burch proposes that diminished political participation does not occur only among individuals with direct interactions with the criminal justice system; rather, in neighborhoods with high concentrations of criminal justice contact, retreat also occurs among families and community residents. This is an important contribution; however, a recent and growing body of research published in the past few years suggests that the explanatory mechanisms discussed by Burch may be further interrogated, debated, and sharpened. This is a positive critique, since it reflects the active and timely research agenda put forward by Burch and others.

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