Thursday, March 18, 2010


A new book by two UW faculty members explores geographic restrictions that are placed on people in the city -- often homeless people and people of color. Katherine Beckett & Steve Herbert, Banished: The New Social Control in Urban America (2010).

The book would be interesting and important for anyone concerned about the law and the urban poor, but it's especially interesting locally because the city the authors study is Seattle. They use a variety of sources: records from the police and the courts, archives from the city council, interviews with prosecutors, defenders, and judges, and -- most vividly -- interviews with people who are subject to the restrictions.

SOAP and SODA aren't just items on a shopping list: they're tools for restricting where an individual may go in Seattle. Very often probation (or a deferred sentence) for a minor offense includes an order to Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution (SOAP) or to Stay Out of Drug Areas (SODA). Hundreds of people are also given trespass admonishments, with orders not to go to one or many parks or not to go to one or many businesses.

Violating these orders subjects a person to arrest, trial, and jail. And yet obeying the orders often isolates the person from his or her community and makes it difficult to get social services, and so most people covered by the orders do not obey them.

The scope of the system is large (and therefore costly). For example, criminal trespass charges led to over 10,000 jail days in 2005. And the city attorney estimated that jailing SODA violators cost the city about $1 million from March 2006 to December 2007.

For more, see the publisher's page or check the book out: HN80.S54 B43 2010 at Good Reads.

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