Redistributing the Poor: Jails, Hospitals, and the Crisis of Law and Fiscal Austerity

ISBN : 9780197507896

Armando Lara-Millan
256 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Apr 2021
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Whenever the topic of large jails and public hospitals in urban America is raised, a single idea comes to mind. It is widely believed that because we as a society have dis-invested from public health, the sick and poor now find themselves within the purview of criminal justice institutions. In Redistributing the Poor, ethnographer and historical sociologist Armando Lara-Millan takes us into the day-to-day operations of running the largest hospital and jail system in the world and argues that such received wisdom is a drastic mischaracterization of the way that states govern urban poverty at the turn of the 21st century. Rather than focus on our underinvestment of health and overinvestment of criminal justice, his idea of "redistributing the poor" draws attention to how state agencies circulate people between different institutional spaces in such a way that generates revenue for some agencies, cuts costs for others, and projects illusions that services have been legally rendered. By centering the state's use of redistribution, Lara-Millan shows how certain forms of social suffering-the premature death of mainly poor, people of color-are not a result of the state's failure to act, but instead the necessary outcome of so-called successful policy.


Part One: The Expansion of Medicine in Large Urban Jail
Chapter 1: Summoning the Sick and Violent into Jail.
Chapter 2: The Medicalization of the Los Angeles County Jail System
Part Two: The Restriction of Medicine in Large Public Hospitals
Chapter 3: Opioids, Observation, and Restricting Access in the Public Emergency Room
Chapter 4: Building a Public Hospital Everyone Knows is Too Small
Conclusion: Towards the Administrative Disappearing of Social Suffering.
Appendix: Historically Embedded Ethnography.

About the author: 

Armando Lara-Millan is Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of California, Berkeley. He is an ethnographer and historical sociologist. He studies how powerful organizations generate truths and rationalize problems, shaping the life fortunes of large numbers of people. He has undertaken studies in a wide range of contexts, including law, medicine, criminal justice, economic pricing, and urban poverty governance. His work has appeared in the American Sociological Review, Criminology, and in the volume The Many Hands of the State. He is also the recipient of awards from the National Science Foundation, Law and Society Association, the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, the Ford Foundation, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the American Sociological Association.

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