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Punishing the Poor

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 07 October 2009

America's social state is withering at the expense of its expanding prison system and the UK is heading in the same direction, with potentially disastrous consequences. That's the argument of Laurie Taylor's guest, Loic Wacquant, Professor of Sociology at the University of California.

From 1980 to 1990, spending by the US government on operating its prisons and correctional establishments doubled while at the same time spending on public housing more than halved. According to Wacquant, this process is continuing; he says that 'the construction of prisons has effectively become the country's main housing programme'. Are America's penal policies too harsh, and if prisons and correctional facilities are becoming increasingly important, what are the social consequences?

He talks to Laurie about why he believes America is too ready to accept a state of poverty for huge sections of its population and at the same time see the social state obliterated. Is America punishing its poor and is the UK at risk of following the same path, overly dependent on prisons while eroding its social state?

  • Loic Wacquant

    Loic Wacquant, Professor of Sociology at the Institute for Legal Research, Boalt Law School, University of California at Berkeley

    Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity
    Publisher: Duke University Press
    ISBN-10: 082234422X
    ISBN-13: 978-0822344223

    Find out more about Loic Wacquant
  • Nicola Lacey

    Nicola Lacey, Professor of Criminal Law and Legal Theory at the Mannheim Centre for the Study of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the Department of Law at the London School of Economics

    The Prisoners' Dilemma: Political Economy and Punishment in Contemporary Democracies
    Publisher: Cambridge University Press
    ISBN-10: 0521728290
    ISBN-13: 978-0521728294

    Find out more about Nicola Lacey
  • Anthony Grayling

    Anthony Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford

    Find out more about Anthony Grayling



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