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A Multilevel Analysis of the Relationship between Labor Surplus and Pretrial Incarceration

Stewart J. D'Alessio and Lisa Stolzenberg
Social Problems
Vol. 49, No. 2 (May 2002), pp. 178-193
DOI: 10.1525/sp.2002.49.2.178
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/sp.2002.49.2.178
Page Count: 16
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A Multilevel Analysis of the Relationship between Labor Surplus and Pretrial Incarceration
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Abstract

It is often proffered that as a fiscal crisis worsens, the capitalist state increasingly relies on incarceration to better manage labor surplus. Using a multilevel study design, we analyze the interplay between the employment status of male criminal defendants charged with burglary and armed robbery and the unemployment rate on pretrial incarceration. We theorize that in cities with high unemployment, unemployed criminal defendants will be more likely to be incarcerated before trial. Additionally, because the state's punitive apparatus is thought to be geared specifically to control that segment of the surplus labor population which is most threatening to established interests, we examine whether unemployed African-American defendants are more apt to be incarcerated before trial in cities with a high unemployment rate. Results show that the unemployment rate moderates the relationship between employment status and pretrial incarceration. In cities with high unemployment, unemployed defendants have a substantially higher probability of pretrial detention. This effect withstands the introduction of control variables measuring a variety of individual and contextual factors. No support is found for the social dynamite thesis. That is, unemployed African-American defendants do not face a higher probability of pretrial confinement in cities with a high unemployment rate. We conclude that pretrial incarceration is determined, to a large extent, by the interaction between a defendant's employment status and aggregate labor market conditions.

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