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Randall Amster

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Patterns of Exclusion: Sanitizing Space, Criminalizing Homelessness

The author scrutinizes the systematic violation of the civil rights of homeless people, especially through criminalization and exclusionary policing practices in urban settings. Although the homeless as a class lack almost all indicia of societal power, posing no viable political, economic, or military threat to the dominant culture, their presence elicits a particularly vehement and violent response. The trend toward restricting, regulating, and removing the homeless from public view began in the early history of capitalism, but now at issue is a process of cultural cleansing, as economic, political, and legal authorities work to recapture and redesign the public spaces of the city. In their arsenal are notions of deviance, demonization via associations with filth and disease metaphors (leading to dehumanization), and criminalization. A significant justification for anti-homeless laws has been the “broken windows” theory of James Wilson and George Kelling, which has become a cornerstone of community policing programs premised upon aggressive order maintenance and a proactive, interventionist police strategy.

criminalization; urban policy; criminal justice — United States; demonization; Tempe, Arizona — politics and government; United States — homelessness; United States — police

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 30, No. 1 (2003): 195-221