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


This book argues that the changes taking place in the United States’ largest jails and public hospitals have been drastically misunderstood. And more generally, the way that states govern urban poverty at the turn of the twenty-first century has been misunderstood as well. It is widely believed that because US society has divested in public health, the sick and poor now find themselves subject to powerful criminal justice institutions. Rather than focus on the underinvestment of health and overinvestment of criminal justice, this book argues that the fundamental problem of the state is a persistent crisis between budgetary catastrophe and expansive new legal rules. Redistributing the Poor pushes the reader to think about the circulation of people for the purposes of generating absent revenue, absolving new legal demands, and projecting illusions that crisis have been successfully resolved. This book delves into the heart of the state: the day-to-day operations of the largest hospital and jail system in the world. It is only by centering the state’s use of redistribution that one can understand 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 are the necessary outcome of so-called successful policy.

Armando Lara-Millán
Publication date: 
May 13, 2021
Publication type: