Citizens of the system : criminal justice contact, political socialization and citizenship




Fredriksson, Klara Maria Cecilia

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Incarceration and other carceral interventions have lifelong material and psychological consequences, but also democratic effects. Much like interactions with other institutions, criminal justice contact teaches those it touches who they are as citizens, and shapes how they express themselves politically. This effect is heavily concentrated among the most vulnerable in American society; the poor, racial minorities, and the otherwise neglected. I argue that the carceral system constitutes a parallel track of political socialization, and that this produces specific behavioral outcomes. Largely separated from traditional means of coming into one’s own politically, carceral citizens receive much of their education through the system itself. The carceral state, for carceral citizens, interferes with and replaces the traditional paths of political socialization that shape the political lives of people without carceral contact. This model has five main components: a) contact starts at a young age, b) this early contact is crucial to the democratic effects we are seeing for this population, c) the carceral state interferes with traditional political socialization mechanisms, d) the carceral state pro- vides an alternative political education for carceral citizens, e) this leads to the exclusion of carceral citizens from politically active networks and mobilization mechanisms. I ask three questions in three separate empirical pieces: Does criminal justice contact initiated at an early age have a stronger effect on one’s lifelong political participation than if this contact happens later? How does the carceral state educate, and what are the behavioral consequences? Do carceral citizens experience mobilization into political participation at the same rate as everyone else?



LCSH Subject Headings