Examining Banishment as a City Policy

Professor Katherine Beckett and Professor Steve Herbert were recently featured in the College of Arts & Sciences newsletter, “A&S Perspectives,” for their recent publication of Banished: The New Social Control in Urban America:

Photo of person without a home courtesy of ben_onthemove, Flickr Creative Commons.To determine the frequency and effectiveness of banishment efforts, the researchers reviewed a four-month sample of TAs and PEOs in Seattle from 2005. They also interviewed police officers, prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, and judges, as well as 40 individuals, many of them homeless, who had been banished. Their conclusion? Despite the high cost of banishment efforts, they are largely ineffective.

“Most people returned to the area despite the exclusion order,” says Herbert. “People talk about homeless people being rootless, but that is not the case. Some of them have been in Pioneer Square for many, many years. The services they use, their social network, their food sources, and their case managers are all there. They are anchored. Exclude them from that neighborhood, and where are they going to go? So they do ducking and dodging instead of leaving.”

It should be noted that many individuals interviewed by Beckett and Herbert freely admitted they had checkered histories. In fact, Beckett was surprised by their candor about things they’d done. But when it came to being trespass admonished, they felt they were unfairly targeted when they were just trying to live their lives.

Beckett shares the story of one trespass admonished man who kept missing his interview appointment with her. Each time, he’d say that he’d been picked up by the police for violating his trespass admonishments. “I thought his excuses were getting to be a pretty tall tale,” says Beckett. “But when I checked the jail registry, which shows bookings into jail, I saw that he was telling the truth.”

Interviews with police officers tell another story. One retired officer describes trespass admonishments as “a beautiful thing” because they allow the police to make easy arrests and thus placate concerned property owners without having to create a trumped-up charge. “From the police perspective, it’s great,” says Herbert. “They see Joe in a parking lot, run Joe’s name, see he’s not supposed to be there, and arrest him. They don’t have to work at catching someone actually doing something illegal.”

Original story: http://www.artsci.washington.edu/newsletter/april10/Banish.asp

Congratulations to Professor Katherine Beckett and Professor Steve Herbert on a job well done! You can purchase their newest work from Amazon here.