Chris Uggen's Blog: under the bridge downtown / i gave my life away

Thursday, April 05, 2007

under the bridge downtown / i gave my life away

i just gave an upbeat star-spangled interview about florida's move to enfranchise most former felons. as soon as i hung up the phone, however, minor threat sent word that the state has not completely abandoned the practice of dehumanizing former felons.

you've really gotta see the video to appreciate the story. like many places, miami-dade county has such restrictive rules for housing sex offenders that almost anywhere they live would violate the terms of their release. the shelters won't take them and they can't live anywhere near parks, schools, or daycare centers. yet these folks can't be homeless either, since their release is conditional on occupying a residence from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. according to a local story, a PO gave one poor guy the following directions to his new residence: "Go over the bridge. Once over the bridge, go under it towards the west side as far as he can go."

nice. according to cnn, the former felons are living under a bridge on the julia tuttle causeway, which offers no running water, electricity, or protection from rats and inclement weather. yet a state probation officer makes an early morning visit to the bridge every day to enforce the probation condition that they occupy a residence.

call me a soft-on-crime liberal egghead, but i don't think under the bridge is a viable long-term solution to public safety problems. in the short term, perhaps one of my florida pals could drive by and drop off a tent -- unless camping is against the rules too.


At 11:20 AM, Blogger Mike said...

There was a blog post on that discussed felon disenfranchisement this morning. The article raised the question of why Democrats were not talking about this issue. The post is online at:

I hope Democrats and Republicans debate the lingering effects of incarceration.

At 10:08 AM, Blogger Michael Wehrman said...

The easy answer is that Democrats are still aversive to some viewpoints that would paint them as "soft" on issues involving protecting the public. It's one thing to be against the current war, but to hold that and advocate for policies that are more lenient on prisoners, is arguably political suicide.

In fact, the journal I work for (Sociological Focus) has a forthcoming article on public attitudes on policies, considering who is likely to support punitive policies, and who is likely to support attacking "root causes" of crime (the social structural roots of who's likely to end up a prisoner). It's a cheap plug, sure, but the article does an excellent job parsing out class, education, and race differences in attitudes towards such policies. It's more hopeful than hopeless, but ultimately it still leads one to the conclusion that attitudes must change before policy suggestions are proposed (else they would die quickly)


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