Using street ethnography and interviews with homeless men in San Francisco and St Louis, this article examines the dynamic connection between incarceration and homelessness. Among the homeless men in the study, crimes of desperation, aggressive policing of status offenses, and the close proximity of many ex-cons created a strong likelihood of incarceration and reincarceration. Conversely, for jail and prison inmates, time inside consistently eroded employability, family ties, and other defences against homelessness: several of the men had become homeless for the first time directly following release from a carceral establishment. Each of these dynamics was present in both San Francisco and St Louis but the process of becoming homeless and the experience of homelessness itself varied significantly with the differing economic and cultural configurations presented by the two cities. In both cases, each trajectory reinforced the other, creating a homelessness/incarceration cycle more powerful than the sum of its parts, a racialized exclusion/punishment nexus which germinates, isolates, and perpetuates lower-class male marginality.
- United States
- quality-of-life policing