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Different Forms of Banishment in Cities in Order to Keep Individuals Deemed to Be "Undesirable"

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Cities such as Seattle, New York City, Portland, and Las Vegas have implemented different forms of banishment in order to keep individuals deemed to be “undesirable” out of certain parts of their cities (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). These individuals often consist of individuals that are homeless, drug addicts, sex workers, and the mentally ill. Different policies and laws have been implemented to create tools of social control by simply removing individuals and labeling their behavior as criminal rather than addressing the underlying social problems associated with their behavior. Defining drug addiction and mental illness is a form of social control that often is used to normalize deviant or unwanted behavior such as this (Chriss, 2013). However, cities such as Seattle, are using the law to define these behaviors as criminal in hopes of making downtown areas more appealing to both consumers and investors (Johnstone, 2017).

The unfortunate reality to this form of social control is that it often creates crimes and criminal case that would not otherwise exist (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). Off-limit orders, for example require those convicted or arrested for specific offenses, to refrain from returning to certain areas within cities (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). Park exclusion laws tend to primarily affect the homeless population by authorizing law enforcement to remove individuals that break park rules or commit crimes (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). Many homeless individuals rely on parks for their public restrooms and to spend time when shelters are not available to them. Unfortunately individuals that have been issued these types of ordinances can be banned from some or all city parks for up to a year (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). Trespass laws are also used as a form of legal control by encouraging private property owners to allow law enforcement to determine who has legitimate purposes for being on their property (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). Creating criminal experiences for these individuals can often lead to increased association with criminal networks (Ritter & Cameron, 2006).

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Laws such these combine elements of both civil and criminal law in order to expand the authority held within criminal law (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). By using hybrid techniques, the burden of proof is shifted and the rights of the accused are also restricted in ways that tend to benefit the state (Beckett & Herbert, 2010b). Instead of simply relying on the criminal justice system, which can move rather slowly, civil strategies are often embraced because they offer speedy resolutions (Beckett & Herbert, 2010b).

These techniques also create the illusion that law enforcement appears to be doing something in response to community pressure (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). However, rather than punishing individuals for their specific behavior, vulnerable populations can often be targeted simply by being present in certain parts of a city, by how they look, or by what they symbolize (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). Officers issuing exclusion or trespass orders are provided few constraints and rules, with no supervision, and are often made without any justification (Beckett & Herbert, 2009).

The concept of banishment uses the law to enforce norm-conforming behavior in a way that is often unfair to those experiencing homelessness or drug addiction. Several arguments have been made towards the legal basis used to construct forms of banishment. Since those that are banished are often part of vulnerable communities, they lack methods to challenge the basis of their banishment, which is seen to violate their right to due process (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). The system also creates barriers to challenging orders; for example, park exclusion orders may only be challenged through the use of an administrative hearing overseen by park officials (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). Criminal trespass orders, on the other hand, can only be challenged through the use of filing a civil rights challenge (Beckett & Herbert, 2009).

Excluding individuals from zoning areas such as Stay Out of Drug Areas, often prevent individuals from receiving social services, medical care, and employment opportunities (Beckett & Herbert, 2010b). Many individuals that have experienced banishment report negative consequences similar to those experienced during incarceration including: impaired geographic mobility, removing the sense of safety and security, loss of income and access to work, reduction in access to social services, and harassment by law enforcement (Beckett & Herbert, 2010b).

These barriers are often exacerbated by the emotional damage caused by banishment. Overall, banishment does not achieve the affects it desires, instead it creates displacement and creates individuals to even greater criminal justice sanctions (Beckett & Herbert, 2010b). For example, excluding an individual from an area containing a methadone program they frequent can often lead to the individual resuming drug habits and turning to drug dealing and theft in order to make ends meet (Beckett & Herbert, 2010b).

There are several alternative methods to the concept of using spatial exclusion as a method of social control mentioned throughout the book Banished: The New Social Control in Urban America. One suggestion mentioned in the text is using therapeutic courts to direct marginalized individuals in the direction of forms of social services instead of jail (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). These courts aim to address the underlying issues generating criminal behavior such as mental illness, homelessness, or substance and alcohol dependence (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). However, there are several downfalls to the use of therapeutic courts such as drug, mental health, and community courts. According to Beckett and Herbert, the first evaluation of Seattle’s community court showed that recidivism rates actually increased, however, there was a reduction in the number of days spent in jail by program participants (2009). Although when compared to incarceration therapeutic courts seen to be cost-effective, they are about three-times more expensive than treatment provided within the community (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). Judges and lawyers working within therapeutic courts are expected to primarily act as social workers, rather than their traditional focus of due process (Beckett & Herbert, 2009).

Harm reduction policies and programs recognize that some individuals may always engage in risky behaviors and instead focus on reducing the negative consequences of them (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). These forms of policies and programs may be the most realistic alternative to banishment relating to drug use. Ritter and Cameron suggests that these forms of programs provide more realistic and immediate goals for individuals suffering from drug and alcohol addiction (2006). These programs can be used to address a variety of negative consequences associated with drug use. Needle syringe programs (NSP) for example aims to reduce the spread of blood-born viruses such as HIV, while also providing support and treatment services about safer injection use (Ritter & Cameron, 2006). According to Ritter and Cameron, these programs have been shown to be both cost-effective and effective in reducing risky behavior (2006). Although issues such as increased drug use and crime rates tend to be a common concern among communities that implement NSP, there is no research to support these conclusions (Ritter & Cameron, 2006).

Outreach is another form of harm reduction by providing drug users with information about the risks associated behind their behavior, strategies to potentially reduce those risks, healthcare, and can be provided by current or former drug users or social workers (Ritter & Cameron, 2006). There is evidence to show that outreach can be effective in reaching hard-to-reach populations, reducing the use of needle-sharing, and reduction of risk behaviors (Ritter & Cameron, 2006). Overdose is a negative consequence of drug use that harm-reduction can also be effective in reducing. Safe injecting facilities provide users with a sterile equipment, a safe place to inject, and can also provide information in regards to medical and welfare services (Ritter & Cameron, 2006).

Research shows that these facilities have been effective in managing non-fatal overdoses, reducing public nuisance, and reducing injection risk behavior (Ritter & Cameron, 2006). In Germany reductions in drug use, interaction with law enforcement, criminal activities, and drug related hospitalization have associated with newly implemented harm reduction programs (Ritter & Cameron, 2006). According to Ritter & Cameron, reports from New York City show that there has been a substantial and consistent decline in blood-born viruses in those entering the detox process combined with the use of needle syringe programs, easy to access HIV testing, and counseling (2006).

While forms of the harm reduction model seems to be an effective alternative to banishment relating to drug addiction, the housing first model suggests that homelessness needs to be addressed before other social services (Beckett & Herbert, 2009). This model tends begins with contact with an outreach team that assists the individuals in obtaining shelter or transitional housing and eventually permanent housing (Tsemberis, 2011). Gaining public housing requires participation and successful completion of treatment (Tsemberis, 2011). Similar to harm-reduction, this model also accepts that many participants fail and that sometimes relapse due to mental illness or drug addiction is necessary (Tsbemberis, 2011). According to Rhodes, these programs do not reduce the use of alcohol or substance abuse (2009). However, lack of housing leads to a decrease in both physical and mental health, so addressing the need for adequate housing improves overall health (Henwood et al., 2013).

Banishment enforces community members to engage in labeling. By using the law to label individuals in need of social assistance as criminal, the more likely community members are to view the behavior as “criminal” instead of a social issue. Labeling these individuals often result in the individual often becoming what society views them as. According to Beckett and Herbert, banished individuals often feel as though society views them as less than human and as though society has given up on them (2010b). Excluded individuals begin to believe that their exclusion reflects the bias or stereotype that society has against the homeless. The psychological damage caused by banishment tends to create deeper depression, which can result in further deviating behavior

Forms of banishment results in the separation of individuals from important agents of social control such as peers and family members (Chriss, 2013). These types of social bonds within communities are very important. According to Chriss, individuals are more likely to deviate when they are poorly integrated into communities (2013). According to Hirschi’s theory of social control, excluding homeless individuals from public areas that allow them to be around other members of society only increases their likelihood of deviating from social norms (Chriss, 2013). Hirschi’s theory of social control suggests that the more individuals are attached to other members of society, the more they tend to believe in societal values, and the more they invest into the community resulting in a decrease in deviating behavior (Chriss, 2013).


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