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Republicans, Prosecutors, and the Carceral Ethos, 1995–2008

Republicans, Prosecutors, and the Carceral Ethos, 1995–2008

(p.157) Chapter Six Republicans, Prosecutors, and the Carceral Ethos, 1995–2008
Building the Prison State
Heather Schoenfeld
University of Chicago Press

This chapter describes the punitive political consensus, or “carceral ethos,” that had developed by the mid-1990s and examines the consequences for Florida politics and penal policy. It argues that that investments in prison capacity created the potential and the ability for newly dominant Republican lawmakers to “govern through crime” where crime control legislation became symbolic politics. Republicans’ ability to pass their crime control agenda was facilitated by the structure of the state legislative process. In turn, the carceral ethos and Republican control of the state legislature empowered public prosecutors to re-write the state’s sentencing laws to emphasize prison time for low-level offenders. Finally, the chapter argues that the move away from the project for racial equality and the racialization of crime and victimhood made it easier for white lawmakers and the public to accept the carceral ethos that offenders were expendable. Yet, it also made it difficult for black lawmakers and their allies to oppose harsh crime control policies.

Keywords:   Republicans, governing through crime, carceral ethos, prisons, symbolic politics, truth-in-sentencing, prosecutors, Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist

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