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Om författaren

Ben Austen has written for many publications, including the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Harper's Magazine, New York magazine, The Atlantic, and The Best American Travel Writing. He lives with his wife and two children in Chicago, where he was born and raised.

Verk av Ben Austen

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The Best American Travel Writing 2011 (2010) — Bidragsgivare — 154 exemplar


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A very well-written oral history of a handful of Cabrini-Greene residents. It makes clear the failure of Cabrini-Greene lays with government, both federal and local, to support and maintain the building, not with the residents.
jklugman | 4 andra recensioner | Jan 3, 2024 |
Correction: Parole, Prison, and the Possibility of Change, by Ben Austen and narrated by Brett Barry, is a look at one particularly dysfunctional aspect of our (in)justice system. The history and societal analysis is blended with the stories of two men who committed serious crimes at a young age. I listened to the audio version and was pleased with the narrator.

Using the personal to help explicate the political/judicial/cultural works very well in this instance. The failures of our system are numerous and well-documented, but because it serves a racist power structure all it takes is some irrational rhetoric to keep it in place. That is one of the biggest reasons for moments when change might occur to quickly flip and become even more draconian than before.

We need to define what any system of justice should have as its goals. When it comes to the "punishment" aspect, is it punishment for the sake of punishment or is it punishment with the goal of rehabilitation? Prison shouldn't be a black hole from which none can escape. And with the parole systems we have, in the places we still have them, very few, no matter how long they have been incarcerated nor how remorseful nor how clean their prison record, are given the opportunity to become useful members of society again. Combined with the tremendous inequities in the policing and prosecution, this is largely just a continuation of the slavery that we theoretically abolished.

If you have an interest in our so-called justice system and the carceral state we live in, you will find a lot to think about and consider here. Whether your reading preference leans toward the personal stories or the history, this hybrid will satisfy your desire to learn more. But don't just learn about it, consider it a call to action, to make a better society.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
… (mer)
pomo58 | Oct 5, 2023 |
I grew up on the east coast and had never heard of Cabrini-Green until I moved to just outside Chicago in my mid-twenties. This was super interesting and also not surprising that government would screw over poor people again and again.
LynnMPK | 4 andra recensioner | Aug 8, 2023 |
The history of Cabrini-Green is more than the history of a demolished housing project. It's the story of public housing, of a city, and of that city's political and institutional racism. Cabrini-Green and public housing are not a failure because they were conceptually flawed; they failed because the people in charge of the system never wanted them to succeed. Ben Austen has done an excellent job of bringing together the stories of individal residents with the history of the development.

Design flaws are often blamed for the failure of high rise housing, but the reality is more complicated. The design of Cabrini-Green was determined by politics as much as urban planning theory: the poor did not deserve housing that was too good for them. Maintenenance and security were never fully funded, allowing buildings to crumble under heavy use. Green areas around the buildings became concrete. Gang members were deliberately relocated to Cabrini-Green, increasing crime. One aspect Austen does not explain fully is the role of welfare rules in breaking up families, increasing the number of single mothers dependent on welfare in the projects. In addition, the loss of nearby jobs meant that an increasing number of families became dependent on welfare, and they were unable to access jobs that had moved to the suburbs. This also fueled the underground economy that people needed to survive.

Austen does an excellent job of showing the layers of racism in Chicago housing and politics. The projects became warehouses for urban black people, who had already been in higher need of housing due to fewer options and higher poverty. Required to build in both black and white neighborhoods, Mayor Daley simply stopped building public housing. CHA was a patronage operation that was poorly run for decades. When the tides changed, the answer simply became to disperse the tenants and use the land as part of the "new" Chicago.

Cabrini-Green became a symbol of public housing due to its visibility, located near Chicago's wealthiest neighborhoods. As such, it attracted disproportionate media attention, and portrayals of its residents became a reflection of media beliefs about urban black people: crack use, crime, and a permanent underclass. Austen's use of the personal stories of residents are a necessary counterpoint--showing how residents were real people, not stereotypes.

Because of its prime location, Cabrini-Green became a target for redevelopment. That redevelopment has not always been beneficial for its former residents. Most do not occupy units in the new "mixed income" housing that has come to replace the towers, and the overall number of units is lower. Market rate tenants also resent the presence of the subsidized renters, especially after the market crash of 2008. Vouchers have also not been successful for many. Because of a well intentioned rule setting voucher rates according to city averages, voucher values are both too low for an apartment in a more expensive neighborhood, but provide an incentive for landlords in poor neighborhoods to simply raise the rent to the value of the voucher. The result is that they remain in segregated neighborhoods.

This should be read alongside The Color of Law to understand the role of racism in American housing policy. Evicted and Ghetto are also good companion reads.
… (mer)
arosoff | 4 andra recensioner | Jul 11, 2021 |



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