Saturday, February 18, 2006

Million Dollar Blocks / Laura Kurgan

New York City and Wichita, KS, are among the many cities in the United States in which the state regularly spends more than one million dollars to incarcerate prisoners who live within a single census block. Advocacy organizations, city planners, and community groups working with released prisoners are asking: where are these ‘million dollar blocks,’ and what’s happening there? The Spatial Information Design Lab (SIDL) at Columbia is working with the Justice Mapping Center to produce a range of maps of this phenomenon.

Million Dollar Blocks is the first of a series of projects to be undertaken by the Spatial Information Design Lab at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation (GSAPP), as part of a two year research and development project on Graphical Innovation in Justice Mapping. It activates a unique partnership between the Justice Mapping Center (JMC), the JFA Institute (JFA), and the GSAPP, enabling the Justice Mapping Center to refine analytical and graphical techniques within the research environment of the Spatial Information Design Lab, which can then be applied to real life policy initiatives through work with the JFA Institute. Reciprocally, input from state and local leaders is then brought back to the Design Lab for further development. This feedback loop is a valuable tool resulting in new methods of spatial analyses and ways of visually presenting them that reveal previously unseen dimensions of criminal justice and related government policies in states across the United States.

Justice Mapping Center

The JMC is dedicated to helping government better understand its criminal justice resources. Through innovative geographical analyses of prison, jail, parole, probation, and other government agency data, the JMC assists states, counties, and cities in identifying highly concentrated areas and maximizing the benefits of their services in target communities.

"An Explanation of Justice Mapping: Three Examples"

Justice Mapping Center
Eric Cadora, Director
Charles Swartz, Associate Director

The vast majority of incarcerated people comes from and returns in concentration to a small set of inner-city neighborhoods. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) analysis, otherwise know as computer mapping, has become key to understanding how the removal and return of so many people from a single neighborhood is having an impact on the health, housing, employment, and social networks in those communities. When information about where other government needs-based program populations reside is added, the overlap between criminal justice and other needs-based services populations becomes starkly apparent.