Sunday, June 03, 2007

Justice Re-Investment New Orleans

New Orleans Metropolitan Area Prison Expenditures by Census Block.

Justice Re-Investment New Orleans is a study of topography, prison admissions and expenditures in New Orleans including a focus on one specific housing project in the Ninth Ward, The Florida Homes.

Spatial Information Design Lab (SIDL) > Publications > Justice Re-Investment New Orleans (PDF / 4MB)

Spatial Information Design Lab (SIDL) > Publications > City Council of New Orleans Criminal Justice Committee Meeting / July 12, 2007 (PDF / 43MB)

New Orleans, LIDAR elevation image with cross-section from Lake Pontchartrain through Ninth Ward to Mississippi River identified.

In New Orleans, in 2003, upwards of 28,000 city residents (about 4 out every thousand) left the city — because they were sent to prison....

Here’s a project: if you had a half million dollars a year, this neighborhood, and the people who live there, what would you do? Would you continue to spend it all renting prison cells for a few years at a time? Or would you invest some of that money differently, in the civil infrastructure of the block?...

The story of New Orleans is a story of population transfers and displacements. Year after year, parts of the population are moved around, dispersed from “problematic” public housing projects between prisons, jails, Section 8 housing, and shelters — moving from one low-lying part of the city to another....

Elevation above sea-level through a cross-section (Ninth Ward, New Orleans) versus Prison Admissions (top) and versus Prison Expenditures (bottom).

While Katrina exposed neglected physical infrastructure, it also exposed a deeper problem — the fragility of civil institutions in New Orleans’ poorest neighborhoods, an infrastructure made even more unstable by the constant displacement and resettlement of people in the criminal justice system.

The New Orleans rebuilding effort will pit many competing development approaches against one another. Rebuilding must involve more than the physical infrastructure of the city. Rethinking local and institutional investments requires paying attention to the neighborhood’s cyclical refugee phenomenon. Not only the one caused by the storm, but the everyday fact of displacement which defines daily life in so many high-resettlement neighborhoods around the country — a phenomenon we have not been willing to see, but which Katrina has made sorely evident.

The rebuilding effort that New Orleans is facing is one that many city neighborhoods should take note of. Taken together, housing and criminal justice policies amount to a de facto population resettlement policy; but one without an explicit direction. What would it be like to rethink development from the perspective of resettlement?

Justice reinvestment? Miss Cee pointed to education, jobs, and good government, and concluded: “without addressing those issues ... i dont care if you tear down every the florida, the new desire, the st. bernard, the nolia, AND the iberville. aint nothin gon change.”

New Orleans, Ninth Ward detail with Florida Homes identified, 2004.

New Orleans, Ninth Ward detail with Florida Homes identified, 2005.

The first satellite photograph, taken on January 11, 2004, shows a public housing project called the Florida Housing Development, a WWII-era complex of buildings in the city’s Ninth Ward, occupying about 20 acres. The State of Louisiana spent nearly half a million dollars the previous year incarcerating some of the people who otherwise lived in this census block. And over the course of just a couple years, the State spent millions of dollars to remove and return residents of “the Florida” back and forth between prison and home. Criminal justice experts call this a “million dollar block....”

The second overhead image, taken on August 31, 2005 by a NOAA satellite, shows the census block submerged under eight feet of water. What’s left of the housing project is practically invisible....

Spatial Information Design Lab / New Orleans Studio Spring 2007

Amnesty for Prisoners of Katrina / Critical Resistance

Understanding Katrina: Perspectives from the Social Sciences / Social Science Research Council

There’s No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster / Neil Smith

It is generally accepted among environmental geographers that there is no such thing as a natural disaster. In every phase and aspect of a disaster – causes, vulnerability, preparedness, results and response, and reconstruction – the contours of disaster and the difference between who lives and who dies is to a greater or lesser extent a social calculus. Hurricane Katrina provides the most startling confirmation of that axiom. This is not simply an academic point but a practical one, and it has everything to do with how societies prepare for and absorb natural events and how they can or should reconstruct afterward. It is difficult, so soon on the heels of such an unnecessarily deadly disaster, to be discompassionate, but it is important in the heat of the moment to put social science to work as a counterweight to official attempts to relegate Katrina to the historical dustbin of inevitable “natural” disasters....

Cities Under Siege: Katrina and the Politics of Metropolitan America / Stephen Graham

Even Hollywood, so skilled in fantastical depictions of urban apocalypse, would have struggled to imagine the horrors of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. As well as resonating unnervingly with staples of urban doom in popular culture, the tragedy has remorselessly exposed some of the darker sides of metropolitan USA in the Bush era. It has acted as a window revealing how decades of Federal urban disinvestment, exurbanization and White Flight have helped leave large swathes of the central cores of US cities demonised, neglected and increasingly abandoned. The tragic consequences of Bush’s recent efforts to radically reduce the public service efforts of the Federal state in the mitigation of natural catastrophes have emerged in startling focus. Katrina has revealed the deep and troubling politics surrounding varying definitions of the ‘security’ of metropolitan America with uncompromising clarity. Finally, Katrina has underlined the ironies and contradictions that run through the politics and geopolitics of the Bush administration’s post 9/11 strategy with unprecedented power....