Finding Work with Carceral Credentials: Peril and Paradox
Surveillance is increasing in almost all areas of U.S. society. In formerly incarcerated Black men’s lives, surveillance represents a pervasive threat that operates through both techniques and technologies. Research shows that fear of surveillance leads formerly incarcerated Black men to avoid vital economic institutions. Prior research also finds that a criminal record diminishes Black men’s employment prospects. This research will extend the literature by examining how a criminal record operates as a credential that enables work but limits upward mobility by pulling ex-offenders into community-based, low-quality crime prevention jobs and also constrains work through surveillance practices that reinforce the stigma of the criminal record. This qualitative work will utilize archival, interview, and ethnographic methods and focus on Black men in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. This research seeks to demonstrate the often-invisible ways that surveillance mechanisms reproduce racial inequalities, advancing our theoretical understanding of how surveillance mediates access to socioeconomic resources, and providing insight into substantive interventions.