Prison-building is argued to be an intervention of last resort when a nation loses faith in the social welfare enterprise. Recent proposals for more punitive regulations for means-tested benefits, along with the recent dramatic growth in the construction of prisons and in the size of the inmate population, indicate that we are moving as a society toward heightened levels of scapegoating and victim-blaming as a response to troubles generated by significant structural shifts in the economy. This paper analyzes the connections between poverty, punishment, and prisons, with particular emphasis on the scapegoating of people of color. The role of racism in the production of poverty and in policy debates surrounding its alleviation is highlighted.

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