Department of Sociology

Armando Lara-Millan - "Redistributing the Poor: The Politics of Hospital and Jail Overcrowding"

Fri, November 15, 2013 | CBA 4.328

12:30 PM

This project details the intimate relationship between county jails and public hospitals and extends a theory of contemporary poverty governance – what the author calls the “redistribution of the poor.”  The work draws on two ethnographies, one of a public emergency room and another of a nearby county jail, as well as historical-archival research of 32-years of policy-making in Los Angeles County.  As overcrowding swells in the jail system, some inmates are medicalized and transferred into public hospitals where they displace general patients awaiting beds.  Simultaneously, in the public ER, police officers patrol waiting rooms and, in concert with nurses, selectively redefine some patients as criminal suspects, thus making them eligible for expulsion.  From these findings the author shows that by continuously redistributing the poor between different institutional spaces of the state, such as jails and hospitals, overwhelmed politicians and street-level officials are able to project the illusion of caseload mobility and policy success.  Thus, it is the overwhelmed state’s very fragmentation that provides it with the ability to manage the social problem of poverty.

Armando Lara-Millán is a President’s Diversity Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Delaware. He received a PhD (2013) in sociology from Northwestern University. His primary areas of interest are in the fields of political sociology, health, and mass incarceration.  Armando’s research is conditionally accepted at the American Sociological Review and is the recipient of awards from the National Science Foundation, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Minority Fellowship Program of the ASA, and the Ford Foundation.

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  • Department of Sociology

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