Fugitive Life in an American City
“A remarkable feat of reporting . . . The level of detail in this book and Goffman’s ability to understand her subjects’ motivations are astonishing—and riveting.”—The New York Times Book Review
Hailed as an “extraordinary new book” (Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker), Alice Goffman’s on-the-ground account documents the effects of the American criminal justice system in a predominately African-American neighborhood in Philadelphia. Forty years in, the War on Drugs has done almost nothing to prevent drugs from being sold or used, but it has nonetheless created a little-known surveillance state in America’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Arrest quotas and high-tech surveillance techniques criminalize entire blocks, and transform the very associations that should stabilize young lives—family, relationships, jobs—into liabilities, as the police use such relationships to track down suspects, demand information, and threaten consequences. Goffman spent six years living in one such neighborhood in Philadelphia, and her close observations and often harrowing stories reveal the pernicious effects of this pervasive policing. Goffman introduces us to an unforgettable cast of young African American men who are caught up in this web of warrants and surveillance—some of them small-time drug dealers, others just ordinary guys dealing with limited choices.
Alice Goffman grew up in Philadelphia and attended graduate school at Princeton University. She teaches in the sociology department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For more information, please watch Goffman’s TED Talk, How We’re Priming Some Kids for College—and Others for Prison.
On the Run has been adopted for First-Year Experience programs at:
California State University, East Bay
Beyond the Book
Watch Alice’s TedTalk: