Prisons of Debt: The Afterlives of Incarcerated Fathers (Paperback)

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Prisons of Debt: The Afterlives of Incarcerated Fathers By Prof. Lynne Haney Cover Image


A profound portrait of the hidden injustices that trap fathers in a cycle of punishment and debt.
In the first study of its kind, sociologist Lynne Haney travels into state institutions across the country to document the experiences of the millions of fathers cycling through the criminal justice and child support systems. Prisons of Debt shows how these systems work together to create complex entanglements—rather than "piling up" in men's lives, these entanglements form feedback loops of disadvantage. The prison–child support pipeline flows in both directions, deepening parents' debt and criminal justice involvement.

Through moving accounts of men struggling to be fathers from behind prison walls and under the weight of support debt, Prisons of Debt exposes how the criminalization of child support undermines the most essential of familial relationships. Haney argues that these state systems can end up producing exactly the kind of parent they fear and loathe: bitter, unreliable, and cyclical fathers. Based on observations of 1,200 child support cases and interviews with 145 indebted fathers in New York, California, and Florida, Prisons of Debt reveals the actual practices of child support adjudication and enforcement alongside the lived realities of fathers trapped in those systems. The result is a rigorously documented analysis of how poor men are too often denied their rights of citizenship and of fatherhood.

About the Author

Lynne Haney is Professor of Sociology at New York University and author of the award-winning books Offending Women and Inventing the Needy. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Fulbright New Century Scholars Program.


Praise For…

"Haney shows how state bureaucracies seem to conspire against historically marginalized individuals, leaving indebted fathers beholden to the state and distanced from their children. She illustrates how systems of social exclusion and punishment operate by sharing the haunting stories of men who face the daunting task of navigating debt and a lack of gainful employment while under close surveillance by police. . . . This book uncovers structural inequalities and offers potential solutions. Highly recommended."

"A fantastic ethnography. . . .Lynne Haney has navigated readers through the institutional bureaucracy that leaves these fathers’ lives in shambles and bleeds into their lived experiences far beyond their incarcerations. Her intention to give voice to these fathers and center their experiences is remarkably done."
— Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books
Product Details
ISBN: 9780520297265
ISBN-10: 0520297261
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication Date: May 10th, 2022
Pages: 376
Language: English