DOWN, OUT, AND UNDER ARREST

In his first year working in Los Angeles’s Skid Row, Forrest Stuart was stopped on the street by police fourteen times. Usually for doing little more than standing there.

Juliette, a woman he met during that time, has been stopped by police well over 100 times, arrested upward of 60 times, and has given up more than a year of her life serving week-long jail sentences. Her most common crime? Simply sitting on the sidewalk—an arrestable offense in LA.

Why? What purpose did those arrests serve, for society or for Juliette? How did we reach a point where we’ve cut support for our poorest citizens, yet are spending ever more on policing and prisons? That’s the complicated, maddening story that Stuart tells in Down, Out, and Under Arrest, a close-up look at the hows and whys of policing poverty in the contemporary United States. What emerges from Stuart’s years of fieldwork—not only with Skid Row residents, but with the police charged with managing them—is a tragedy built on mistakes and misplaced priorities more than on heroes and villains. He reveals a situation where a lot of people on both sides of this issue are genuinely trying to do the right thing, yet often come up short. Sometimes, in ways that do serious harm.

At a time when distrust between police and the residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods has never been higher, Stuart’s book helps us see where we’ve gone wrong, and what steps we could take to begin to change the lives of our poorest citizens—and ultimately our society itself—for the better.


 

Reviews

Mitchell Duneier, author of Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea: “Stuart’s extraordinary field work in LA’s Skid Row sheds new light on the regulation of the urban poor in the twenty-first century. This is urban ethnography at its best.”

Elijah Anderson, author of Code of the Street and The Cosmopolitan Canopy: “Down, Out, and Under Arrest is a trenchant ethnographic account of how big city police harass and ‘manage’ some of the most desperate people of the urban environment, but equally important, how these impoverished denizens—including residents of SRO hotels, skid row, and homeless settlements—wisely manage the police in their everyday lives, powerfully revealing the enormous human toll of the ‘neoliberal state.’ This is a timely work of importance that deserves to be read by a wide audience.”

William Julius Wilson, author of The Truly Disadvantaged: “Stuart’s Down, Out, and Under Arrest describes a segment of reality that is virtually unknown to Americans—how policing is reshaping the experiences of extreme urban poverty. The challenges of everyday life in Skid Row are revealed in sharp relief in his compelling narrative. Indeed, Stuart’s insightful account, based on years of field research, is replete with original findings. This well written book is a must-read not only for students and scholars of urban poverty, but for the general public as well.”

Los Angeles Times: “[A]n important contribution to the current hot debate on law, order and social justice. His findings are striking.”

Times Higher Education: “The story of the relationship between the police and the urban poor is a familiar one, rife with clichés and lazy assumptions, and usually made without the kind of rigorous empirical evidence provided by Forrest Stuart. ... In this fine study, Stuart has put some disturbing flesh on the bones of neoliberalism.”

Shelf Awareness: “This is a serious academic book, but also an intimate, multifaceted portrait of the police, residents and activists in their own voices. It adds new insights and much-needed complexity to the current debates on policing in the poorest urban areas of the U.S.”