Alice Goffman's On The Run: Fugitive Life In An American City

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Alice Goffman’s book On The Run: Fugitive Life in an American City tells the story of several young African American men living on Sixth Street, an impoverished neighborhood in Philadelphia. The title of the book is quite emblematic of the story because throughout, the characters are literally living “on the run” as if they are fugitives due to the risk of being caught and imprisoned by the police. Karl Marx’s conflict perspective best represents the author’s viewpoint. The conflict perspective argues that groups and individuals that are powerful use their authority in order to exploit and control groups and individuals that are powerless. This notion is clearly seen throughout the entirety of the book, where the “powerful” group is the police…show more content…
The author interviews a total of “308 men between the ages of eighteen and thirty” (Goffman, 18). According to the survey results, “Of these young men, 144 reported that they had a warrant issued for their arrest because of either delinquencies with court fines and fees or failure to appear for a court date within the previous three years.” (Goffman, 18). In addition, “119 men reported that they had been issued warrants for technical violations of their probation or parole (for example, drinking or breaking curfew)” (Goffman, 18). Evidently, nearly half of the men surveyed have been issued a warrant during this period of time. That is a fairly large chunk of the neighborhood that is actively being…show more content…
For example, when Aisha’s neighbor refuses to testify against her son, the “officers [tell] her that she would go to jail for contempt” (Goffman, 63). In response to this, Aisha’s neighbor agrees to cooperate, but the officers then inform her that “if she change[s] her statement she would be jailed for lying under oath” (Goffman, 63). Evidently, the police are exploiting the women. They are purposely putting the women in situations where they have no choice but to comply to the demands of the police unless they want to be jailed themselves. However, in this scenario, cooperating with the police is not enough. The police go the extra mile and strive to the arrest the women even though they did not commit any crime and are “clean.” The penal system is corrupt to the point that the women “can be charged for the man’s crimes” (Goffman, 63). The police are clearly abusing their authority and using it to arrest any individual that crosses their path. They realize that the threats of arrest and imprisonment are effective in forcing individuals to give in and thus use them to get their

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