“Racism is like a Cadillac, they bring out a new model every year.”
—Malcolm X (a former auto worker)
Written in a lively, accessible fashion and drawing extensively on interviews with people who were formerly incarcerated, Cars and Jails examines how the costs of car ownership and use are deeply enmeshed with the U.S. prison system.
American consumer lore has long held the automobile to be a “freedom machine,” consecrating the mobility of a free people. Yet, paradoxically, the car also functions at the cross-roads of two great systems of entrapment and immobility– the American debt economy and the carceral state.
Cars and Jails investigates this paradox, showing how auto debt, traffic fines, over-policing, and automated surveillance systems work in tandem to entrap and criminalize poor people. The authors describe how racialization and poverty take their toll on populations with no alternative, in a country poorly served by public transport, to taking out loans for cars and exposing themselves to predatory and often racist policing.
Looking skeptically at the frothy promises of the “mobility revolution,” Livingston and Ross close with provocative ideas for overhauling transportation justice, traffic policing, and auto-financing.