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    Special thanks to Robert J. Bursik, Jr., Theodore Chiricos, Gary Kleck, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this article. Thanks also to Karen Lepik for editorial and research assistance. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 1996 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

  • Dina R. Rose is an Assistant Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University. Her Ph.D. in sociology is from Duke University. She has published work on community disorganization, social control, and juvenile delinquency. Her current research interests include community control, social policy, and homelessness.

  • Todd R. Clear is Professor and Associate Dean, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Florida State University. His Ph.D. in criminal justice is from The University at Albany. Among his publications are Harm in American Penology and Controlling the Offender in the Community. His current research interests include incarceration policy, alternatives to imprisonment, and community justice.


This study is a theoretical exploration of the impact of public social control on the functioning of local social controls. Set within the framework of social disorganization and systemic theory, the study argues that an overreliance on incarceration as a formal control may hinder the ability of some communities to foster other forms of control because they weaken family and community structures. At the ecological level, the side effects of policies intended to fight crime by controlling individual behavior may exacerbate the problems they are intended to address. Thus, these communities may experience more, not less, social disorganization.