By KIM BELLARD
Since I first heard about them, I have been fascinated, and dismayed, by the concept of “million dollar blocks.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it doesn’t refer to, say, Beverly Hills, Chicago’s Gold Coast, or Manhattan’s Hudson Yards — areas where the wealthy congregate. No, it refers to city blocks for which society spends over a million dollars annually to incarcerate residents of that block.
I, of course, have to think about the healthcare parallels.
The concept dates back many years, credited to Eric Cadora, now at Justice Mapping, and Laura Kurgan, a professor of architecture at Columbia University, where she is the Director of the Center for Spatial Research (CSR). The power of the concept is to use data visualization to illustrate the problem.
Here, for example, is CSR’s map of Brooklyn for prison spending:
CSR describes the findings as follows:
The maps suggest that the criminal justice system has become the predominant government institution in these communities and that public investment in this system has resulted in significant costs to other elements of our civic infrastructure — education, housing, health, and family. Prisons and jails form the distant exostructure of many American cities today.
Think about that: “criminal justice is the predominant government institution in these communities.” Something is wrong with that picture – not theirs, but, rather, the picture of our society that it presents.
Mr. Cadora told NPR in 2012:
No one had ever actually sat down and gotten the home street address of everyone going into prison and jail, as well as all the background information about their age and their employment status, etc. And when you have all that data, it tells you a lot about what’s going on on the block.
In all honesty, what we mapped was not a big surprise to people. But when you actually