The Power of the Badge: Sheriffs and Inequality in the United States (Paperback)

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The Power of the Badge: Sheriffs and Inequality in the United States By Professor Emily M. Farris, Ph.D, Professor Mirya R. Holman Cover Image
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A sobering exploration of the near unchecked power of sheriffs in the United States.

Across the United States, more than 3,000 sheriffs occupy a unique position in the US political and legal systems. Elected by voters—usually in low-visibility, noncompetitive elections—sheriffs oversee more than a third of law enforcement employees and control almost all local jails. They have the power to both set and administer policies, and they can imprison, harm, and even kill members of their communities. Yet, they enjoy a degree of autonomy not seen by other political officeholders.

The Power of the Badge offers an unprecedented, data-rich look into the politics of the office and its effects on local communities. Emily M. Farris and Mirya R. Holman draw on two surveys of sheriffs taken nearly a decade apart, as well as election data, case studies, and administrative data to show how a volatile combination of authority and autonomy has created an environment where sheriffs rarely change; elections seldom create meaningful accountability; employees, budgets, and jails can be used for political gains; marginalized populations can be punished; and reforms fail. Farris and Holman also track the increasingly close linkages between sheriffs and right-wing radical groups in an era of high partisanship and intra-federal conflict.

About the Author

Emily M. Farris is associate professor of political science and core faculty of comparative race and ethnic studies at Texas Christian University. She has been quoted or appeared in TheNew York Times, Vox, The Guardian, and TheAtlantic.

Mirya R. Holman is associate professor at the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston. She is the author of Women in Politics in the American City and coeditor of Good Reasons to Run. Her work has been discussed in TheNew York Times, TheAtlantic, and NPR.

Praise For…

"In this sweeping treatise, Farris and Holman, offer a must-read account of American sheriffs’ immense power, propensity for corruption and extremism, demographic and ideological unrepresentativeness, and insulated authority. The Power of the Badge demonstrates both the importance of studying sheriffs and the ways in which the office is a lens into the profitability of the carceral state, the maintenance of racial hierarchy, conditions for electoral accountability, and the operation of local politics and policy more broadly."
— Jessica Trounstine | Vanderbilt University

The Power of the Badge is a groundbreaking political analysis of sheriffs and the ways they govern communities throughout the US. Connecting the past to the present and drawing on original survey research, Farris and Holman provide readers with an incisive, empirically grounded study of politics and governance in local arenas that scholars have long ignored. Engaging and accessible, The Power of the Badge deserves to be read by a wide audience of experts, policymakers, students, and members of the public.”
— Joe Soss | coauthor of "Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberal Paternalism and the Persistent Power of Race"
Product Details
ISBN: 9780226834511
ISBN-10: 0226834514
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: September 5th, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English