When you hear weed specialists toss around the terms large-seeded weeds and small-seeded weeds, you might wonder which Governor Hochul announced the first-in-the-nation Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which will position individuals with prior cannabis-related criminal offenses to make the first adult-use cannabis sales with products grown by New York farmers. Landscaping Neo-Liberalism: The Weed and Seed Strategy Abstract Weed and Seed, a federal initiative that started in the 1990s, seeks to improve economic and social conditions for residents in
Heed Weed Seed Size
When you hear weed specialists toss around the terms “large-seeded weeds” and “small-seeded weeds,” you might wonder which are which and what difference it makes? Good questions.
“Weed seed size comes into play in particular with no-till and strip-till,” points out University of Wisconsin weed scientist Chris Boerboom. “With those systems, large-size weed seeds don’t get incorporated and therefore don’t germinate well. For example, velvetleaf, a medium- to larger-seeded weed, becomes much less of a problem in no-till farming.”
In contrast, Boerboom notes, small-seeded weeds and annual grasses, if not managed, can become more prevalent in no-till and strip-till. That’s because they’re able to germinate near the surface.
“When the seeds of large-seeded weeds lie on the surface, as they do with no-till, they make only one flush and are easier to control with a single herbicide application,” explains Jeff Stachler, weed scientist at Ohio State University. “Also, since they are on the surface, they are more likely to be eaten by rodents, insects and birds. Over time, because of predation, good weed control, and lack of incorporation, the number of large-seeded weeds declines in no-till fields.”
But small-size weed seeds in no-till fields usually get incorporated by rainfall, tire tracks and other natural soil disturbances just enough to germinate, Stachler explains. Thus, they become dominant weeds.
When fields are tilled, large-seeded weed seed gets incorpo-rated. That allows them to germinate better and over a longer period of time, says Stachler. But small-seeded weeds, when incorporated by tillage, become less competitive because they’re pushed below their optimum germination level, he points out.
Germination and growth patterns of medium-seeded types, says Stachler, fall between the large and small.
In general, he adds, large-seeded weeds are more competitive on a per-plant basis than small- or medium-seeded weeds. “The larger seeds tend to germinate faster because of more energy, and they tend to be larger weeds,” he notes. “It may take four to eight times as many small-seeded weeds to be as competitive as a single large-seeded weed.
“On the other hand, small-seeded weeds like pigweeds and lambsquarters tend to produce more seeds per plant and can spread faster,” Stachler says. “That’s the reason they can take over so quickly in no-till if not properly controlled.”
Herbicide-wise, soil-applied products such as dinitroanilines (Prowl, trifluralins), acetamides (Harness, Dual II Magnum, Lasso, etc.) and pigment inhibitors (Command, Balance, Callisto) are the most effective for small-seeded weeds, says Stachler. Except for the few products that need incorpo-ration, all can be used with no-till.
Pre-emergence PPO inhibitors (Authority, Valor, etc.) control mostly small- and medium-seeded weeds. “To control large-seeded weeds with pre-emergence products, go with triazines or ALS-inhibitors, assuming there is not a resistance problem,” Stachler advises. “They also get medium- and small-seeded weeds.”
As a rule, large-seeded weeds are more difficult to control with pre-emergence herbicides than are small-seeded weeds, notes Wisconsin’s Boerboom. “That’s partly because they emerge from a greater depth and don’t take up as much herbicide as do those weeds that germinate near the surface. We can usually control large-seeded weeds more effectively with post products.”
Boerboom points out that most pre-emergence grass killers, especially for corn, also are touted to help control small-seeded broadleaf weeds. But, he says it’s important to keep in mind that their control can vary depending on the broad-leaf. When those grass herbicides are premixed with atrazine, control is good and consistent for most small-seeded broadleaves.
Weeds And Their Seed Sizes
The following list of broadleaf and grass weeds, found in the Midwest, comes from Ohio State University:
Large-seeded broadleaf weeds: common cocklebur, giant ragweed, the morningglories, common sunflower and burcucumber.
Medium-seeded broadleaf weeds: common ragweed, velvetleaf, jimsonweed, smartweed, Canada thistle, kochia and common dandelion.
Small-seeded broadleaf weeds: pigweeds (including waterhemp), lambsquarters, eastern black nightshade, marestail, field pennycress, chickweed, purple deadnettle, wild mustard and shepherd’s-purse.
Large-seeded grass weeds: shattercane, johnsongrass, field sandbur, woolly cupgrass, downy brome and wild oats.
Medium-seeded grass weeds: foxtails, barnyardgrass and wild proso millet.
Governor Hochul Announces The Office of Cannabis Management Seeding Opportunity Initiative
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the first-in-the-nation Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which will position individuals with prior cannabis-related criminal offenses to make the first adult-use cannabis sales with products grown by New York farmers. This farm-to-store initiative makes sales in New York possible before the end of 2022, jumpstarts New York’s Cannabis Industry, guarantees support for future equity applicants, and secures an early investment into communities most impacted by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition.
“New York State is making history, launching a first-of-its-kind approach to the cannabis industry that takes a major step forward in righting the wrongs of the past,” Governor Hochul said. “The regulations advanced by the Cannabis Control Board today will prioritize local farmers and entrepreneurs, creating jobs and opportunity for communities that have been left out and left behind. I’m proud New York will be a national model for the safe, equitable and inclusive industry we are now building.”
The Cannabis Control Board at its meeting today advanced two components of the Seeding Opportunity Initiative.
First, it advanced to public comment regulations for Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries. As part of the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, this subset of dispensaries must be owned by equity-entrepreneurs with a prior cannabis-related criminal offense who also have a background owning and operating a small business. They will be the first to open and make sales in New York State, establishing equity-owned businesses at the front-end of New York’s adult-use market.
Second, the Board approved a license application for hemp farmers seeking to grow adult-use cannabis this spring – called the Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator License. The license was made possible by legislation Governor Hochul signed last month. The Board designated March 15 as the opening date for the application portal.
Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright said, “Our state’s Cannabis Law sets a high goal for creating an equitable industry that puts New Yorkers first. The Seeding Opportunity Initiative puts us on a path for achieving that goal and hopefully models a way forward for reaching those goals while building a stable market. I am thankful for the support of Governor Hochul and the Legislature, which made it possible for us to get this initiative off the ground quickly, establish a supply chain from our farmers to equity, retailers, and generate the resources to help revitalize communities that were harmed by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition.”
Cannabis Control Board Member Jen Metzger said, “The Seeding Opportunity Initiative truly sets New York’s program apart from other states that have legalized adult-use, by starting out of the gate with an equity- and sustainability-led program that will supply equity entrepreneur-owned dispensaries with sun-grown cannabis products, It is a great start to building a new industry in which small businesses can thrive and generational wealth can be created.”
Adam Perry, Cannabis Control Board Member said, “Shaping the New York cannabis industry and putting social equity entrepreneurs at the forefront is a historic opportunity to address the harm caused by cannabis prohibition and fully implement the goals of New York’s Cannabis Law. This is the right start for the industry and I look forward to continuing to work with our team to support all license types to ensure we’re not only delivering licenses to social equity entrepreneurs, but also setting them up for success over the long-haul.”
Jessica Garcia, Cannabis Control Board Member said, “Positioning justice-involved equity-entrepreneurs as the first to make sales puts New York on the right track to meet the goals of the New York Cannabis Law while providing protections to workers in the industry by creating pathways to union cannabis careers. This is a big, first step forward for the cannabis industry we’re building in New York – it’s an important one and it’s only the beginning.”
Reuben McDaniel, III, New York State Cannabis Control Board member and President and CEO of DASNY said, “Our work to create the new cannabis industry in New York is structured to develop successful entrepreneurs in black and brown communities across New York, expand access to capital for those who have been denied, and establish a cannabis industry that leads the nation in health and safety, and in equity, as well. We look forward to continuing our work with the Legislature to develop the funding mechanism that will support New York’s equity entrepreneurs in an exciting new sector of our economy.”
Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) Executive Director Chris Alexander said, “With the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, we are now on the path to doing what no state has done before: Put our farmers and equity entrepreneurs, not big, out of state businesses, at the forefront of the launch of our adult-use cannabis market. Thanks to the support of Governor Hochul and the action taken by the Board today, we’ve made a huge advancement in our efforts to prioritize New York’s small farmers, our equity entrepreneurs, and ultimately our goal to generate the resources that will support future equity applicants and drive investments into our communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition. We aren’t stopping here and work is already underway across all license types to open access to capital and develop supporting networks to build an equitable New York Cannabis Industry and setup our small businesses for long-term success.”
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “With this announcement, we are doing what no other state has done by focusing on the people most criminalized by cannabis prohibition, and promoting New York farmers. The cannabis industry is going to grow our economy and create new wealth, and it is imperative that we make sure that opportunities begin with the most deserving New Yorkers. I commend Governor Hochul, the Cannabis Control Board, and the Office of Cannabis Management for taking these steps to implement the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in a manner consistent with the intent of the legislation.”
Senator Liz Krueger said, “The initiatives announced by the Governor today will help to ensure that the equity and justice goals of the MRTA will be met, and that New York farmers and small businesses will serve as the foundation of the legal cannabis market. The MRTA was designed not only to end the failed war on drugs in New York, but specifically to take positive action to help rebuild those communities that were most harmed by prohibition. Offering the first retail licenses to people who have been convicted of marijuana-related offenses is a big step in the right direction, and will set the marketplace on a path where social equity applicants can compete successfully.”
The Seeding Opportunity Initiative is composed of three programs:
- Equity Owners Lead Program : Provides a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary License to eligible equity-entrepreneur applicants, putting them at the front-end of the adult-use market. This first-round, equity-licensing opportunity will be supported with renovated or renovation-ready retail locations and wraparound services with dispensaries sited in high-traffic areas.
Applications for these priority licenses will open in the Summer of 2022. The first licenses are expected to be distributed by late summer or early fall 2022. This positions equity-entrepreneur-owned dispensaries to make the first adult-use cannabis sales in New York State by the end of 2022 while speeding the delivery of investments into communities across the state that were most impacted by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition.
The Board today directed the OCM to post for public comment the proposed regulations for the Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary License. Under the proposed regulations, to be eligible for this initial license, applicants must:
- Have a cannabis-related offense that occurred prior to the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA) on March 31, 2021 , or had a parent, guardian, child, spouse, or dependent with a pre-MRTA cannabis offense in the State of New York.
- Have experience owning and operating a qualifying business in the State of New York.
Additionally, the regulations include information for what application materials will be needed to apply for a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary License and sets the parameters for how the Office will review and evaluate applications. A subsequent regulation package will outline the requirements for safely operating a retail dispensary.
- Farmers First Program : Provides an Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator License to eligible New York cannabinoid hemp farmers, giving them the first chance to grow cannabis for New York’s adult-use market. Farmers must adhere to quality assurance, health, and safety requirements developed by the OCM. They must also take part in sustainability and equity mentorship programs that will help build the first generation of equity cannabis owners across the entire supply chain. These conditional licenses make it possible for farmers to grow cannabis in the 2022 growing season.
The Board today approved the application for the Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator License and set the opening of the application portal for March 15. The license was made possible by legislation recently signed by Governor Hochul on February 22. Further information on eligibility requirements and what’s allowed with the license can be found here .
Landscaping Neo-Liberalism: The Weed and Seed Strategy
Weed and Seed, a federal initiative that started in the 1990s, seeks to improve economic and social conditions for residents in poor urban neighborhoods by removing criminals (weeding), and implementing programs designed and administered by conglomerates of state, local, and community level actors (seeding). This paper, however, seeks to outline the necessary questions about the program’s as yet unmeasured socio-economic outcomes. It argues first that the potential impact on targeted neighborhoods goes largely unaddressed in the strategy’s design, and ultimately threatens to undermine substantive neighborhood improvement. It further argues that while the project’s flaws may be cast as the perpetual imperfection of social policy and implementation design, they are instead products of the political-economic context in which they are embedded. In other words, it argues that Weed and Seed is a product of the neo-liberal state and reflects policy decisions that privilege capitalist development, re-enforce small-scale social spending, and the mass incarceration of the US prison system.
In 1993, the United States Department of Justice initiated Operation Weed and Seed, a community-based crime prevention program that has spread to over 250 communities across theUnited States(OJP 2009). Weed and Seed is a federal initiative that aims to improve social and economic conditions in poor urban neighborhoods through the combination of aggressive law-enforcement practices and collaborative community programming. The Weed and Seed approach pursues better economic and social conditions in targeted neighborhoods by removing criminals (weeding), and implementing initiatives designed and administered by conglomerates of state, local, and community level actors (seeding).
At the federal level, the Weed and Seed strategy is intentionally vague, thereby delegating most design, implementation, and funding mechanisms for initiatives to local and community leaders (OJP 2009). The logic of the Weed and Seed model largely frames criminals and uncoordinated service provision as the primary obstacles for socio-economic growth in blighted urban neighborhoods. In other words, “weeding” criminals out of neighborhoods, and “seeding” in local service programs marks a departure from the Keynesian model of welfare that proliferated in the 1960’s and 70’s, a model that framed federally funded cash and in-kind public assistance programs as America’s preferred anti-poverty edifice. This divergence is most pronounced in the Weed and Seed strategy’s reliance on theU.S.prison system as an institution instrumental to keeping criminals out of targeted neighborhoods. Further, politicians aligned the strategy to neo-liberal ideals that position capitalist development as a viable strategy for improving conditions in poor neighborhoods, providing legitimacy for small-scale social spending and mass incarceration.
This paper argues that Weed and Seed, shaped by a post-Keynesian penology, is a strategy that satisfies a contemporary neo-liberal agenda that effectively reproduces class stratification. It begins by describing, in more detail, the Weed and Seed strategy, then illustrates the concept of a post-Keynesian penology, and lastly explores the strategy as it relates to the neo-liberal agenda. To provide a richer understanding of the relationship between the post-Keynesian state and the US prison system, the paper draws on Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s (1999) theory of the post-Keynesian militarism, as well as the work David Harvey (2005) and William Sites (2003) to provide a historical framework of neo-liberalism, and to provide critical points of analyses through which to demonstrate that Weed and Seed is a product of the neo-liberal state.
Weed and Seed: A Brief Overview
Weed and Seed is a strategy, not a program. “[It] is a means to mobilize resources in coordinated efforts, not simply a mechanism to fund local activities that share no collective aim” (Dunworth et. al. 1999, 15; italics added). Whereas a program might generate the expectation of uniform implementation at every site, the Weed and Seed strategy requires a significant amount of planning at the local level for its implementation. Because socio-economic landscapes (crime patterns, police presence, organizations, businesses and community groups) vary, the format and implementation of a Weed and Seed mission can look quite different from neighborhood to neighborhood.
However, every Weed and Seed site has three core components: weeding, seeding, and community policing. The first element, weeding, aims to remove criminals from the neighborhood through targeted operations and elevated police presence. Commonly utilized tactics include identifying and securing locations of high-crime activity, aggressive use of search and arrest warrants, undercover “buy busts,” and extended police coverage with an emphasis on field interrogations (Miller 2001). The second component, seeding, uses new resources from the program to leverage pre-existing community resources and actors in the planning and implementation of self-selected initiatives. While seeding initiatives vary based on locally defined priorities, all sites are required to have a “safe haven,” a multi-service center or space that hosts a variety of different programs and activities. Popular seeding efforts include youth prevention and intervention programs, adult employment programs, family support services, community building and neighborhood beautification initiatives (Dunworth et. al. 1999). The third component is community policing, in which the police and community proactively collaborate to address and respond to pressing problems.
Each Weed and Seed site has a designated a Grantee Organization, which is responsible for program coordination and implementation. Steering committees are charged with designing the program and, often chaired by officials such as an attorney general or mayor, consist of a mix of public sector representatives and community members (Dunworth et. al. 1999). For example, the Crawford-Roberts Weed and Seed site inPittsburghhad a task force that consisted of members from the local police department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) (Bynum et. al. 1999).
While the above components and organizational elements define the general outline of the strategy, such governing committees are not uniformly implemented, and rely on varying funding sources. Depending on the site, community members and organizations can use more or less discretion in relation to selecting which seeding initiatives to fund. This exercise of community power, however, can only be activated once seed funding is made available. For example, funding for seeding initiatives in the Crawford-Roberts Weed and Seed site was largely unavailable until two full years after weeding began (Bynum et. al. 1999).
Nevertheless, the Crawford-Roberts neighborhood experienced decreases in crime within four years of strategy implementation, and residents perceived improvements neighborhood safety and quality of life (Bynum et. al. 1999). A cross-site analysis (Dunworth et al. 1999) showed similar findings in four other neighborhoods. This crime reduction trend is also evident in a more recent study of homicide rates, which found that, 55% of the two hundred and twenty Weed and Seed site respondents reported a decline in homicide rates from the time period between 1996 and 2001 (O’Connell, Perkins and Zepp 2003).
While many of the Weed and Seed sites are selected on the basis of high crime rates and high density of indicators of poverty (unemployment and income status) (Miller 2001), outcomes measuring the latter are not widely publicized in available program materials. The evaluation of the Crawford-Roberts reports little to no improvement in unemployment (Bynum et. al. 1999), and the cross-site analysis (Dunworth et. al1999) omits these outcomes all together. In sum, while reduced crime rates and improved community perception indicate some success, the absence of data regarding the economic wellbeing of communities suggest that such success is perhaps too narrowly defined.
Post- Keynesian Penology
In addition to decentralized control of resources, there is the propagation of criminal incarceration without rehabilitation. While weeding focuses largely on identifying and arresting criminals, incarceration is an integral element of the strategy as a whole. Miller (2001) describes the Weed and Seed strategy as an expression of a penology that largely positions crime as an unpreventable phenomena whose elements are to be managed, and negative impacts to be mitigated.
These attributes reflect the greater political economic climate of the 1990s. Starting in the 1970s the Keynesian model of economic governance, which proscribes the deployment of state controlled public money to mitigate free-market failures (e.g., unemployment and poverty), lost much of its popularity (Harvey 2005). TheUSfederal government had fewer resources (and less political incentive) to launch significant public assistance campaigns. In other words, the Weed and Seed focus on crime reduction and neighborhood development are hallmarks of a distinctly post-Keynesian response to poverty. Instead of treating poverty as a primary producer of criminal behavior, the logic of the Weed and Seed largely inverts this causal story by localizing criminality onto individuals.
Such an orientation to crime, as Miller (2001) describes it, provides little in the way of programming to meet broader social goals, and decentralizes state responsibility for the contexts in which crime is embedded. In short, this penology justifies purging social programs in favor of reactive measures that aim to separate criminals from law-abiding citizens, and often diffuse remedial responsibilities to local contingents. The abandonment of rehabilitative services for criminals, the intensified commitment to removing criminals from neighborhoods, and the (minimal) support provided to citizens in the community correspond to the model she describes. Lastly, the delegation of crime control responsibility to local organizations is a primary characteristic of both this penology and the Weed and Seed approach as state and elected officials are insulated from assuming accountability for crime rates.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s (1999) work onUSprison growth further places this penology in a post-Keynesian state. As Gilmore frames it, the corporate tax-rebellion and social militancy of the 1960s left the state with fewer resources to spend on social programs, and a white electorate that was no longer in favor of funding the war on poverty. The accumulation ushered in by lower tax barriers and a growth in the popularity of finance capital created an environment in which pools of money were amassed with few outlets for investment. While suburban development channeled some land (and financial) surplus, capital had still withdrawn from rural areas as a result of agribusinesses forced out by debt (driven by international commodity markets and natural disasters). Such restructuring of agricultural and industrial markets also lead to a surplus in labor, land, and unemployment, and the restructuring of taxes meant that social programs would not be implemented to put labor surpluses back to work. Gilmore argues that prisons became the post-Keynesian state’s outlet for surpluses in capital, land, and labor.
In other words, the mass incarceration and harsh sentencing that Miller (2001) refers to may well be the result of the recent dramatic increase in the state’s criminal storage capacity. Gilmore argues that the demand needed to both justify and meet the rise in supply of “cages,” was achieved by a politically and economically crafted “crime” crisis. Fueled by the militant civil rights movement that threatened race and class hierarchies, Nixon’s “law and order” campaign recast radical activism as crime that needed to be controlled (Gilmore 1999). After a decade of moral panic, the harsher sentencing and massive prison construction that started in California in 1982 seemed justified to the American public, regardless of the fact that crime rates had been steadily declining since 1980 (Gilmore 1999).
When President Bush introduced the Weed and Seed Act of 1992, Congress was not receptive to the bill. It wasn’t until later in the year, after the Los Angeles riots had gained significant media attention, that funding was appropriated for Weed and Seed under the Tax Fairness and Economic Growth Act of 1992 (Ruben 1994). This provides support for the notion that crises energize reform efforts, and as Gilmore argues, particularly those that reinforce standing social orders. The result was a combination of mass incarceration, harsh sentencing, and a limit on rehabilitative programs and services.
The Weed and Seed strategy is a prime example of the way in which the post-Keynesian penology is able to reproduce the crisis of crime, and thereby create a steady supply of prisoners. Weeding in targeted neighborhoods results in more arrests, and consequently in more incarcerated community members. During incarceration, these community members are unable to participate in the labor market, maintain personal and professional connections, or contribute to the economic and social wellbeing of family members (Solomon, Fischer, Le Vigne and Osborn 2006). Upon release, the majority of reentering prisoners stay with their families, returning many to the neighborhood in which they lived prior to incarceration with relatively little to offer (Visher and Farrell, 2005). Meager job prospects, untreated mental and physical health conditions, few public benefits, and sometimes major debt accumulations (one study found that a quarter of prisoner respondents owed an average of $25,000.00 in child support) make reentering prisoners difficult community members to re-integrate successfully (Solomon, Fischer, Le Vine and Osborn and 2006). In effect, the weeding component ends up concentrating disadvantage by maintaining the socio-economic conditions correlated with crime.
Planting a Neo-liberal Agenda
The Weed and Seed approach served goals other than crime reduction and local social programming as politicians embedded the strategy in legislation that positioned Enterprise Zones as a legitimate means to improve poor neighborhoods. Originally introduced inEnglandin response to neighborhood “blight” produced by urban deindustrialization, Enterprise Zone initiatives provide tax-breaks and other financial incentives to encourage entrepreneurial development in poor neighborhoods. Following up on campaign promises to implement Enterprise Zones in the United States, George Bush introduced the Weed and Seed Implementation Act of 1992. The Bush model marked an innovation of traditional constructions of Enterprise Zones, which according to Rubin (1994), were unsuccessful in spurring economic growth due to an over-reliance on the free-market and failure to address social obstacles.
The origins of Operation Weed and Seed suggest that it emerged as a solution to the problems of developing surplus urban space. Target neighborhoods for Weed and Seed implementation were selected based on indicators of underdevelopment and economic promise (Miller 2001). For example, the Crawford-Roberts neighborhood occupied a central location in the Hill District in Pittsburghthat had once been a populous African American urban center for commerce and cultural activity. As a result of fleeting industrial production from the city, the Hill District had seen a 70% drop in population by the 1990s and was home to neighborhoods with the highest violent and drug crime-rates in the city (Bynum et al.1999). The combination of tax incentives, aggressive law enforcement, and growing community involvement through small-scale neighborhood investments were to stimulate economic development and improve conditions in neighborhoods like Crawford-Roberts.
According to David Harvey (2005), such disarming impediments to free market growth is at the top of neo-liberal agenda. Harvey(2005, 19) argues that neo-liberalization of the state is a “political project to re-establish the conditions for capital accumulation and to restore the power of economic elites.” Harveyfurther outlines the dramatic increase in income inequality that followed drastic shifts in monetary policy of the 1970s to assert that political pursuit of a free-er market system produces hyper-concentrations of capital for a very small economic elite. This new model of governance, one that prioritizes corporate welfare over human welfare, was not strictly created by legislation. As an example, he cites theNew York City fiscal crisis of the 1970s is an example of the way that neo-liberal practices took hold of city government, and became a compelling model for social and economic policy during the Reagan era. The crisis came to a head in 1975 when a coalition ofNew York investment bankers refused to roll over the City’s debt, which pushed the city into virtual bankruptcy in the midst of a national recession. What followed,Harvey shows, was a series of concessions that required the city to render tax revenues to bondholders, and the large scale re-orientation of city government priorities from pubic employment and services to entrepreneurial development. New York’s fiscal recovery, engineered by the “cadre” of investment bankers, brought both new practices and justifying ideologies. City government resources were increasingly utilized to attract investment capital by building infrastructure and providing tax incentives and subsidies for new enterprise (Harvey 2005).
As Sites (2003) asserts, out of the crisis and “recovery” emerged a narrative that laid blame for the city’s fiscal failure on the “excessive demands of poor people, municipal workers, racial minorities, and community groups – and . . . the liberal politicians who supported them” (39). This definition of the crisis, Sites shows, justified major cuts to public services that the poor and working-class residents relied on, and set a precedent for distributing public money and political attention to business entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. WhileHarveyis careful to point out that this mass reallocation of public resources wasn’t necessarily an overt effort to restore class power to economic elites, Sites (2003) demonstrates that the neo-liberal approach, as “philosophy for public action,” functions to fix the needs of free-market enterprise at the top of the political agenda. Because the expansion of enterprise relies on growing private pools of capital, politicians must then protect capital concentrations against redistributive policies and practices. The neo-liberal model rationalizes expanding and protecting investment opportunities for the economic elite (Harvey 2005), and initiatives to eliminate obstacles to free-market proliferation (Sites, 2003).
Urban revitalization initiatives, of which Empowerment Zones are an example, are a product of theNew Yorkfiscal crisis recovery that were subsequently reproduced throughout theUnited States. As an appendage to urban revitalization efforts, the Weed and Seed works to facilitate urban economic development by reducing crime and increasing community engagement, all while constricting – by increasing arrests and incarceration – the already limited opportunities for capital accumulation for residents of those targeted neighborhoods. Gilmore (1999) argues that high rates of incarceration create a pool of low-cost labor. Since living wages for low-skilled work are an obstacle for competition in the global economy, prison labor functions as a mechanism to reduce the cost of production and post-incarceration, ex-prisoners feed the increasingly “flexible” workforce that characterizes the neo-liberal labor market.
Western and Beckett (1999) identify a key paradox in the short and long-term labor market effects of theUSprison system. Prisoners are excluded from unemployment figures in theUnited States, deflating the unemployment rate and creating the illusion of a stronger economy in the short-run. But because incarceration reduces job prospects for ex-offenders, they argue that consequences of a rapidly expanding penal system are sustained long-term unemployment and deepening social inequality: “Incarceration . . . deepens inequality because its effects are increasingly detrimental for young black and unskilled men, whose incarceration rates are highest and whose market power is weak” (1031). This unemployment contradiction marks the potential long-term negative impact on recidivism in targeted neighborhoods.
Dunworth and others (1999) and Miller (2001) document local level resistance to Weed and Seed implementation. Miller’s documentation of a Seattle Weed and Seed site illustrates the ways in which strategy implementation and design activated effective community opposition and control. Not only was this neighborhood successful in initially staving off program implementation, but when they eventually “accepted” the initiative – they were able to lead campaigns that increased seed funding and granted more community control over funding streams.
While the activation of opposition cannot be held up as an accomplishment of the strategy as a whole, community investment in seeding initiatives can be a positive outcome of its decentralized design. However, this shows how both success and failure are projected on the neighborhood level, while program elements are highly dependent on a host of state and local institutions. Community groups in the Crawford-Roberts neighborhood were similarly included as seeding strategists, but they were not granted access to seed funding until two years into implementation. Both by history and design, Operation Weed and Seed is thus a hallmark of a neo-liberalism in theory and in practice, which, as Harvey (2005) emphasizes, delegates state responsibility, projecting accountability on a more local and individual level.
While economic outcomes for residents and local businesses have yet to be measured or made accessible, the initiative’s alignment with the principles of free-market growth gave Weed and Seed political legitimacy. This neo-liberal strategy, characterized by decentralized responsibility, tight social spending, and the prioritization of short-term tactics over long-term social gains, functions to cut off vast numbers of individuals and families from the accumulation of both physical and social capital.
Despite federal-level warnings about accelerated recidivism, and community mistrust of its aggressive law enforcement techniques, the Weed and Seed strategy was ratified by law and enacted in neighborhoods throughout the country. While some communities have implemented seeding programs for reentering prisoners (Solomon, Palmer, Atkinson, Davidson and Harvey 2006), such programs compete for a portion of limited seed funding that could otherwise be spent on a host of other prevention programming. Because rehabilitative services are not a fixed and securely funded part of the strategy, communities incur the cost of socio-economic losses accumulated during incarceration.
Particularly at the municipal level, the Weed and Seed approach enables local governments to brand spaces of social disorder, and strategically infiltrate these spaces to eradicate free-market obstacles. The Weed and Seed strategy embodies a post-Keynesian penology that justifies the acceleration of concentrated disadvantage, and further expands economic opportunity for the capital class through tax incentives and cheap labor. This strategy threatens to create, if even indirectly, a recurring criminal crisis that both justify and shore up demand for a growing supply of “cages,” and reproduces a landscape in which minorities inhabit socio-economic spaces devoid of power and opportunity.
Certainly, improving the conditions of poor urban neighborhoods and increasing community involvement through crime reduction and social programming are practical goals at the state and local level. In some cases, crime reduction, improvements in the way that residents felt about their neighborhood, and institutional collaboration are positive outcomes of the Weed and Seed strategy. What remains is a question of whether these positive outcomes create substantive gains for the communities in which the strategy is implemented. While further research is needed to answer this question, the studies included in this paper suggest that prisoner re-entry presents significant challenges for ex-offenders, their families, and the communities. These findings stimulate further questions about the net social value of a policy that seeks to improve poor neighborhoods by removing residents without providing any support for their inevitable return. In looking forward, it’s important to understand Weed and Seed as a product, not an artifact, of social policy-making in a neo-liberal environment, one that continues to be reproduced in urban communities throughout theUnited States. For this reason, it is imperative that the socio-economic impact on targeted neighborhoods is carefully studied moving forward so that the design of the Weed and Seed strategy can be enhanced to ensure maximum benefit for urban communities.
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