Katherine Irwin and Karen Umemoto, Jacked Up and Unjust: Pacific Islander Teens Confront Violent Legacies

Published date01 July 2019
Date01 July 2019
AuthorLaurel Mei-Singh
Subject MatterBook reviews
these might all play a role). Rather, it is about recognizing just how deeply impli-
cated in the drug war our common sense understandings of everyday life have
become, and starting the hard work of weaning ourselves off such psychic
Davis AY (2003) Are Prisons Obsolete? New York: Seven Stories Press.
Linnemann T and Wall T (2013) ‘This is your face on meth’: the punitive spectacle of ‘white
trash’ and the rural war on drugs. Theoretical Criminology 17(3): 315–334.
William Garriott
Drake University, USA
Katherine Irwin and Karen Umemoto, Jacked Up and Unjust: Pacific Islander Teens
Confront Violent Legacies, University of California Press: Oakland, CA, 2016; 232 pp.
(including index): 9780520283039, $29.95 (pbk); $73 (cloth)
A startling, 2010 report by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) shows that
Hawai‘i is not immune to the US carceral state’s robust expansion, as the incar-
ceration rate on the islands has multiplied eightfold since 1980, while the United
States imprisonment rate has increased fivefold since the 1970s (National Research
Council, 2014). While Hawaiians comprise 24% of Hawai‘i’s general population,
they represent 39% of its incarcerated people, and 41% of the inmates shipped to
facilities out of state. Hawaiian women face an even greater disparity, representing
44% of Hawai‘i’s incarcerated women (OHA, 2010). Further, Hawaiian youth
account for 46% of admits to detention home facilities, while Hawaiian girls com-
prise 52% (Chesney-Lind and Bilsky, 2011).
In Jacked Up and Unjust: Pacific Islander Teens Confront Violent Legacies,
Katherine Irwin and Karen Umemoto paint a vivid portrait of the penetration
of this racist and gendered penal state into the life fabric of Pacific Islander youth.
Their research counters John J. DiIulio’s alarmist, 1995 “super-predator” thesis
that pins juvenile offenses on “moral impoverishment” that Hilary Clinton later
echoed in 1996 to justify law and order policies—a statement that 23-year-old
Ashley Williams famously confronted during the 2016 presidential election. In
its place, Irwin and Umemoto’s empathetic and compelling ethnographic study
focuses on Hawaiian, Samoan, Filipino, and other economically marginalized
youth in Hawai‘i, and the enormous structural challenges they face. Their book
contributes to critical scholarship less concerned with the acts of violence them-
selves than the relations of power that propagate them and their responses, partic-
ularly the “wider historical context” in which both occur (Hall et al., 1978: viii; see
Book reviews 369

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