This introductory chapter gives a brief overview of “misdemeanorland” and how it is studied. “Misdemeanorland” is a colloquialism used by people who work in the courts that receive the large volume of cases generated by New York City's signature policing tactics. The term designates a jurisdictional and physical space where these cases are processed. Within the context of the city's Broken Window enforcement, the expression “misdemeanorland” also signifies the widely shared notion that there is something unique about the operations of justice in the subfelony world. Many social science and media accounts of the U.S. criminal justice system tend to address either the back or front end of the system. In the age of mass incarceration, much public and scholarly focus has been directed at the back end, at what many of us assume to be the end point of most arrests: prison or jail. But between police and jails stands an institution assigned the role of deciding which people identified by police will end up in jail, prison, or elsewhere: the criminal court.
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