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Discussion of Human Caging Concept Using Hernández’s Article


Human caging, as used by Hernández to mean incarceration of people, is a key issue in the social and community context domain. Human caging has been used against people who are perceived to be a threat to social order (Hernández 45). Hernández posits that “trampologists warned that the rise of mass white male itinerancy also indicated the emergence of something much more menacing than a generation of individuals failing to navigate the changing economy” (46). Based on this, people were targeted for imprisonment to benefit the elites in society. Los Angeles became a city in the US with the highest number of prisoners. Therefore, this paper will address the concept of human caging in Los Angeles and the US at large, as discussed by Hernández in her book City of Inmates.

Definition of Human Caging

Human caging is the act of restraining an individual’s personal freedom. It is a form of social control that pertains to an individual being confined or imprisoned based on a crime committed (Hernández 33). Incarceration, according to Hernández, “is the idea of putting people in cages and the practices used to hold them there stretch beyond steel bars and stone walls” (3). This means that human caging involves eliminating people from the land, life, and society. Hernández says, “Flynt sharply criticized tramps as “human parasites” and members of an “outcast world” (51). The rate of human caging in the 1930s in Los Angeles was not different from the way it is today. Human caging began during the era of colonization in the eighteenth century. It was used as a tool of conquest to eliminate deviant people from the landscape to make room for more deserving colonists.

How Human Caging Changed in the History of Los Angeles

Over the course of history, human caging changed from the imprisonment of unemployed whites to immigrants. The rise of white male imprisonment was fueled by the term “tramp panic” in Los Angeles between 1870 and 1910 when some whites were displaced by the emergence of national markets and corporate capitalism (Hernández 51). “Using incarceration to cage the seasonal ‘‘tramp menace literally,’’ the city’s commercial and civic elite steered one of the nation’s most dramatic booms in incarceration at the turn of the twentieth century” (63). The elites in Los Angeles influenced the caging of the white male because of fear of their unemployed status. However, this changed when fear of immigration surfaced. Therefore, compared to before, there are more immigrants and African American individuals than native whites.

Populations Targeted in Los Angeles from the 1880s to the 1960s and Why

The target populations from the 1880s to 1960s in Los Angeles were unemployed white males, African Americans, Mexicans, and Chinese. During this period, the first target population was an unemployed white male displaced by the rise of the national market and corporate capitalism (Hernández 49). The elites targeted this population for fear that they might interfere with the social order. Hernández opined that “To this end, the city’s settler elite leveraged incarceration to disappear the seasonal surge of men who, according to the trampologists, threatened to destroy their settler society from within (48)”. However, the incarceration of the white male slowed down, and the focus changed to African America, Mexicans, and Chinese. These populations were targeted because they were immigrants and were perceived threats to the native white population. In my view, the targeting of these groups for incarceration was not justified because of the wrong motive. These groups were not being incarcerated for committing an offense.

What Happened to the Population Discussed in the Assigned Chapter?

The populations discussed in the assigned chapters were marked as criminals, detained, and victimized. The unemployed white men were targeted and detained for the elites to have their way. They were detained for minor offenses to reduce their threat to society. Hernández states that “Public drunkenness, sleeping in public, using whistles and trumpets on the streets, and to “sing, shout or make any loud noise” without a permit were all prohibited in the city” (50). In addition, immigrants like Mexicans, Indians, Chinese and African American were victimized and jailed for minor offenses. The immigrants were among the people defined as the tramps were perceived as the threat to the sovereignty of the elites living in Los Angeles.

What Prompted the Police to Target Certain Ethnic Groups?

During the settlement period in the US, many home-seekers stormed Los Angeles, intending to build an empire. The home-seekers mainly grasped at the promise and fantasy pulling them into Los Angeles. They took single-family homes and invested in various sectors to grow their income (Hernández 51). The development attracted unemployed men into Los Angeles, swelling its core. Based on this, the elites in Los Angeles began a movement to arrest and cage the unemployed men “tramp” who had stormed the city. As a result, the same year, it was reported that the police arrested 719 persons. The aggression campaign against unemployed white men prompted their arrest by police officers. Because Los Angeles elites were afraid of the steady rise of unemployed white men in the city, they instigated their arrest and imprisonment.

Why Human Caging Matters and How it Connects to Today

Human caging is an important matter because it has been used to oppress some populations across the globe. Countries across the globe have built jails, cells, and prisons to cage people who are perceived to interfere with the intended social order. However, human caging has been used by the elites in society against other people to achieve their interests. Hernández claims that “Incarceration has been just one of many “eliminatory options” deployed in settler societies” (9). This means that human caging has always been used to eliminate some people from society. Human caging connects to the current society because it is still being used to eliminate certain people from society.


Human caging is a matter that has raised serious issues on social justice because it has been heavily skewed towards socially and economically disadvantaged people in society. The elites in the society have been using human caging to oppress people whom they perceive to be a threat to the social order. As stated by Hernández, Los Angeles elites instigated the arrest and imprisonment of the people of color. They claimed that these men were a threat to the social order. However, the incarceration of the white men changed, and the elites began to target immigrants like Mexicans, Chinese, and others. This contributed to the rise in the number of immigrants under incarceration. Therefore, human caging is an aspect that began during colonization and passed over to the current society, is used against some populations.

Work cited

Hernández, Kelly Lytle. City of inmates: Conquest, rebellion, and the rise of human caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965. UNC Press Books, 2017.


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