Geography and punishment – Distance and prison visiting

In a piece in the UK Guardian newspaper 28/3/12, Sadhbh Walshe questions the commitment of the US prison system to maintaining family connections for incarcerated individuals. She highlights the importance of the geographical location of prisons:

“Maintaining contact with an incarcerated parent is challenging, to say the least, and certainly not something that the state or federal authorities seem to think is a priority. If they did, they surely would not have more than half the prison population in institutions that are between 100 and 500 miles from inmates’ actual homes, and some over 500 miles from home, making visits next to impossible for struggling families. This distance factor alone goes a long way to explaining why, as of 2004, 58.5% of inmates in state prison and 44.7% of inmates in federal prison had never received a visit from their kids. If a child in Philadelphia wants to see their mother in the women’s prison that is an eight-hour drive away on the other side of the state, they have to be up at 1am to board a special charter bus to take them there.”

The problems which arise in terms of distance and visitation, i.e. that the further from home a prisoner is, the less likely they are to be visited, has been widely observed, and is highlighted in some recent academic research, for example in Laura Piacentini et al’s paper looking at the incarceration experience of young girls in Russia’s prison system. Matt Mitchelson‘s recent work also finds that in the US state of Georgia, the distance between prisoners and their homes is considerable.

Visitation matters, not only for the wellbeing of prisoners and their families, and to mitigate against the negative effects of incarceration on both prisoners and their families, but also because  prisoners visited during their sentences tend to be less likely to reoffend on release. Since tackling reoffending is a cornerstone of US and UK criminal justice policy (for example, see the UK government’s ‘Breaking the Cycle’ policy document, the issue of distance would seem to be a critical one.

Read the full Guardian piece, which considers the effects on children of the incarceration of parents, here.

PhD opportunity in Carceral Geography

The so-called ‘punitive turn’ has brought about new ways of thinking about geography and the state, and has highlighted spaces of incarceration as a new terrain for exploration by geographers. This PhD project supervised by Dominique Moran at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, at the University of Birmingham, UK, will enable the Doctoral Researcher to investigate their chosen aspect of ‘carceral geography’ as a geographical perspective on incarceration, in relation to the ideas, practices and engagements that have shaped the development of this new and vibrant sub-discipline.

Proposals which are transdisciplinary, which are both informed by and extend theoretical developments in geography, and which interface with contemporary debates over hyperincarceration, recidivism and the advance of the punitive state, will be particularly welcome. There is considerable scope for applicants to explore synergies with criminology and prison sociology, and to develop a notion of the ‘carceral’ as spatial, emplaced, mobile, embodied and affective.

See the full ad here

Carceral Geography: Prisons, prisoners and mobilities: “Geography Directions” blog

Carceral Geography: Prisons, prisoners and mobilities

by Fiona Ferbrache

…Carceral geography is also the focus of Moran, Piacentini and Pallot’s paper in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. Their work draws from empirical research on the Russian Penal system, and mobility theories.  The authors argue that much mobility has been conceptualised in a way that emphasises association with freedom and autonomy.  The downside is that mobility is seldom considered as an instrument of power that disciplines and limits a subject’s agency.  As the authors indicate, the academic question ‘why travel?’ is seldom answered: ‘because I had no choice’…

ESRC Seminar Series “‘Exploring Everyday Practice and Resistance in Immigration Detention”

The ESRC intends to fund a seminar series entitled ‘Exploring Everyday Practice and Resistance in Immigration Detention’. This seminar series brings together scholars from the universities of Oxford, York, Birmingham, Lancaster and Exeter, who span the disciplines of politics, sociology, geography and criminology, across five events during 2012-2014. These events aim to provide a means of networking between academics and practitioners, and those who have experienced detention, in order to exchange expertise and knowledge around the operation and implications of immigration detention in a national and international context. They also aim to raise public awareness of immigration detention and provide a foundation for a strong future research bid to the ESRC in this important and under-researched area. The seminar series is coordinated by Dr Nick Gill of Exeter University’s Geography Department (Principle Investigator) and will involve international speakers from Canada, America, Finland and Australia.

Carceral Geography sessions at the RGS-IBG conference 2012

There will be two sessions under the heading of  “Everyday geographies of the punitive State ” at the Royal Geographical Society – Institute of British Geographers conference in Edinburgh, UK in July 2012

Everyday geographies of the punitive State 1: Carceral Geography

  • Dominique Moran: Carceral Geography: themes and directions
  • James Humberto Zomighani Jr: Geographic Connections and Socio-spatial Segregation in São Paulo State, Brazil
  • Agatha Herman: Is Empowerment Possible within Prison? Exploring the role of the discourse of empowerment in sustainable reintegration strategies
  • Uma Kothari: Mobility, confinement and the politics of exile: Contesting colonial rule in the Indian Ocean

Everyday geographies of the punitive State 2: Securitization

  • Jon Coaffee: Unpacking the carceral city: enhancing the resilience and securitisation of public places
  • Chin-Ee Ong, Claudio Minca and James Sidaway: The Empire and its Hotel: The Changing Biopolitics of Hotel Lloyd, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Joaquín Villanueva: “Urban Violence,” Everyday Life and the Shifting Presence  of the Penal State
  • Craig Johnstone: Securing public space from the ‘threat’ of young people: Controlling everyday behaviour in the UK