Call for book chapter abstracts: What works in custodial design?

Custodial design (i.e. of correctional facilities, prisons, jails) has become big news. The scale and cost of incarceration has seen attention drawn to its effectiveness in delivering intended outcomes, with architecture and design recently coming under considerable media scrutiny. Whilst drawing attention to the structural violence of the carceral state, and arguing for decarceration, academic researchers are, in parallel, turning their attention to the effects of architectural and design elements on those who live, work in, or visit these facilities.

In the past, custodial design has prioritised the designing-out of risk (of escape, and of violence against the self and others). Whilst these considerations remain critical, more recently the balance has swung towards more aspirational – and controversial – ideas that facilities could instead be rehabilitative, even therapeutic environments that foster wellbeing.

We may know more than ever before about how built environments influence wellbeing in general, but the question of what custodial facilities should be like remains a challenging one. Policymakers may be open to new design ideas, but in managing tight budgets, they often require a challenging level of evidential proof of effect before changes are made.

This call is therefore for proposals for chapters for a collection edited by Dominique Moran, Yvonne Jewkes, Kwan-Lamar Blount-Hill and Victor St.John, asking ‘what works?’ in custodial design to deliver a rehabilitative, therapeutic environment, or other ‘positive’ outcomes?

The call is addressed to researchers in all disciplines, working in all geographical contexts, whose work addresses one or more of the following questions, whether in relation to the custodial environment as a whole, or to elements of it:

  1. How can we characterise or categorise custodial buildings/environments? How can we describe them in ways that enable us to determine the effects of their characteristics?
  2. How can we characterise the intended outcomes of custodial design? Should design prioritise, for example, ‘humanisation’, ‘normalisation’, or ‘wellbeing’, and how do we recognise and evaluate these in practice? What other ‘positive’ or desirable outcomes might custodial design encourage (for example, recovery, rehabilitation, aspiration, future orientation, aesthetic appreciation)?
  3. How – i.e. through what causal mechanisms – do we think that these characteristics of the built environment ‘work’ in the sense of being experienced by people who are incarcerated, and by the staff who work in custodial facilities, either in the ways in which the planners and designers intended, or in unanticipated ways?
  4. How can we establish whether or that these characteristics have an effect? What data and what methodologies are required to determine causality between built environments and measurable outcomes?
  5. What has been proven to ‘work’ in custodial design, in terms of characteristics of the built environment, and the ways in which it fosters wellbeing or other therapeutic outcomes?

In parallel with this edited collection, an interdisciplinary workshop will be held at the University of Birmingham, UK in 2020, to enable contributors to present and discuss their work around these questions. The workshop will also be an opportunity to explore opportunities for future interdisciplinary collaboration.

Researchers are invited to send 500-word chapter abstracts to by Monday 18th November. Pre-submission enquiries are also very welcome.

CFP AAG 2020 Food and Carceral Intersections: From geographies of confinement to enactments of abolition

Call for Papers: American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting | April 6-10, 2020 | Denver, CO USA

Paper Session: Food and Carceral Intersections: From Geographies of Confinement to Enactments of Abolition

Organizers: Joshua Sbicca (Colorado State University) and Becca Clark-Hargreaves (Colorado State University)

Session Description: How might we better understand food systems by attending to the penal system and vice versa? Carceral spaces – such as neighborhood zones of police surveillance and plantation prisons that exploit confined labor – reflect and reproduce systems of oppression also present in the food system (Gilmore 2007). In cities, the state regularly polices poverty instead of addressing the institutional racism and capitalist urbanization that perpetuates the lack of access to goods like healthy food (Wacquant 2009; Camp 2016). Additionally, the food system relies on carceral practices to secure disciplined labor by weaponizing the possibility of deportation for racialized undocumented workers and wielding the threat of violence to keep workers in the fields (Mitchell 1996; Horton 2016). And of course, there is slow death tied to low-quality food in prisons, prison food and agriculture industries, force feeding of prisoners, and the use of food (or its denial) as punishment (Camplin 2016; Smoyer 2019).

But there are also seeds of struggle for the abolition of penal logics and institutions that maintain the violence of the ongoing practices and legacies of colonialism, white supremacy, and institutional racism vis-à-vis food (Heynen 2016; Murguía 2018; Pellow 2018). Hunger strikes and food riots have long been used as a tool to gain the sympathy of the public, shame political opponents, and gain concessions from the state and penal officials (Scanlan et al. 2008; McGregor 2011; Bargu 2014). Food is also a site for resistance in prison, whether to celebrate cultural foodways or assert a sense of self and autonomy (Ugelvik 2011; Gibson-Light 2018). Food and environmental justice activists have also sought to intervene in mass incarceration and the prison pipeline with campaigns and initiatives that support prisoners and formerly incarcerated people (Sbicca 2016; Nocella, Ducre, and Lupinacci 2016).

This session seeks to critically explore these and other intersections between food and carceral systems, politics, ideologies, spatialities, and social movements. We are especially interested in papers working through food and carceral politics through the lens of racial capitalism, racial neoliberalism, Plantationocene and plantation ecologies, abolition ecologies, masculinities and femininities, restorative justice, environmental justice, food justice, and food sovereignty.  

Some possible orienting topics include:

  • Farming, gardening, and horticulture programs in prison
  • Prison food industries
  • Social, cultural, and spatial dimensions of prison food
  • Plantation and carceral logics and the food system
  • Prison food riots and hunger strikes
  • Prison abolition and reform efforts that engage with food politics
  • Conversion of farmland into prisons and jails
  • Impacts of toxic prisons and jails on agriculture
  • Food and environmental justice activism with prisoners and formerly incarcerated people
  • Social movement alliances between food and prison abolition/reform activists  

Please send paper titles and abstracts (250 words maximum) and your personal identification number (received from the AAG after registering online at to Joshua Sbicca, Colorado State University ( Please send by October 21.


Bargu, Banu. 2014. Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Camp, J. T. 2016. Incarcerating the Crisis: Freedom Struggles and the Rise of the Neoliberal State. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Camplin, E., 2016. Prison Food in America. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Gilmore, R. W. 2007. Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Heynen, N., 2016. Urban political ecology II: The abolitionist century. Progress in Human Geography, 40(6), 839-845.

Horton, S.B., 2016. They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and Illegality Among US Farmworkers. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

McGregor, J., 2011. Contestations and consequences of deportability: hunger strikes and the political agency of non-citizens. Citizenship Studies, 15(5): 597-611.

Mitchell, D., 1996. The Lie of the Land: Migrant Workers and the California Landscape. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Murguía, S.J., 2018. Food as a Mechanism of Control and Resistance in Jails and Prisons: Diets of Disrepute. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Nocella II, A.J., Ducre, K.A. and Lupinacci, J. eds., 2016. Addressing Environmental and Food Justice Toward Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Poisoning and Imprisoning Youth. New York, NY: Springer.

Pellow, D.N., 2018. “Political Prisoners and Environmental Justice.” Capitalism, Nature, Socialism. 29(4), 1-20.

Sbicca, J., 2016. These bars can’t hold us back: Plowing incarcerated geographies with restorative food justice. Antipode, 48(5), 1359-1379.

Scanlan, S.J., Cooper Stoll, L. and Lumm, K., 2008. Starving for change: The hunger strike and nonviolent action, 1906–2004. In Research in social movements, conflicts and change (275-323). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Smoyer, A.B., 2019. Food in correctional facilities: A scoping review. Appetite. 141(1).

Ugelvik, T., 2011. The hidden food: Mealtime resistance and identity work in a Norwegian prison. Punishment & Society, 13(1), 47-63.

Wacquant, L. 2009. Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.