New book: “Carceral Spaces: Mobility and Agency in Imprisonment and Migrant Detention”

‘Carceral Spaces: Mobility and Agency in Imprisonment and Migrant Detention‘ (Ashgate, 2013) edited by Dominique Moran, Nick Gill and Deirdre Conlon.moran_gen 55 cover.QXD_mobility and agency

This book draws together the work of a new community of scholars with a growing interest in carceral geography: the geographical study of practices of imprisonment and detention. It combines work by geographers in ‘mainstream’ penal establishments that incarcerate people convicted of a crime by the prevailing legal system, with geographers’ recent work on migrant detention centres, in which refused asylum seekers, irregular migrants and some others are detained, ostensibly pending decisions on admittance or repatriation. In each of these contexts, contributions investigate the geographical location and spatialities of institutions, the nature of spaces of incarceration and detention and experiences inside them, governmentality and prisoner agency, cultural geographies of penal spaces, and mobility in the carceral context. In dialogue with emergent and topical agendas in geography around mobility, space and agency, and in relation to international policy challenges such as the (dis)functionality of imprisonment, and the search for alternatives to detention, the book draws upon and speaks back to geography, criminology and prison sociology.

The book presents original empirical research from the USA, Colombia, Russia, France, the UK, Ireland and Romania, bringing together papers initially presented for themed sessions organised at the Annual Conference of the AAG in Washington, DC, USA and the Annual Conference of the RGS-IBG in London, UK, both in 2010. Apart from the editors, contributors include Lauren L Martin, Matt Mitchelson, Olivier MilhaudBénédicte Michalon, Julie De Dardel, Jennifer Turner, Nancy Hiemstra and Mason McWatters, with reflective pieces from Alison Mountz and Yvonne Jewkes.  The broad conceptual focus and wide geographic net is consistent with the goals of sparking insight, dialogue and new connections across ordinarily distinct areas.

This book was published last month and launched at the 2013 Annual Conference of the Association of American Geographers, in a roundtable session featuring editors and contributors. It’s available for purchase via Ashgate and Amazon.


‘From Nick Gill’s eye-opening discussion of the relationship between freedom and mobility, to Deirdre Conlon’s fascinating Foucauldian analysis of the hunger strike, this book offers analyses that are empirically strong and theoretically innovative. From a criminological perspective, the book manages chapter by chapter to break new ground even in a familiar territory. You should read it.’
Thomas Ugelvik, University of Oslo, Norway

‘Engaging, thought-provoking and insightful, Carceral Spaces shines a much-needed light on contemporary practices of incarceration and detention. Required reading for anyone interested in confinement and the control of ‘problematic’ populations in a globalised world.’
Alexandra Hall, University of York, UK and author of Borderwatch: Cultures of Immigration, Detention and Control

‘Prisons and immigration detention facilities ostensibly draw sharp divisions between who is inside and who is outside, who is good and who is bad, who is included and who is excluded from society. Contributors to this important volume undermine these dualisms with rich empirical evidence and strong theoretical elaboration that advance the burgeoning field of carceral geography, and offer fresh perspectives to migration studies and criminologists’ study of “punishment and society”. Carceral Spaces gathers original research on prison regimes and immigration detention estates from an impressive array of sites. This comparative dimension illustrates the international unevenness of spatial practices of confinement. Despite their differences, all carceral regimes create and rely on carceral spaces and carceral mobilities. Indeed, close attention to the relationship between the state’s power to confine and to forcibly move people is the book’s greatest strength. Together, they challenge the idea that prison cells fully extinguish political agency and that mobility necessarily means total freedom. Instead, careful documentation and nuanced theorization of this relationship offers scholars and activists new understandings of state power. This knowledge hopefully can enable people who are confined and their allies to end carceral regimes and the harms they create’. 
Jenna Loyd, co-editor of Beyond Walls and Cages

Stopping them ‘upping sticks and moving somewhere else’ – restrictions on UK released prisoners’ mobility

Speaking after a recent Commons evidence hearing, UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling stated his intention to ban released prisoners from moving around the country when they leave jail to ensure they complete their rehabilitation programmes. As reported in The Guardian today, the justice secretary said tougher conditions would be imposed on released prisoners from short sentences so that they could not “move 200 miles up the road for no reason”.

The move was justified by Grayling by describing the current situation as “quite chaotic”, and implying that newly released prisoners’ mobility around the country fuels high reoffending rates. “I do not think that anybody who has come out of prison and is subject to a supervision arrangement should be free to up sticks and move somewhere else”.

Grayling’s words and his intention to restict the movement of released prisoners extend the debate over prisoner mobility and the reach of the carceral system beyond the prison walls. The theme of mobility and punishment has been prevalent within carceral geography for some time, with Nick Gill’s 2009 paper on governmental mobility and the UK asylum estate, and Dominique Moran, Laura Piacentini and Judith Pallot’s 2012 paper on disciplined, or forced mobility, in the Russian prison system.  These papers draw attention to the theorisation of mobility and power, and specifically, the consideration of mobility as an expression of power, in that the forced mobility of detained migrants and prisoners shapes the experience of confinement on the part of these groups. In a forthcoming book chapter focusing on electronic monitoring systems used to track former inmates and detainees beyond the spaces of prison, Gill further discusses mobilities operating as ‘vehicle’ to alternatively deny or deliver punishment vis-à-vis  liberty.

The suggestion by Grayling that prisoners’ mobility be restricted after release in order that they complete rehabilitation programmes echoes these arguments. On the one hand, the extension of spatial fixity beyond the prison wall suggests that the prisoner’s own home and community becomes something of a ‘transcarceral’ space of reconfinement, in which the regime of the prison takes form through a respatialised notion of the carceral. On the other, the apparently essential link between this transcarceral spatial fixity and the ‘betterment’ of rehabilitation sees spatial and social mobility in conflict one with the other. In order to realise the benefits of rehabilitation, in terms of reduced reoffending and improved social mobility, the prisoner must sacrifice physical mobility and the self-determination of location afforded to free citizens.

Although Graylings recent words were couched in concerns over how the UK’s ‘payment by results’ policy on reducing reoffending would operate in practice, his remarks over former prisoner mobility suggest that ‘punitive mobility’ and the extension of the carceral beyond the space of the prison are themes which remain pertinent to the UK context, and which merit further investigation by carceral geographers.

Carceral ‘Afterlives’ – Punta Carretas Prison-Mall

Afterlives of ConfinementA new book by Susana Draper, assistant professor of comparative literature at Princeton University, uses the phenomenon of the “opening” of prisons to begin a dialogue on conceptualizations of democracy and freedom in post-dictatorship Latin America. Focusing on the Southern Cone nations of Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, she examines key works in architecture, film and literature to reveal the veiled continuity of dictatorial power structures in ensuing consumer cultures.

For carceral geographers, her book has particular appeal for its discussion of Punta Carretas prison, in Montevideo, opened in 1910 as the exemplar of model prison architecture in Uruguay, and copied from the 1898 Fresnes prison in France. Designed in the ‘telephone pole’ style, its aim was to rehabilitate individuals through humanitarian punishment, and its opening, which coincided with the abolition of the death penalty, was characteristic of the Uruguayan state’s modernization plans.

However, by the 1930s Punta Carretas was holding political prisoners, becoming by the 1970s Uruguay’s most important centre of confinement for politicals, until a mass escape in 1971 saw the prison nearly emptied, and the remaining prisoners moved to the new military Libertad Penitentiary. Post-1970s, the prison held mainstream prisoners, and eventually it was slated for closure, a decision initially triggered by rising local property values, but then delayed by the recognition that Punta Carretas was a national site of cultural heritage, which should be preserved. However, the cost of the preservation of the building proved too high for the then post-dictatorship state, and a decision was taken to preserve the building, but to put it to commercial use.

The prison was converted into a shopping mall in 1994, as part of a larger process which Draper describes as a means to ‘envision the country of the future – that is, the country of consumer services’ (Draper 2012, 23). In converting the prison,  a conscious effort was made to selectively demolish and preserve certain features, in an effort to “preserve the spirit of the prison, but in a way in which this ‘preservation’ would not be an obstacle to developing its new function” (architect Estela Porada, cited in Draper 2012, 48). Draper draws particular attention to this notion of the ‘spirit’ of the prison, suggesting that the spirit is connected to ‘leaving behind the prison in architectural form without bringing forth the painful, past spectres of this site’ (ibid 49).

Discussing the actual space of the prison-mall, Draper describes the preserved relics of the prison – the facade, the gateway through which prisoners were previously led to their cells, the walkways on former prison landings, and the former cells which now contain shops, food courts and entertainment complexes. She particularly focuses on the tensions in the building between the inside and outside of the mall, specific relics of the prison which appear disconnected from the mall itself, and the effect of the disguised and fetishised remnants of the prison within the colourful mall.

For carceral geographers, Draper’s book, which also analyses the literary afterlives of Punta Carretas (writings on the prison itself and its transformation) offers an intriguing reading of this site, weaving together ideas of spirits and spectres, idioms and residues, evocation and translation, and the relationship between the unique and the universal.  Read alongside other work on the conversion of prison sites, emerging from geography and from tourism and heritage studies, this work offers a highly nuanced and contextualised reading of Punta Carretas and its transformation, embedded within a wider set of transformations of the Uruguayan state.

Draper, S (2012) Afterlives of Confinement: Spatial Transitions in Postdictatorship Latin America, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, USA.

New papers in carceral geography: space, privacy, affect and the carceral habitus

Over the past few months a number of new papers have emerged which may be of interest to carceral geographers. Written by both geographers and criminologists, they address a range of issues but share a common concern with the importance and significance of carceral space.

First, Thomas Ugelvik’s book chapter “The Bellman and the Prison Officer: Customer Care in Imperfect Panopticons” is a fascinating piece which contrasts the ‘gaze’ of the prison officer and the hotel bellman, as they observe prisoners and hotel guests in ways which balance professional customer care with concerns for security and control. He calls this a ‘dual optic’, ‘partly focused on the needs of others, partly on the potential problems these others represent’ (Ugelvik 2013, 192). Drawing on the penal context of Norway, he also draws attention to the issue of privacy as experienced in carceral spaces and in hotels, in that in neither context can prisoners nor hotel guests completely close off ‘their’ spaces from the officer or the bellman – although he points out the lack of fit between the ‘panoptical’ prison model and Norwegian prison cells, where prisoners are afforded a legal right to privacy.

Next, taking up the notion of prisoner privacy, a paper in press emerges from research into women’s imprisonment in Russia, focusing squarely on the elusiveness of privacy in carceral space. By deploying a theoretical engagement with the concepts of ‘public’ and ‘private’, the paper exlores the experience of surveilled carceral space, specifically the ways in which imprisoned women negotiate and engage with apparently ‘public’ spaces to construct the ‘private’ by deploying a range of personal tactics such as retreat into the self, or intentional violation of prison rules, to experience the ‘punishment’ of solitary confinement. “Privacy in Penal Space: Women’s Imprisonment in Russia” by Dominique Moran, Judith Pallot and Laura Piacentini, is available in early view at Geoforum.

Jennifer Turner’s recent review paper “Disciplinary Engagements with Prisons, Prisoners and the Penal System” calls for ‘renewed interest in the relational, fluid, contradictory and nuanced spaces of imprisonment’ , particularly in regard to ‘the affective nature of imprisonment’ (Turner 2013, 41). She points out the value of perspectives from cultural geography in drawing attention to these nuanced spaces, and in drawing out their significance ‘to open up the political at a more ‘personal’ level’ (ibid 35).

Turner’s call for attention to be paid to the affective potential of penal space is the focus of Dominique Moran’s new paper “Carceral geography and the spatialities of prison visiting: visitation, recidivism and hyperincarceration“, which draws together recent work in human geography on emotion and affect, as a means of understanding the personal experience of carceral space – specifically the experience of prison visiting rooms as liminal transformative spaces for prisoners and visitors alike. In so doing, it argues that in advancing understandings of the affective dimension of human experience in carceral space, carceral geography could not only exemplify a concept, but also participate in efforts to make positive social and political change.

Finally, engaging with carceral space in a very different way, Judah Schept’s forthcoming paper “‘A lockdown facility…with the feel of a small, private college’: Liberal politics, jail expansion, and the carceral habitus‘ discusses ways in which communities participate in the production of the carceral state in the United States, and specifically, the ways in which mass incarceration imbues even oppositional politics, as communities reformulate and adapt the material manifestations of mass incarceration to fit specific local contexts. Schept contends that ‘mass incarceration is both more forceful and more subject to diverse and context-specific formulations than has previously been argued’, and he argues that ‘the corporal and discursive inscription of carcerality into individual and community bodies’ suggests the presence of what he terms a ‘carceral habitus’. This term,  in the context of his paper, offers a way to understand the ways in which mass incarceration pervades even those people and communities ‘which purport to reject it’ suggests that mass incarceration is not just ‘out there’ in media representations, political rhetoric and everyday penal functionings, but also ‘in here’ in the ‘everyday negotiations and productions of the social world’ .

Considering habitus as as an ‘always sociospatially contextualized, nature of practice’ (Holt 2008, 228) enables the notion of carceral habitus as a shared consciousness to be mapped onto tangible spaces, potentially opening a space for carceral geography to consider the ‘carceral’  as emplaced and affective, as a social construction ‘relevant both within and outside physical spaces of incarceration’ (Moran 2013, 176) and to inform future research into the relationship between the carceral and a punitive state.

Prisoners in Medical Research: Consent, Incentive and the Confined Body

Many thanks to Ebru Ustundag for alerting me to this recent paper arising from a national study led by Dr. Flora I. Matheson, a research scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital’s Centre for Research on Inner City Health, Toronto, Canada. The paper, published in the American Journal of Public Health, draws attention to the use of prisoners in Canada’s correctional system for medical and behavioural research, and in particular to the variety of policies and practices which surround the use of incentives for prisoners to take part in such research.

The paper points out that although prisoners are considered a vulnerable population in Canada, there is no specific regulation for ethical considerations for research involving prisoners, in terms of the use of incentives (anything offered to participants, monetary or otherwise, for participation in research). The authors point out the complications in offering incentives to prisoners: i.e. that for some, incentives could act as an undue inducement which could affect the voluntariness of consent; that offering incentives to nonoffenders but not to offenders could be seen as discriminatory; that some could argue that since prisoners are being ‘punished’ for breaking the law, they should not be ‘rewarded’ in any way for participation in research; and that providing incentives to offenders who meet research eligibility criteria (e.g. age, gender) but not to those who are not eligible, could create resentment within the prison environment. The paper concludes by suggesting ways forward for policy development in Canada to ensure effective and equitable engagement between researchers and the prison population, and an improved code of ethics for this population.

Whilst drawing attention to a particular issue of incentives and consent, this paper highlights in a broader sense the potential effects of confinement of the prisoner body; i.e. that confinement of the body places the body in a vulnerable position in relation to those who have a use to which it can be put. As the authors point out, ‘in history, offenders have been used in a variety of medical and behavioural studies without a properly informed consent process, often with little choice over their participation’ (Matheson et al 2012, 1438). Extreme examples, of course, include Nazi experimentation on thousands of concentration camp prisoners without their consent, and the recent revelations that American PoWs in Japan were apparently dissected alive. The bodies of dead prisoners have commonly been utilised for dissection and anatomical research: a 2007 Japanese study into the sources of cadavers for dissection by medical students found that in the mid Edo era, the bodies of executed prisoners were used to study internal body parts. Later, unclaimed bodies, including those from prisons, were used for dissection.

The disenfranchisement of prisoners apparently extended to the use of their bodies after death; according to research conducted by Ross Jones, in 1862, when the first Australian medical school was established in Melbourne, corpses were in such short supply that the Victorian Parliament passed the Anatomy Act to legalise the collection and dissection of cadavers. At the time, the inmates of the main benevolent asylum in North Melbourne feared that after they died, their bodies would be taken, without consent and used by medical students. They set up a petition against the Act demanding their bodies not be sent to the university but their concerns were ignored. In the same year, the Electoral Act  disenfranchised any person receiving charity in a public institution, and from then on, inmates had effectively no say in the disposal of their bodies. Although many advocates agitated about this inequity and argued for institutionalised Australians to be given the same rights as other citizens, the provision wasn’t discarded in Victoria until 1975.

This gory history of live experimentation and cadaver dissection is a backdrop to contemporary debates about the embodiment of imprisonment. Criminologist Azrini Wahidin‘s work explores the embodied nature of imprisonment, considering the particular ways in which prison time is inscribed upon the ageing imprisoned body, and the ways in which prisoners seek to deploy agency to resist the carceral control of the prison. For carceral geographers, considering imprisonment in this way opens a space for conceptualising  the experience of imprisonment as inherently embodied, drawing on scholarship in feminist geography which recognises both the mutually constitutive relationship between bodies and spaces, and a variety of bodily subjectivities (e.g. Johnson 2008). Bodies are understood as sites of  ‘textual inscription’  which shapes identities and social relations as well as the conceptual and actual spaces in which bodies move. The body, always in the process of becoming through the experiences of embodiment, is corporeally inscribed by imprisonment, in that the corporeal inscriptions acquired during incarceration act to construct bodily subjectivities which can stigmatise and disadvantage prisoners both during confinement and after release.

Returning to the Canadian example, participation in medical and behavioural research to which prisoners may consent, and for which they may or may not be offered incentives, could be viewed as enabled or encouraged by the carceral prism in which prisoners’ bodies are held during confinement, and also as a form of corporeal inscription of incarceration. Thankfully ethical regulations governing research in prisons are strict, and access procedures include detailed discussion of issues of consent, incentive and dissemination of information to participants. However, the thorny methodological and ethical issue of what constitutes ‘informed consent’ in a prison context remains, whether the research in question involves potentially risky medical research, or apparently benign questionnaire survey…

Courtroom confinement and administrative segregation: Or the difference a cage makes…

David Tait and Emma Rowden of the University of Western Sydney, Australia,  put together a terrific session for the RGS-IBG conference in Edinburgh this July. Sponsored by the Geographies of Justice Research Group, and entitled ‘Justice on trial; Security and safety in court spaces’, the session responded to the ‘security’ theme of the conference by arguing that the geography of the courthouse has become a battleground for different philosophies of security. The three papers in the session provided three Australian case studies of issues that have also been hotly debated in Europe: placing defendants in glass cages in the courtroom, providing sanctuaries for vulnerable witnesses through video links, and the use of screening, CCTV and intelligence to manage risk. These studies contrasted overt physical barriers to contain people with the soft power of surveillance and customer services; security as a set of techniques for managing danger with psychological safety as a goal for supporting victims of violence and other vulnerable justice participants.

I was fortunate to be asked to act as discussant for this session, and I was particularly struck by David Tait’s paper on courtroom cages, in which defendants are held whilst on trial. Increasingly defendants are being confined to cages within courtrooms based on security concerns, despite judgments by the European Court of Human Rights and two Australian Supreme Courts that suggest rights to a fair trial could be jeopardized by such confinement. The practice is more extensively used in England and Wales than elsewhere, where as David pointed out in his paper, the history of holding the accused in a ‘dock’ separate from their lawyers (rather than allowing them to sit alongside their attorney as is the custom in the United States) has contributed to this courtroom ‘geography’. His study reviewed the history of the practice, and the debates about physical confinement of the accused in court.

The controversy over holding defendants in cages whilst on trial stems from the concern that such confinement suggests guilt to a judge or jury, and compromises the potential for a fair trial. High profile examples of courtroom cages are numerous, from the case of Dmitri Konovalov, on trial in a steel cage in Minsk, Belarus for detonating explosives at a metro station,

to the infamous image of former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak on a hospital bed inside a cage made of steel mesh and iron bars during his trial in a courtroom in Cairo.

In his recent paper, David Tait points out that even where courtroom cages are not as extreme as those in Minsk or Cairo, any form of confinement, even the glass booths which have been used in Australia, can bring fairness and security considerations into conflict. Fairness, he argues, has an architectural or spatial dimension, in that courts are designed not just to achieve functional objectives, such as adequate sightlines and good acoustics, but also to reflect values such as “trust, hope and most importantly faith in justice”.

This balance between fairness and security is perhaps also behind the practice, as shown in this image, of administrative segregation prisoners taking part in a ‘group therapy’ session at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California, US on June 8 2012.

I found these images, part of set published online, profoundly shocking, partly for the commentary that such confinement was “undoubtedly for their own good”, but mainly out of incredulity that such an arrangement of cages could be thought to create an atmosphere conducive to rehabilitative therapy. Whether administrative segregation protects the institution from violent prisoners, or provides protective custody for vulnerable inmates, to my eyes these boxes create an image of inmates as caged animals.

Although in the context of San Quentin, the concerns of prejudicing juries which inform debates over courtroom cages do not apply, the question of the effect of these cages both on prisoners’ own self-awareness and the perceptions of them which are generated by others, still remains.

Whereas the “fairness” of a court of law may not be at issue here, the “fairness” of treating social beings in this way surely is. In a recent Written Statement to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, Human Rights Watch stated that “based on years of research and analysis, we are convinced the unnecessary, counter-productive, and devastating use of this harsh form of confinement in many US prisons cannot be squared with respect for human rights”.

Although HRW’s focus in this statement is of course on the ‘misery and suffering’ of those directly experiencing administrative segregation as a form of solitary confinement, there are questions to be asked, too, about the effect of these cages on those working with or visiting these prisoners. In many cases,  those working with prisoners in ‘ad seg’, for example conducting interviews to protect their constitutional rights, or facilitating therapy as detailed in this image, conduct meetings with men in cages.

Just as juries struggle to overlook cages in maintaining a presumption of innocence in the courtroom, holding prisoners in cages must make engaging in meaningful, constructive dialogue with these prisoners, and treating them as thinking, feeling individuals, an immense challenge, and must surely have an impact on the wellbeing of those professionals asked to undertake this work.

The Justice on trial session at RGS-IBG raised fascinating questions about the function and use of space, and the conscious or unconscious impressions created by certain spatial arrangements and confinements. Taking these questions into the prison itself, it seems that if, as David Tait argues, fairness and security are in conflict in the courtroom, in the prison, security has triumphed.

Carceral Geography, Palestinian Agency and Spatial Control – forthcoming lecture and paper

Rema Hammami, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Birzeit University, is giving a guest lecture at the Centre for Studies in Asian Cultures and Social Anthropology, Vienna, on Thursday 14th June. Entitled ‘The Carceral Geography of Late Colonialism: Palestinian Agency and Israeli Military Checkpoints – an ethnographic view’,  it focuses on spatial control over Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

Carceral geographers might be interested to see how Professor Hammami discusses human geographers’ and critical planners’ conceptualizations of this spatial control through reference to Foucauldian notions of panoptic surveillance and in terms of Agamben’s notions of Homo Sacer/Bare Life.

According to the abstract for the lecture, Rema Hammami starts from an understanding of the scale and sophistication of Israel’s regime of spatial control over Palestinians in the occupied territories as “without precedent”. Composed of a dense matrix of internal and external checkpoints, closed military areas, buffer zones, and more than 700 kilometres of concrete wall and electronic fence, she describes the spatial regime as “multi-layered, all-encompassing and overwhelming”. What is missing from existing accounts of these spaces, she argues, is Palestinian agency. “Palestinians are not simply objects of Israel’s technologies of control but are also active subjects who through a variety of everyday practices negotiate, elude, subvert and sometimes overturn the operations of the spatial regime while constantly resisting the range of impacts it has on their lives”. Through reference to ethnographic research undertaken at checkpoints in the West Bank over the past decade, the lecture aims to “shed light on the range of these resistant practices, while posing the larger question of what does Israel’s spatial regime aim to do? And what exactly does it accomplish?”

On this broad topic, and again drawing attention to agency, Adam Ramadan’s forthcoming paper is well worth a read. In ‘Spatialising the Refugee Camp’  he argues that while the repressive geographies of asylum and refuge in Europe have been the focus of academic attention in recent years, much less work in geography has focused on the refugee camp as a distinctive political space. Focusing on the particular case of Palestinian camps in Lebanon, his paper sets out an analytical strategy for refugee camp space. It takes three analytical ‘cuts’ into the space of the camp: a critical take on Agamben’s ‘space of exception’ that accounts for the complex, multiple and hybrid sovereignties of the camp; an analysis of the camp as an assemblage of people, institutions, organisations, the built environment and the relations between them that produce particular values and practices; and an analysis of the constrained temporality of the camp, its enduring liminality and the particular time-space from which it draws meaning. This spatial analysis of the camp offers a way of grounding geopolitics, seeing its manifestations and negotiations in the everyday lives and practices of ordinary people. The camp is much more than an anonymous terrain of conflict or a tool of international agencies, and understanding its spatiality is essential for seeing the everyday politics and material practices of refugees.

Taking carceral geography out of the conventional ‘confines’ of the prison or the detention centre, this forthcoming lecture and paper both offer fascinating empirical and conceptual insights.

Prison Map: The Geography of Incarceration in the United States

Many thanks to Shaul Cohen for the recommendation of Josh Begley’s Prison Map website via Emily Badger’s piece on ‘The Stunning Geography of Incarceration’.

Josh Begley is a Masters student in Interactive Telecommunications at New York University, and the Prison Map website is part of a class project. He presents satellite images of American penitentiaries, rather than the ubiquitous statistics of mass incarceration, to highlight the sheer volume of these facilities and the resources which go into constructing places to ‘warehouse’ people.

For Begley, the take-home message is about space, not only in relation to the distribution of prisons, and the housing of urban prisoners in rural locations, (and their counting in the census where they are incarcerated, not where they are from), but also in the spaces of imprisonment themselves, viewed from above.

“The first time I was really able to look at all of these images, the thing that jumped out at me the most was that the one commonality among almost all of these prisons was that there was a baseball field there. And the baseball field mimicked the form about these buildings as well. There was something very American about it when I first saw it.”

Satellite images of prisons have been used in research very recently, for example in Robert G Morris and John L Worrall’s forthcoming paper which considers the relationship between prison design and inmate misconduct. Using aerial views, they identify ‘telegraph pole’, (several rows of parallel multistory buildings, or pavilions, connected by one or two main corridors) and ‘campus’ (freestanding buildings surrounded by a large open space, often in the shape of a rectangle) penitentiaties in Texas and analyse the relationship between these two designs and inmate misconduct, using a random sample of 2,500 inmate disciplinary histories sourced from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. They find a modest association between prison design and nonviolent misconduct, but acknowledge the drawbacks of the study, in terms of the reliance on officially reported midconduct data rather than prisoners’ insights, and the limitations of the satellite imagery in understanding the nature of prison spaces.

With prison sites often considered ‘out of sight and out of mind’, these two, very different, uses of satellite imagery remind us of the very concrete reality of carceral spaces, and invite us to consider the everyday reality of life inside of them, baseball pitches or not…

Drawing a chilling parallel between his satellite images and TV newscasting, Begley puts it like this:

“We’re used to aerial images of nation-states overseas, and we’ll see a diagram of some compound that is going to be bombed or something. But rarely do we look at these spaces in our backyard and think critically about them.”

“Criminalisation and advanced marginality: Critically exploring the work of Loïc Wacquant”

New book by Peter Squires and John Lea,  just released by Policy Press.

Publisher’s blurb says:

“This book represents the first full-length critical and interdisciplinary assessment of Loïc Wacquant’s work in English. Wacquant’s challenging critique of the neo-liberal government of crime and the punitive culture to which this is related has shaken criminology to its foundations. In a bold political analysis he describes how the US-led revolution in law and order has dismantled the welfare state, replacing it with a disciplinary and penal state. Wacquant’s analysis also details the spread of neo-liberal crime control measures and the underpinning ‘pornographic’ discourses of crime across the developed world, although critics have questioned the extent to which this model of criminal justice really is gaining the worldwide dominance alleged. Written by criminologists and policy analysts, Criminalisation and advanced marginality offers a constructive but critical application of Wacquant’s ideas. The contributors welcome the opportunity presented by Wacquant’s work to re-engage with a radical politics of law and order, criminalisation and marginality, whilst raising issues of gender, resistance, conflict and history which, they argue, help to enrich and further develop Wacquant’s analyses.The book concludes with a chapter from Professor Wacquant himself responding to the commentaries upon his work. It fills an important gap in the existing literature and will be exciting reading for academics and students of criminology, social policy and the social sciences more broadly.”

Sounds really interesting. I’m putting it on my students’ reading lists for next year…