4A Technologies of Control

Parallel Session 4A (Day 2 11.00-12.00)


Technologies of Control

Luca Follis (Lancaster University) : Framing digital incapacity: penal technology, carceral circuitry and the logic of control.

Technology is revolutionizing policing. It is not just the influx of personal body cameras or the near ubiquity of mobile computing and digitized paperwork. License plate readers, predictive policing algorithms and drone units are increasingly routine aspects of police work in many jurisdictions.  Police departments maintain a visible, active presence on social media as points of public contact, crisis response tools and as intelligence gathering sites. Yet on the carceral side of the justice continuum, the security challenges new technologies present overshadow their prosocial or even institutional applications. Within prisons, technology is often understood and framed in terms of its control functions or its security implications and not its potential positive social and resettlement elements. Indeed, a key problematic for administrators is stemming the clandestine flow of mobile phones and intercepting the flight patterns of courier drones delivering drugs. And even on the administrative side, technology infrastructure is fragmented, decentralized and arcane. Offender managers, probation staff, and community rehabilitation company workers shuffle between a variety of software platforms with varying degrees of access and information about prisoner sentence plans, their risk levels and their resettlement needs. This paper draws on UK prison fieldwork and official documents to problematize the widening digital gulf between prisons, their charges and the rest of the criminal justice system. It argues that even as calls for prison reform and penal abolition become part of mainstream policy debates, new forms of digital exclusion and technological incapacity are increasingly unrecognized and undertheorized facets of the carceral experience.

Christophe Mincke (NICC, Brussels) : The carceral and mobile segregation. On the effect of digital technologies

The prison is founded on specific technologies that made this specific institution possible which were then refined to allow its further development. Walls, doors, windows, circulation patterns, training, barbed wire, procedures and so on all serve a common function of coercive modification of settlement, inducing a triple movement: expulsion from the habitual setting, segregation by forced settlement inside walls and barring freedoms enjoyed outside them   (Milhaud 2009, 72). They also deeply structure the prison’s inner compartmentalisation. A number of these technologies are designed to materialise the border between the inside and the outside of prison as well as its inner borders. The recent digital turn led to the development of tracking technologies and monitoring devices that can keep an eye on convicts without the need for materialised borders. But far more than merely allowing the carceral to extend beyond prison walls, they carry new space-time and mobility representations and a mobilitarian ideology that change the face of the carceral. In turn, what effect do these technologies have inside the prison walls where they are also used? How do they confront the classical representation of carceral space-time and (im)mobility? In my contribution, I shall show that digital technologies and other associated technologies allow the extension of the prison at the price of modifying its fundamental spatiotemporal logic. At the same time, this mutation is the occasion of a ‘normalization’ of the prison through a shift from surveillance toward monitoring, following the evolution that has occurred in the free society. I shall also show how the offense and the offender can be conceived differently in a mobility-oriented carceral.

Neil Waghorn (Aberystwyth University) : Prisons, Resistance and the Rise of Narco-Drone

Recent years have seen drones proliferate across the civilian sphere for a wide range of applications, some beneficial, others, somewhat more nefarious. This paper takes the utilisation of the drone as a tool to smuggle contraband into prisons as its inspiration; using the narco-drone as a tool to explore the use of smuggling of contraband and how it can viewed as a form of resistance within power relationships of the prison. In doing so, the paper also explores the variety of ways in which the prison, and the wider state, is attempting to counter the use of drones in this manner, outlining the successes and limitations of these current efforts, and proposed potential options. This nefarious application of drones, accompanied with potential counter-measures also allows for a discussion regarding the porous nature of the prison boundary and how the emergence of aerial mobility ensures the conceptualisation of (prison) territory as volumetric.