6B Carceral Legitimacy 

Tuesday 18th December 2018 13:50-14:50

6B Carceral Legitimacy


The legitimacy of carceral space: is there still a place for prison?

Rachid El Mounacifi

Security is one of the most important challenges for contemporary integrated urban developments. All over the world, the countries are seeking social and smart city solutions to the problem of criminality. We all know the prison history and we all know that the results are very poor, so why to go on putting people behind bars and to let them go out later but worse than when they went in. That’s why governments are directly responsible for finding different solutions for minimizing the number of prisons in the world. During my research and my TV shows (Crimes scene & stories behind bars) I had the chance to meet hundreds of prisoners, listen to their stories and nearly 91% prefer to be outside the walls, that’s what confirm that we don’t need more prisons but other punishment alternatives. This conclusion is collected from a random sample of 200 prisoners that I talked to. Generally, stopping building the number of jails in the world needs a deep study of the region, type of crimes happening around and kind of people living around too and their behaviors. Personally, I don’t think that hard punishment will reduce the number of crimes and criminals, that’s why it’s about time to start finding new solutions. Holding people is holding energies that we can use to build a better world.


Ghana’s prisons: Subject to state power

Laura Routley (Newcastle University)

Prisons are key institutions of state power and yet they remain much underexplored in politics and International Relations.  Moreover, prisons in Africa are marginal in the prisons literature.  Incarceration as punishment arrived in Africa in increasingly formal ways with the encroachment of colonialization on the continent, and yet it was never implemented as it was in the colonial metropoles. What then is the place of prisons in Africa contemporarily?  This paper uses interviews with prisoners and prison officers in Ghana as well as reflections on similar work undertaken in Nigeria.  It explores two themes from this material: firstly, how those within these institutions conceptualise the role of the state in relation to the prison and secondly, how reform and rehabilitation of prisoners is understood to occur.  These insights are utilised to interrogate processes of subjectivisation (Foucault’s ‘techniques of the self’) within prisons in Ghana, in particular the role of religion for both prisoners and prison officers.  Crucially, becoming certain kinds of subjects is as vital for prison officers as much as for inmates.  Reflecting on these investigations the paper asks how we can theorise the relationships between forms of state power and their entanglement with ‘techniques of the self’ in postcolonial contexts.


Probing the official narrative: The prison crisis as a blind spot

Luca Follis (Lancaster University)

The prison system is in crisis. In 2018, there were 31,205 assaults in British prisons, of which one-third were assaults on staff. Rory Stewart the Minister for Prisons recently vowed in a BBC interview that if the current government injection of £10 million to tackle the unprecedented rates of violence and drug abuse in the UK’s ten worst prisons didn’t ameliorate conditions in one year, he would resign his post. One month later Michael Spurr, the chief executive of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service for the last nine years, announced his resignation amidst speculation that he had been forced from office. According to media and official reports, mobile phone and sim card seizures are at an all-time high even as contraband drones buzz prison yards and prisoners post photos and videos on social media while high on prison moonshine, Spice and other New Psychoactive Substances.  Clearly there is a crisis. And yet, as Janet Roitman reminds us, crises generate distinctive categorical, normative and epistemological “blind spots”. They structure a set of political judgments which make certain actions and practices visible and others invisible. This paper examines what lurks in the blind spot of the present prison crisis by considering the case of privatization. For many years the critical resistance to prison and parole privatization has been that the bottom line would drive the private sector’s capacity to deliver adequate standards of care. The fear was that privatization would be too successful and expansive, not that the companies holding these contracts would fail to make a profit or that criminal justice markets would fail to invite investment from private capital. This paper argues that although the current crisis exposes the economic fallacies associated with the government’s embrace of private security firms (and other “strategic” providers), it also provides the narrative conditions from which to elide a full reassessment of the central role such firms increasingly play in the delivery of justice.