4 Carceral Landscapes

Tuesday 18th December 2018 10:10-11:30

4 Carceral Landscapes


Addressing violence in carceral and confined spaces

Claire Loughnan (University of Melbourne)


Increasing reports of violence and neglect in diverse institutional settings, whether in aged and disability care, immigration detention or youth justice, suggest that there is something deeply amiss in the institutional culture of western liberal democracies. Although these diverse institutional settings have distinctly different purposes, they each share a context of confinement and control. That we are witnessing similar practices in each, whether designed for punishment or care, is an ethical concern. Calls have been made for improvements to staff manuals, procedures and physical environments to alleviate this trend. And a strong theme in contemporary, critical criminological literature (Jewkes), and in research in carceral geography (Moran, Jewkes) is that the development of green, open spaces in these settings is critical to providing care or rehabilitation which affirms human dignity. This paper explores some intersections in concerns across these settings to suggest that a focus on green spaces, whilst valuable, potentially directs our attention away from the need for a deeper shift in institutional conduct which supports the value of human relationships.   As a counterpoint, it asks: how can we develop an ethical orientation in which the value of professional work as vocation and service to others, is foundational to ethical practice in our institutions?


Carceral convergences in Spain and the US: A counterpoint photographic arrangement

Leah Montange (University of Toronto)


In this photo essay, I document two sites of immigration detention: the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, WA, U.S.; and el Centro de Internamiento de Extranjeros – Aluche (CIE-Aluche) in Madrid, Spain. Both are urban detention centers that house recent border crossers alongside long-term residents with deportation orders. Both were opened in 2005 to very little public outcry and are now highly contested. However, these two sites are shaped by very different historical, political, and economic processes. El CIE-Aluche is sited in the only remaining building of la Carcel de Carabanchel, a large prison complex originally built with the forced labor of Franco’s political prisoners just after the Spanish Civil War. Meanwhile, the grounds of the NWDC housed a meat-packing facility for a century, and today stores mounds of contaminated soil from the neighboring property, formerly a coal gasification plant. I engage with these landscapes visually and in writing to create a geographical carceral counterpoint, which I distinguish from Cindi Katz’s counter-topography. Rather than investigate how similar social and historical forces shape disparate geographies, I trace here how disparate social and historical forces shape converging, though distinct, geographies of immigration detention. The spaces I document are both potent, powerful, evocative. So too are the alliances that have formed to contest them: these address the specific histories and politics of the sites in question. Thus, this photo essays not only reflects the geographic divergences and convergences of the sites, but of the struggles that have unfolded in each.


Tending the prison garden

Elizabeth Lara (Deakin University)


How do prison gardens escape their prisons? Although successful garden programs might entrench the prison as a mode of punishment or rehabilitation by reducing operational costs or recidivism rates, gardens can also literally and figuratively subvert the prison. This occurs when plants and plant parts – seeds, seedlings, roots, fruit and flowers – move across the prison boundary with wind, worms, birds, insects or people. Subversion of boundaries also occurs in the minds of current and former prison gardeners when they recall past experiences in various green spaces. These are just some of the many under-recognized aspects of prison gardens, which exist in as much variety as the institutions housing them. As an interdisciplinary scholar engaging with gardens as natureculture assemblages, I wonder what the methodologies associated with multispecies ethnography and critical plant studies can contribute to explorations of the carceral, and vice versa. With this paper I aim to initiate dialogue with the broader community of carceral geographers about how to study the ways that prison gardens reify and challenge prison norms. My forthcoming doctoral fieldwork will start with the questions: What knowledges are being produced in prison gardens? What forms of engagement with vegetal lives are emerging among dynamic carceral communities? In opening this dialogue, and within my broader project, I implore fuller understandings and imaginings of prison gardens past, present and future.


‘Fit and Re-Orientation:’ Unpacking layers of carceral design heritage in contemporary design of special care homes for youth, and its impact on well-being

Franz James and Sepideh Olausson (University of Gothenburg)


The main focus of this paper is on special residential youth homes with particular carceral heritage and its impact on well-being. These state-run homes, in Sweden, provide compulsory care for children and adolescents with severe psychosocial problems and/or criminal behavior. Unfortunately, carceral heritage from the prison and asylum is nothing new to children and adolescents with an ‘institutional career’ whose bodies are used to, shaped and orientated by these environments. A phenomenological viewpoint that draws on Sarah Ahmed’s “Queer phenomenology” is used to analyze and bring forward the concept of ‘Fit and Re-Orientation’ as a critical understanding of how carceral heritage is played out, not only in the past but as well in contemporary designed environments of care for children and adolescents. Empirical data that supports the concept has been collected through the qualitative visual methods ‘Sketch and Talk’ and Photovoice. Moreover, the concept of Fit and Re-Orientation’ is visualized through a model to understand the dialectic relationship between the incarcerated person and the carceral physical environment and how this relationship becomes counterproductive for (re)habilitation and well-being. Finally, unpacking the carceral layers suggest that contemporary interior design in special residential youth homes (unintentionally) embrace and develop its carceral heritage and ideology through materiality, penal ideology and economic factors. Moreover, this raises the question to how children and adolescents in need of care can ‘Re-Orientate’ themselves within this carceral interior design when it ‘Fits’ their previous self-destructive path of life?