Carceral Geography at the AAG Chicago 2015 – Final Line-Ups!

Those attending the AAG in Chicago are very welcome at any or all of the seven sessions on carceral geography that will span the first and second days of the conference.

Final details are:

1141 Carceral Geographies I: Theorisations of Confinement

Tuesday 8:00 AM – 9:40 AM in New Orleans, Hyatt, West Tower, Gold Level

8:00 AM   *Christophe Mincke – Prison: Legitimacy Through Mobility?

8:20 AM   *Elizabeth A. Brown – Care, carceral geographies, and the reconfiguration of mass incarceration

8:40 AM   *Kimberley Peters, Jennifer Turner – ‘Unlock the volume’: bringing height and depth to carceral mobilities

9:00 AM   *Stephanie Figgins – Between the Sheets of the U.S. Deportation Regime

9:20 AM   Discussant: Nick Gill

1241 Carceral Geographies II: Prison Architecture and Design

Tuesday 10:00 AM – 11:40 AM in New Orleans, Hyatt, West Tower, Gold Level

10:00 AM   *Gideon Boie, Fie Vandamme – Prison Up Close: subject positions in the penitentiary spatial structure

10:20 AM   *Dominique Moran, Jennifer Turner, Yvonne Jewkes – Becoming big things: Building events and the architectural geographies of incarceration in England and Wales

10:40 AM   *Jennifer Turner, Dominique Moran, Yvonne Jewkes – Components of the carceral: The lived experience of prison design

11:00 AM   *Fie Vandamme, Gideon Boie – Fit IN Stand OUT: Rules and Elements for Humane Prison Architecture

11:20 AM   Discussant: Lauren Martin

1441 Carceral Geographies III: Activity, Agency and Organisation.

Tuesday 12:40 PM – 2:20 PM in New Orleans, Hyatt, West Tower, Gold Level

12:40 PM   session continues

1:00 PM   *Orisanmi Burton – The Politics of Containment: Prison-Based Activism in the Empire State

1:20 PM   *Lloyd Alexander Gray – How do prisoners experience and perceive the education environment within a prison? An interpretative phenomenological analysis approach

1:40 PM   *Geraldine Brown, Elizabeth Bos, Geraldine Brady, Moya Kneafsey, Martin Glynn – A holistic evaluation of delivering a community based food growing mentoring programme in a prison setting with substance misuse offenders.

2:00 PM   Discussant: Shaul Cohen

1541 Carceral Geographies IV: Gendered and Embodied Confinement.

Tuesday 2:40 PM – 4:20 PM in New Orleans, Hyatt, West Tower, Gold Level

2:40 PM   *Victoria Knight – Modus Vivendi: The cell, emotions, social relations and television

3:00 PM   *Jessica Bird – Segregation in Scottish Prisons: A Socio-Spatial History

3:20 PM   *William John Payne – Governmentality, performativity and sexuality – A scholarly consideration of a drag show in a prison

3:40 PM   *Rae Rosenberg, M.A – Transgender Embodiment in Carceral Space: Hypermasculinity and the US Prison Industrial Complex

4:00 PM   Discussant: Karen M. Morin

1641 Carceral Geographies V: (Re)defining Boundaries.

Tuesday 4:40 PM – 6:20 PM in New Orleans, Hyatt, West Tower, Gold Level

4:40 PM   Geraldine Brown,*Elizabeth Bos – We were there too: Reflexive experiences of evaluating a prison gardening intervention

5:00 PM   *Dana Cuomo – Incarceration and domestic violence: Perspectives from victims on the outside

5:20 PM   *Tony Sparks – The Asylum is on These Streets: Managing Mental Illness in the Carceral Community

5:40 PM   *Avril Maddrell – The charity shop, permeable carcarel spaces, gendered power relations, reparation and rehabilitation

6:00 PM   Discussant: Jennifer Turner

2177 Carceral Geographies VI: (Re)defining Boundaries 2

Wednesday 8:00 AM – 9:40 AM in Alpine 2, Swissôtel, Lucerne Level

8:00 AM   *Nathan Wolf Kahn – Public Memory, Landscape, and Historic Carcerality at the Groveland Correctional Facility

8:20 AM   *Oriane Simon – Extraordinary Rendition’s Transfers in Ambiguous Spaces

8:40 AM   *Vanessa Anne Massaro – Prison’s revolving door and the porous boundaries of carceral spaces

9:00 AM   *Stephen Averill Sherman – Why Drug-Free School Zones are Bad for Communities: Evaluating sentence enhancement zone outcomes across urban forms

9:20 AM   Discussant: Dominique Moran

2277 Carceral Geographies VII: Future Directions in Carceral Geographies

Wednesday 10:00 AM – 11:40 AM in Alpine 2, Swissôtel, Lucerne Level

Panelist(s): Shaul Cohen, Nick Gill, Dominique Moran, Deirdre Conlon, Jennifer Turner

Bastoy Prison Island: “loss of liberty is all the punishment they suffer”

In today’s Guardian, Erwin James visits Norway’s Bastoy prison to look at conditions branded ‘cushy’ and ‘luxurious’, but which deliver the lowest recidivism rates in Europe. The report details the conditions in which prisoners live in Bastoy (in self catering ‘pod’ communities) rather than in mass cellular accommodation, and the attitude towards punishment which prevails in Scandinavia. Even in Norway’s Skien maximum security prison, the loss of liberty is all the punishment that prisoner are intended to suffer.

This report from Bastoy reinforces the differences in penal systems with which carceral geographers are concerned, and recalls the philosophy towards the conditions of imprisonment in neighbouring Finland which is displayed in the Sentences Enforcement Act: “Punishment is a mere loss of liberty: The enforcement of sentence must be organised so that the sentence is only loss of liberty. Punishment shall be enforced so that it does not unnecessarily impede but, if possible, promotes a prisoner’s placement in society. Harms caused by imprisonment must be prevented, if possible. The circumstances in a penal institution must be organised so that they correspond to those prevailing in the rest of society. Prisoners must be treated justly and respecting their human dignity.”

What this essentially means is that Finland has for decades been decoupled from the US (and increasingly the European) tendency to politicize criminal justice policy to the extent that criminal justice becomes a political tool rather than a balanced assessment of criminal justice interventions. As Lappi-Seppälä (2002, 33) observes, in these contexts ‘the higher the level of political authority, the more simplistic the approaches advocated. The results can be seen in slogans that are compressed into two or three words, including “prison works”, “war on drugs” and “zero tolerance”’ which in turn leads politicians to ‘pander to punitive (or presumably punitive) public opinion with harsh tough-on-crime campaigns’. In Finland, prison is not considered to “work” and the solutions to social problems are not ‘sought where they cannot be found – the penal system’ (ibid 33). In Norway and Finland, then, it may be argued that prison policy is informed more by an understanding of the likely success of specific interventions for the stated aims of incarceration, than by a political imperative to respond to public opinion, or as Ruth Wilson Gilmore (2002, 16) has argued, to use the prison system as ‘a project of state-building’ (Moran & Keinänen, 2012).

Much of the work within the new sub-discipline of carceral geography originates in or pertains to the highly incarcerative, or ‘hypercarcerative’ contexts of the US, the UK and the Russian Federation, raising questions over the transferability of theorisations of the carceral to other less carcerative, or actively ‘de-carcerative’ settings. By drawing attention to the penal context of Scandinavia, this Guardian article underlines the need to pay particular attention to context when theorising carceral space.

Build Your Own Prison – ‘Prison Architect’

‘The Gamer’s Hub’ recently previewed UK Introversion Software’s Prison Architect, on display at the Eurogamer Expo at Earl’s Court, London. It’s a game about building prisons: “In it, you’re handed a prison warden’s truncheon and the responsibility for managing the day-to-day to-and-fro of the goings on within your jail…. the aim is to build an economically-viable business, while meeting the needs of inmates and investors alike.”

Gamers create a prison in their own image, giving the institution the facilities it needs, “from cells and generators to toilets and adequate lighting” with the opportunity to construct “an execution chamber for a waiting inmate, guilty of the murder of his wife and her lover”. Whilst the gamer designs the space, “he and a priest sit in one of the cells awaiting the inevitable. As you complete each rudimentary objective, brief flashbacks of his path to the pen are recalled – polaroid snapshots and comic-book stills capture the moments before his arrest, as the prisoner tells of his motives, malice and regret.”

One of the designers behind the game, Mark Morris, admitted in a recent interview that Introversion hadn’t really given a lot of thought to the contentious nature of prisons, especially in the US: “I think they have a very different view on incarceration than we do in the UK… We’re not trying to stamp down on our own views of prisons and incarceration, but we want to make an accurate-ish model where you can explore punishment vs. rehabilitation, those sorts of things. Learning quite quickly that we didn’t have an understanding of all this, we reached out to quite a prevalent rehabilitated prisoner and currently serving prison officers to talk to them about whether there was anything ridiculous in our game. We’re not trying to make a serious model for the Home Office. It’s a game. But it’s also an interesting and in-depth project.”

Human geographers have recently begun to explore virtual worlds such as Second Life, with for example Li et al (2010) discussing the notion of the ‘multiple spaces’ in which we live, some of which are virtual social worlds far beyond computer games. In their paper they examine the interplays and connections among these different spaces, and their social implications. In terms of Prison Architect, although the potentially controversial nature of the game’s subject matter appears to have escaped the attention of its designers until rather late in the day, perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye. Although in its early stages of development and release ‘Prison Architect offers few variations on a predictable theme of prison design, apparently as it develops further there will be more ‘political’ choices to make; the Games Hub reviewer was told by the designers that “we can expect much more licence to build a slammer in our own moral image further down the line…we can expect anything from Darth Vader style dungeons to left-wing, liberal holiday homes – whichever best suits your mood.” However, the overall logic of the game seems to remain the economic viability of the prison…

Prison Architect raises interesting questions about the view of prisons and imprisonment held by the general public, and the extent to which the game panders to ‘presumably punitive’ public opinion. In a special issue of the Prison Service Journal on representations of imprisonment, in January 2012, Tony Kearon examined the ways in which fictional accounts of imprisonment intersect with dominant narratives within news media, and in his editorial to the special edition, Michael Fiddler points out that many contemporary media challenge the messages projected by ‘standard’ representations of imprisonment, forcing us to ‘look anew’.

For carceral geographers interested in the construction and the experience of carceral spaces, and understandings of them outside of the context of imprisonment, Prison Architect is a not just a representation of prison life created as spectacle for the entertainment of an audience, with the potential to shape the views and opinions that they hold: it requires the active and interested participation of the audience in active designing the penal space itself; arguably the experience is reflexive, enabling experimentation and reflection. In any case, this game offers the opportunity to consider virtual carceral space as a one of the ‘multiple spaces’ in which we live, the interplay and connections between this and other lived spaces, and the social implications of that interplay.