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

Call for Seminar Papers: Carceral Coordinates

Carceral geographers may be interested in the following call for papers for a seminar organised as part of The American Comparative Literature Association’s 2012 conference, which is taking place at the University of Toronto, Canada, April 4-7th 2013. The call is posted below:
Organisers: Brett Story (University of Toronto) and Jill Stoner (University of California, Berkeley)
“An entire universe added to my Time.” – Jacobo Timerman, Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number
It is in the nature of imprisonment to alter the space of Time, to skew location in all its dimensions.  Prisons and their analogous cultural counterparts, so often designed according to strict Cartesian geometries and precise temporal segmentation, nevertheless establish their own geographies, and their own histories, outside these systems.We invite participants to reflect on sites and scenes imposed and invented through various states of imprisonment: solitary confinement and its attendant tactics of subversive communication; death row and its Kafkan politics of infinite postponement; urban contexts that effectively establish their carceral qualities with assortments of cameras, gates, laws and keys. 
We hope to assemble within the seminar a wide representation of genres – including conventional and new forms of literature by and about prisoners – and to chart these various discoveries onto a new, shared map that will allow us to better navigate the current landscape of incarceration in its various iterations.  Thus will emerge a new positioning system – perhaps global, perhaps not – without the conventions of latitude or longitude, its distances not measured in feet or miles.  We refer here to literature in its broadest sense: fiction, texts, documents, film, etc.
Paper proposals should go through the conference website, and acceptance is competitive. International submissions are welcome; international participants should just make sure to obtain any necessary visas well ahead of time.

Prisons and prisoner behaviour – space and affect

“Very little is understood and appreciated of the behavioral influence of environmental factors on prisoners and staff. It would be difficult to find a correctional official, warden, superintendent, or line officer that does not agree that a facility’s architectural design has a corresponding influence on prisoner behavior.” (Austin 2003, 5)

I keep coming back to this passage of text from James Austin’s report for the US Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons, wondering why, and thinking that this is exactly the kind of question that carceral geography is well placed to address.

In today’s Guardian magazine, Amelia Gentleman’s piece on Halden, the world’s ‘most humane prison’ raises this question again, although in an utterly different penal regime – the decarcerative setting of Norway rather than the hyperincarcerative context of the US. One of Norway’s highest security institutions, Halden apparently smells of coffee, cells have flat screen TVs and fluffy towels, and prisoners look out over wooded landscapes within the prison grounds. Doors don’t slam shut and prisoners are out of their cells for most of the day. The prison’s architects were set a challenge of designing a space that was ‘light and positive’, and ‘shouldn’t look like a prison’. The principle, given that in Norway the maximum sentence is 21 years and all prisoners are expected to return to the world outside, was that ‘life behind the walls should be as much like life outside the walls as possible.’ As the prison governor discussed, the spatial context is just as important as the rehabilitative regime:

“Everyone who is imprisoned inside Norwegian prisons will be released… everyone… will go back to society. We look at what kind of neighbour you want to have when they come out. If you stay in a box for a few years, then you are not a good person when you come out… We don’t think about revenge in the Norwegian prison system. We have much more focus on rehabilitation. It is a long time since we had fights between inmates. It is this building that makes softer people.” (my emphasis)

Although governor Are Høidal is as convinced of the effect of the building on prisoners’ behaviour as are the correctional officers in James Austin’s report, little is known about how this effect takes place. Some fascinating work within criminology sheds some light on prison architecture, notably Michael Fiddler’s 2011 papers on the phantasmagoric prison, and the prison’s Gothic shadow, but perhaps of greatest interest to carceral geographers is Philip Hancock and Yvonne Jewkes’s recent paper ‘Architectures of incarceration; The spatial pains of imprisonment’ which calls into question the ‘enlightened humanism’ of new generation prisons like Halden, and identifies some ‘pains of imprisonment’ which arise specifically in these contexts, pointing out that the intentions of architectural design can also be lost in everyday practice. They conclude by raising questions about the future of prison architecture and design, and also ‘for the role and trajectory of… research… and particularly for our need to understand the lived experience of such spaces for all those required to inhabit them’ (p627, my emphasis).

Understanding the lived experience of spaces is, of course, at the heart of geographical enquiry. Space is recognised by geographers as more than the surface where social practices take place. As Adey (2008, 440) argues, ‘specific spatial structures… can work to organise affect to have certain effects’. Designers of spaces consider ‘seductive spatiality’ (Rose et al 2010, 347) or ‘ambient power’ (Allen 2006, 445) through which to direct or shape human behaviour within these spaces. Essentially, geographers understand that space ‘matters’, and can affect the ways people act within it.

Although almost a decade has passed since Austin noted that “There are few, if any, studies that have assessed the impact of prison architecture on prisoner behavior” (2003, 6), perhaps dialogue between criminologists and carceral geographers will go some way towards furthering our understanding of the lived experience of carceral space. And in so doing, carceral geography could address critics of geographies of affect and emotion, who argue that such studies should address more topics of relevance, and that geographers of affect should ‘seek out projects and avenues that offer grounds for critical and political thought at the same time that they open the door for participation in efforts to make positive social and political change’ (Woodward & Lea 2010, 170).

Carceral Geography – new books!

What’s that saying? You wait forever for a bus and then three come along at once? Well, this is not quite all at once, but the great news is that there are four new forthcoming books which should be of interest to geographers and others working on spaces and practices of incarceration.

Further details are available on all of these books through the links above, but some brief information is below:

“Border Watch: Cultures of Immigration, Detention and Control”

Alexandra Hall 2012

Questions over immigration and asylum face almost all Western countries. Should only economically useful immigrants be allowed? What should be done with unwanted or ‘illegal’ immigrants? In this bold and original intervention, Alexandra Hall shows that immigration detention centres offer a window onto society’s broader attitudes towards immigrants.

Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders and Global Crisis”

Jenna Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, Andrew Burridge [Eds] 2012

The crisis of borders and prisons can be seen starkly in statistics. In 2011 some 1,500 migrants died trying to enter Europe, and the United States deported nearly 400,000 and imprisoned some 2.3 million people—more than at any other time in history. International borders are increasingly militarized places embedded within domestic policing and imprisonment and entwined with expanding prison-industrial complexes. Beyond Walls and Cages offers scholarly and activist perspectives on these issues and explores how the international community can move toward a more humane future. Working at a range of geographic scales and locations, contributors examine concrete and ideological connections among prisons, migration policing and detention, border fortification, and militarization. They challenge the idea that prisons and borders create safety, security, and order, showing that they can be forms of coercive mobility that separate loved ones, disempower communities, and increase shared harms of poverty. Walls and cages can also fortify wealth and power inequalities, racism, and gender and sexual oppression. See the related blog here.

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

Dominique Moran, Nick Gill & Deirdre Conlon [Eds] 2013

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.

Look out for this one early in 2013 – more details to come.

“Carceral Geography: Prisons, Power and Space”

Dominique Moran 2013

The so-called ‘punitive turn’ has brought about new ways of thinking about geography and the state, and has highlighted spaces of incarceration as a new terrain for exploration by geographers. This book introduces ‘carceral geography’ as a geographical perspective on incarceration, tracking the ideas, practices and engagements that have shaped the development of this new and vibrant sub-discipline, and suggesting future research directions which are dynamically open to transdisciplinarity, which are both informed by and extend theoretical developments in geography, but which also, and critically, interface with contemporary debates over hyperincarceration, recidivism and the advance of the punitive state. This book conveys a sense of the debates, directions, and threads within the field of carceral geography, tracing the inner workings of this dynamic field, its synergies with criminology and prison sociology, and its likely future trajectories. By synthesizing existing work in carceral geography, and by exploring the future directions it might take, the book develops a notion of the ‘carceral’ as spatial, emplaced, mobile, embodied and affective.

More details to come as this one progresses…

Arizona’s ‘inhumane’ isolation: Amnesty Report

The extreme isolation regime used in special prisons in the US state of Arizona is cruel and dehumanises inmates, according to Amnesty International, as it released a new report accusing the state authorities of failing to care for the basic physical and mental health of these isolated prisoners.

The report, Cruel isolation: Amnesty International’s Concerns about Conditions in Arizona Maximum Security Prisons, describes how over 2,000 prisoners are confined for months or years in conditions of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation:

“More than 2,900 prisoners are held in Arizona’s highest security maximum custody facilities, the majority in the SMUs at ASPC-Eyman. Most are confined alone in windowless cells for 22 to 24 hours a day in conditions of reduced sensory stimulation, with little access to natural light and no work, educational or rehabilitation programs. Prisoners exercise alone in small, enclosed yards and, apart from a minority who have a cell-mate, have no association with other prisoners. Many prisoners spend years in such conditions; some serve out their sentences in solitary confinement before being released directly into the community.”

Amongst Amnesty’s recommendations are that Arizona authorities should:

  • Reduce the number of prisoners in isolation under SMU or similar maximum custody conditions to ensure that only prisoners who are a serious and continuing threat are held in maximum custody isolation facilities.
  • Provide a route out of segregation through incentive or step-down programs so that prisoners are not held long-term or indefinitely in isolation.
  • Improve conditions for prisoners in SMU or other maximum custody facilities so that they are not confined in windowless cells or denied access to natural light; have more out of cell time and better exercise facilities with appropriate equipment.

Understandings of carceral space, which include these extreme conditions of incarceration, are important for carceral geography. Geographers have a critical constructionist notion of space, understanding that it is not passive, but is constantly being produced and remade within complex relations of culture, power and difference. Although spaces of supermax prisons await this kind of socio-spatial inquiry, in her 2005 paper, “Inclusive Exclusion: Citizenship and the American Prisoner and Prison,” Agnes Czajka considered the proliferation of prisons in the United States, particularly the increasing number of supermax security or “camp” prisons, as an example of “the normalization of a state of exception”, drawing on the work of Giorgio Agamben. In a very different penal context, Teresa Dirsuweit (1999) discussed the interrelationship of identity and space, mapping out the prison in terms of the physical spaces and the signification that these spaces hold for prisoners and prison authorities, and Anita Wilson’s work has produced rich ethnographic material on the personal transformation of prison spaces.

David Sibley and Bettina van Hoven argue in their 2008 paper for ‘a fuller exploration of the relationships between prison architecture, the space–time regime, and correctional officers, on one hand, and the worlds of inmates, on the other’.  They point out, though, that as Amnesty found in Arizona, prison authorities do not often facilitate this kind of research.

Perhaps the Amnesty report shows that understanding how prison works, and how institutional spaces are produced and experienced, is critical to tackling such ‘inhumane’ conditions.

Wilson A 2004 Four days and a breakfast: time, space and literacy/ies in the prison community in Leander K and Sheehy M eds Spatialising literacy research and practice Peter Lang, New York 67–90

Carceral Geography: Prisons, prisoners and mobilities: “Geography Directions” blog

Carceral Geography: Prisons, prisoners and mobilities

by Fiona Ferbrache

…Carceral geography is also the focus of Moran, Piacentini and Pallot’s paper in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. Their work draws from empirical research on the Russian Penal system, and mobility theories.  The authors argue that much mobility has been conceptualised in a way that emphasises association with freedom and autonomy.  The downside is that mobility is seldom considered as an instrument of power that disciplines and limits a subject’s agency.  As the authors indicate, the academic question ‘why travel?’ is seldom answered: ‘because I had no choice’…