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Asher D. Colombo and Luigi La Fauci

In 2013, the European Court of Human Rights found that the conditions inside Italian prisons were so bad, they amounted to inhuman and/or degrading punishment. Since that time, the Italian government has attempted to reduce overcrowding inside prisons. This chapter shows that most of the reduction in overcrowding has not been the result of amnesties, pardons, or other forms of early release, such as electronic tagging. Rather, it is the result of changes that have decreased the number of individuals entering prison, in particular prisoners on remand and those awaiting final sentencing.

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Philippine Prison Marriages

The Politics of Kinship and Women's Composite Agency

Sif Lehman Jensen

conflict and precariousness that permeates their everyday lives. The prison marriages enable the women both to insert themselves in the city and to respond to norms and questions of morality, which are socially and politically embedded in the home

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Sensing prison climates

Governance, survival, and transition

Tomas Max Martin, Andrew M. Jefferson, and Mahuya Bandyopadhyay

In December 2010 members of the Global Prisons Research Network (GPRN) met for a seminar entitled “Dissecting the 'Non-Western' Prison.” The articles showcased in this thematic section were first presented there. This introduction proposes the notion of “prison climate” as a useful way of rethinking variations and similarities across prisons. This notion directs attention away from the prison “as such” to the prison “as is” and points to the fact that the idea of prison itself is contested and changing, however hegemonic it might appear. We argue that a truly representative and international penology should go beyond the mapping of differences and similarities. Rather, the researcher should pursue the twofold question of what persists and what mutates within and across prison worlds. We advocate an ethnographic orientation to deciphering the entanglements of relations, practices, and dynamics that constitute particular prison climates and we include some reflections on the particular challenges of conducting fieldwork in prisons.

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Privatization and Patriarchy

Prisons, Sanctions, and Education

Nili Cohen

Examining two Israeli cases, this article addresses the highly controversial question about the privatization of state authority. The first concerns the Supreme Court decision that prohibits private prisons, a ruling that reflects the deep-rooted assumption that criminal punishment is a matter of state authority. The second case refers to the Israeli religious organization Takana Forum, which seeks to handle sexual offenses committed by authoritative figures within its community. The relation between privatization, privacy, and multiculturalism is presented as potentially perpetuating patriarchal authority in family life, education, and punishment. Following this discussion, different models of privatization based on the nature of the respective privatized authority are presented. The article concludes with an analysis of the conflict between communal and state law and its potential effect on Israel's collective co-existence.

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Violence makes safe in South African prisons

Prison gangs, violent acts, and victimization among inmates

Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard and Sasha Gear

That gangs have a prominent place in South African prison violence—like in many other geographical contexts—has become increasingly clear. Based on qualitative research among South African inmates and ex-inmates, we propose that prison gangs be considered adaptation strategies to the extremely coercive and oppressive environments of prisons. We focus on the relationship between gang involvement in prison, violent acts among inmates, and the risk of being subjected to violence during incarceration. By providing emic perspectives, we aim to demonstrate how inmates negotiate three types of social roles, largely defined by their ability and willingness to use violence: franse, gangster, and wyfie. Our findings suggest that prison gangs may jeopardize the personal safety of inmates, but can also paradoxically offer some inmates the opportunity to establish a sense of safety and agency by avoiding random violence.

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Simon Rolston

This article explores how the rehabilitative discourse of the American prison system shapes the writings of American prisoners. The article begins by tracing how the conversion narrative underpins prison reformers' theories of prison rehabilitation. Then, the article considers how American prisoners like Caryl Chessman, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Malcolm X, George Jackson, and Jack Henry Abbott use the conversion narrative and theories of rehabilitation in their life writings. The article argues that prisoners' life writings do not, as is often presumed, 'write back to power' so much as invoke competing discourses that contest but also reinforce the ideology of the American prison system.

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Breea C. Willingham

The purpose of this article is to describe the meaning of incarceration for African American women as depicted in the narratives of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated African American women. This article uses black feminist thought as the primary theoretical framework to provide the relevant context for understanding the race, sexual, and gender oppressions that contribute to African American women's experiences with imprisonment. I argue that black women's prison narratives offer a unique insight into interlocking patterns of oppression that contribute to their incarceration, and how discrimination based on race, gender, and sexuality extends into prison.

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Joe Lockard and Sherry Rankins-Robertson

The essay addresses the right to education for inmates and the disappearance of postsecondary education from US prisons; prison-university educational partnerships; and the potential of online programmes toward realization of education rights for US prisoners. As practical address to these issues, the article discusses an English department initiative to provide a partnership with prisons. As a creative example of how to reach all prison populations, this essay illustrates an online writing internship between undergraduate writing majors with primarily maximum-security inmates at the Penitentiary of New Mexico. By using online technology common on university campuses in the United States and elsewhere, the project has created a prison-university bridge and educational service that can be replicated and scaled upward. Such digital work spurs new social activism within university communities.

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Tomas Max Martin

Ugandan prison staff both criticize and welcome human rights as a reform agenda that brings about insecurity as well as tangible improvements. In practice, human rights discourse is malleable enough for prison officers to cobble together a take on human rights that enables them to embrace the concept. The analysis of the emic notion of “reasonable caning” illustrates this malleability as staff concurrently take stands against inhumane violence and continue to legitimize caning while aligning with human rights. Human rights are locally negotiated, and it is argued that human rights reform cannot simply be analyzed as a submissive or opposing reaction to the top-down export of powerful global discourses. The embrace of human rights that unfolds in Ugandan prisons is rather a productive and multifaceted effort by prison officers to get purchase on legal technologies and reconceptualizations of prison management practices that affect their lives.

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Florence Fröhlig

This article examines visits by French people to the former Soviet prison camp in Tambov, Russia, where Alsatians-Mosellans men were imprisoned during World War II. Because the memory of these prisoners of war, conscripted by force into the German army during the war is disappearing together with the witnesses, some survivors organized in the 1990s journeys to the Tambov former prison camp, called “pilgrimages.“ There are currently two kinds of pilgrimages: pilgrimages for survivors of the camp and their close relatives and pilgrimages for grandchildren of former Tambov inmates. This article suggests that the pilgrims, confronting their past, are engaged with a process of identity making, and that pilgrimage provides pilgrims with the opportunity to confront their grief for the dead or their sense of injustice and to let go of the past. The article concludes that with the pilgrimage the value of Tambov as a place of death is re-evaluated.