A New Mass Incarceration: Community Corrections, Carceral Geography, and Spatial Power

This manuscript is available for download here


In the age of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (2010), promises to depopulate overcrowded American prisons, and a mainstream acknowledgement of mass incarceration, the American criminal justice system is anything but inert. Instead, modalities of punishment are shifting, particularly towards community-located corrections involving GPS surveillance. This paper seeks to examine this evolution of the carceral state through the marriage of two theoretical lenses: carceral geography and Foucauldian spatial power analysis. Carceral geography offers a theory of the embodied nuance of movement. Its work revolves around the three mobilities of the carceral system: movement to/from, within, and between prisons. This paper argues that community-located corrections comprises a fourth mobility, moving the carceral regime into communities and coercively moving bodies within those communities. Foucault supplements this analysis by offering a system to evaluate how space expresses power; this paper argues that community corrections fit Foucault’s model in that they distribute and disciplined bodies into partitioned space. Finally, having dug into the theoretical ramifications of a shift to community corrections, this paper will evaluate policy decisions, arguing that the racist violence of brick-and-mortar prisons justifies policy evolution, but that typical community corrections will not be a panacea for deeply rooted structural flaws.

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Iolanthe Brooks

Iolanthe Brooks

Iolanthe Brooks ‘19 is a Geography and Sociology major with interests in critical criminology, mobilities, urban studies, and critical theory. She is interested in what a critical engagement with the carceral state can teach us about political economy broadly, how the messiness of embodied experience dialogues with critical theory, and how systemic injustice is lived and resisted through (non)movement. Iolanthe is currently developing an honors thesis on experiences of prison transport and looks forward to pursuing further research in a graduate program. Iolanthe can be found visiting Clark’s bee hives, walking around Worcester, in the pottery studio, and wherever free food is advertised.