‘Distributional’ geographies of incarceration
(CARCERAL GEOGRAPHY – www.carceralgeography.com)

‘Distributional’ geographies of incarceration have often been inspired by concern for the impact of spatial distribution of places of incarceration on the communities which host or surround them, and they frequently consider critiques and reinterpretations of Goffman’s ‘total institution’ (1961). Examples include Matthew Mitchelson (2012) on spatial interdependencies between prisons and cities in Georgia, USA, Deborah Che (2005) on the location of a prison in Appalachian Pennsylvania, USA; Amy Glasmeier & Tracey Farrigan (2007) on impacts of prison development in persistently poor rural places in the US, and Anne Bonds’ (2009) questioning of prison siting as a means of encouraging economic development, as well as studies of the effects of ‘geographies of punishment’ on experiences of incarceration,(e.g. Moran et al 2011, Pallot 2007). Much of this work extends critiques of the ‘total institution’, and suggests that the ‘carceral’ is something more than merely the spaces in which individuals are confined.

Examples of recent and current work in this area include:

Distance and Punishment in Russia This recently completed research project examined how the isolation suffered by women in Russia’s penal system shapes their experiences of custody and the decisions they make at the end of their sentences.
Imprisoned geographies – Contested Places of Long-term Confinement This recent project aimed to unravel mechanisms underlying the experience of place in prisons in the US, the Netherlands and Eastern Germany. Key objectives were: to explore the implication of long-term confinement on the formation (and preservation) of identity of prison insiders (i.e. inmates and staff); and to investigate the embeddedness of prisons in their national and local socio-cultural environments and the extent to which the interrelationships between the prison and its environment impact upon the formation of identity.
Penality and the Social Construction of Gender in Post-Soviet Russia This ongoing project aims to investigate the impact on the women who were ‘left behind’ when their husbands and sons are incarcerated in Russia’s remote penal colonies, and how the experiences of women today compare with those of previous generations.



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