Find! Read! Journal of Prisoners on Prisons

5 November 2017
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Journal of Prisoners on Prisons, vol.25, Nu 1 (2016)

I have arrived late to the smorgasbord of the Canadian compilation of essays written by and about prison, conditions, rehabilitation. But I’m delighted to be at the table.  I’m reviewing this one issue in the hopes that many of you will reach out and get a copy ($15), subscribe ($30 or inmates $15), or encourage a Loved One to submit an essay.

Editor Prof. Justin Piche and several students, formerly incarcerated, have joined forces to allow the statistics, the personal stories, and the insights of those Inside to inform those Outside who are interested in the disgrace we refer to as a criminal “justice system.” It is neither “just” nor a “system,” actually.

This issue begins with a requiem for several former contributors; an ethnographer who died in prison despite working against violence, and an inmate who was finally confined to solitary confinement for having butter in his cell—he had a crippling stroke while in that hole.  I mention this issue’s brief introduction to show how true to its mission this publication is. The editors know the contributors.  They follow their lives and provide both a forum for discussion and also that personal touch from the outside world.  Every person Inside needs that touch.

This issue, for instance contains six essays about prison that are followed by a professor’s response to them. Then, three curious and fascinating reference articles introducing inmate-helper organizations.  (a book club, a campaign for the release of aging prisoners RAPP), and writer who tells the condensed stories of inmates). Finally, a book review and a tip-of-the-hat mention of the artists who work grave the front and back covers.

Gregory Webb writes from Victoria, Australia, about the underlying atmosphere of consumption inmates both leave behind in society but replicated once behind bars. No, I had never thought about that!  From the size of the cells and different levels of freedom in them to the Shops and Commissary, inmates replicate the commercial world and how to navigate it.  But that’s not all to the good:

“The message sent by the prison-industrial complex seems to be one aimed at making prisoners docile through working, buying, and consuming. That is, to become a citizen, the prisoner is required to adopt a conservative ideological perspective in a capitalistic, individualistic and fragmented world.  In this context of keeping-up with our peers in a competitive and unfriendly environment as each other tries to outdo the other via the collection of material artifacts that tell a unique story in a familiar and bleak space, rehabilitation is a personal journey through every moment where the clock ticks life away.”

Tara Perry and Colleen Hackett collaborated on an essay that looks at dominations and oppressions inside U.S. prisons. One author is an inmate;  the other a feminist criminologist.,  Their research and writing are thus informed personally and academically into a blistering review of what passes for “rehabilitation” in women’s prisons.

“Rehabilitation jn prison is another technology in the social control toolbox that serves to victim-blame and shame the criminalized, while evading any discussion of the structural inequities connected to criminalization.”

The authors question the “blaming the victim” mentality of the books and programs, arguing that their rhetoric “avoids the critical gaze on the violent patriarchal structures that allow interpersonal and institutional abuses to happen in the first place.”

Other articles address hepatitis, prison “medical,” living among the mentally ill, prison violence, for-profit prisons. As you see, these journals contain so much information that the Outside world needs to learn about, accept as fact, and work to change.  Let’s work to make the publication available!

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