The Politics of Imprisonment
This class begins with the presupposition that there is a politics of imprisonment, i.e., that the fact of incarceration cannot be understood solely as an individual consequence of a personal choice. There are more than 2.3 million people in prison in the U.S., a country that incarcerates more people than any other in the world. This system that many have called “mass incarceration” is built upon and crucial to enduring forms of racial, class, gender, and sexual oppression. This class will introduce students to the histories behind and contemporary realities of mass incarceration in the U.S., exploring how legal and legislative codes, policy decisions, institutional structures, and cultural ideas have shaped the emergence of the United States as a carceral state. While we will explore the social systems and institutional structures that sustain the prison system in the U.S., we will also imagine the possibilities of its undoing, tracing histories of anti-prison activism and locating present-day political interventions to create a world without prison walls.