From Cries to Whimpers: The Evolution of Marginality Within Contemporary American Supermax Prisons
Feldman, Jennifer Natasha
This thesis is a multidisciplinary study of supermax prisons and solitary confinement that draws on sources such as articles from law journals and newspapers, case law testimonies and court opinions, and the history and anthropology of prisons, in an attempt to explain the consequences of such confinement on both its prisoners and the society to which they soon will return. Specifically, I examine how the technologies of supermax, such as fully automated cells that support "touchless" long-term solitary confinement, video visitation and telemedicine, and even nutritional technologies such as "nutraloaf" (1) contribute to the production of the unique conditions present in contemporary supermax prisons in American; (2) affect the interactions between inmates and staff; and (3) mask the injustices inherent in the very design of supermax prisons.I conclude that supermax prisons resemble the camp space in the state of exception described by Giorgio Agamben in three major ways: symbolically, they were conceived of as spaces defined in actual states of exception that, over time, have become normalized in practice as the rule; physically, they are located in distant, liminal places within America that effectively remove their inmates as far as possible from society; and at the structural level of imprisonment, they create and sustain conditions that further marginalize prisoners in ways that are symbolically, physically, and legally more restrictive than ever before seen in American corrections.
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