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Unformatted text preview: COMMENTARY Scholar’s Symposium: The Work of Angela Y. Davis Decarceration and the Philosophies of Mass Imprisonment Jeffrey Paris Published online: 19 October 2007 Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007 The prison system in the U.S. has come under increasing scrutiny and even broad criticism over the past few years, as incarceration rates have soared and scandals find their way into major national dailies. 1 Much of the work (Dyer 2000 ; Parenti 1999 ; Coyle et al. 2003 ; Mauer 1999 ; Herivel and Wright 2003 ) that has been done by figures and organizations critical of prison growth, inadequate health care and other services, construction industry and corporate profit, new policing methods and discriminatory sentencing procedures, etc., has been outstanding and one can only wish that such criticisms had greater purchase on the legal, political and economic decision-making bodies in the U.S. In what follows, I will depend heavily on, and even presuppose, these analyses. However, this essay is not meant to contribute to these analyses in a specific or concrete way; what I have noticed in my study of prison-related literature is a dearth of what might count as a ‘‘philosophical’’ analysis of prisons, or a philosophical investigation into the strengths and weaknesses of existing critical models of the prison. Surely, the phenomenal growth of individual prisons and the substantially increasing effect that the prison system has on every social institution today is worthy of a philosophical account and critique. In the following text, I will therefore offer the lineaments of a philosophical analysis of the prison institution, with particular focus on the U.S. Moreover, this analysis of three major thinkers of imprisonment—Michel Foucault, Angela Davis, and Loı¨c Wacquant—is undertaken with the goal of defending the J. Paris ( & ) Philosophy, University of San Francisco, 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94117-1080, USA e-mail: [email protected] 1 Most recently, for example, the L.A. Times published a major piece on the health care system in the California State Prisons in May 2005, at the same time the California Supreme Court found the state negligent in health care and in danger of contempt. From October 2 to October 6, 2005, the New York Times published a series critical of prison sentencing called ‘‘No Way Out: Dashed Hopes’’ on its front page. 123 Hum Stud (2007) 30:323–343 DOI 10.1007/s10746-007-9064-7 position that decarceration and/or prison abolition are the only serious responses to the prison crisis today. When I suggest that this is a ‘‘philosophical’’ analysis, I mean that I will investigate the conceptual frameworks and innovations offered by each of the three thinkers: (1) the disciplinary apparatus (Foucault); (2) the prison–industrial complex (Davis); and (3) the hyper-ghetto carceral mesh (Wacquant). And although each also contributes to a ‘‘critical theory’’ of the prison, this essay is not itself critical theory,...
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- Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison