Chair: Paula Maurutto
Punishment & Society I: Intersections of Risk and Carcerality
Author: Barker Vanessa , Stockholm University, Sociology Department, Stockholm University
Title: Penal Nationalism & State Violence: How Do Human Rights Matter?
In summer 2015, Sweden embarked on one of the largest self-described humanitarian efforts in its history, opening its borders to 163,000 asylum seekers fleeing the way in Syria. Six months later this massive effort was over. On January 4, 2016, Sweden closed its border with Denmark. This closure marks the startling reversal of the country’s open borders to refugees, contravenes free movement in the Schengen Area, and infringes upon international human rights norms to claim asylum. What happened? Was the EU’s response to the “migrant crisis” a “crisis in solidarity” or simply racism? I argue that it is the return of nationalism across Europe and its growing reliance on state violence that accounts for this dramatic shift in policy and practice. I develop the concept of penal nationalism to explain the specific role that criminal justice plays in upholding national order, national interests, national identities and resources. It is a significant form of state power that will be critical to our understanding of structural realignments of the twenty-first century as more affluent societies secure their own interests while imposing violence, insecurity and harm on others.
Keywords: crimmigration, nationalism, human rights, punishment, state theory
Author: Hunter Alexandra , University of Toronto/Department of Sociology & Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies
Title: Continuum of Carelessness: Paradoxes of Mental Health Care in Ontario Corrections
Most of the research on mental health in prison in Canada is done at the federal level. Almost no research has been carried out at the provincial level. Yet, virtually everyone who spends a period of time in custody in Canada does so in a provincial prison, including those who are eventually sentenced to federal prison. Existing literature points to the cyclical or transient nature of the provincial custody population. We know that the social determinants of health are much poorer than among those of the general population. This paper examines the various responses to mental disorders in prisons in Ontario, Canada's largest province. How do health care professionals who are charged with the management of mental health in prison see and understand the issue? How do health care professionals make sense of a fluid definition of what constitutes mental illness in prison? I trace how those definitions and understandings effect how people make sense of their jobs and of the role they have to play in dealing with mental health issues in prison. In doing so, I highlight how reactions to certain groups – those with 'serious mental disorders' and those with personality disorders – differ. I illustrate how those reactions impact the ways in which individuals are treated and understood. I argue, as one interviewee stated, that we need to see resist creating binary categories: “They are difficult to manage but they are also mentally ill.”
Keywords: Punishment; Prisons; Mental Health; Health Care; Incarceration Experiences
Author: Kwon Jihyun , University of Toronto/Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies
Kelly Hannah-Moffat, University of Toronto; Kelly Struthers Montford, University of Toronto
Title: Oversight Capture: the Performance of Accountability and Transparency in the Administrative Segregation Review Process
Various high profile cases and recent reports show the ongoing and excessive use of segregation in Canadian prisons. This is despite the Correctional Services of Canada’s official policy to ‘use the least restrictive measures’ and ‘consider alternatives,’ and despite its establishment of various accountability and oversight measures meant to ensure policy and procedural compliance. This presentation expands the work of Braithwaite and others on regulatory capture to argue that segregation oversight mechanisms—e.g., Segregation Review Boards and mandatory reporting—remain ineffective due to the structural and ideological inseparability of the institutions and the decision-making processes they are meant to regulate. Instead, review processes merely mimic and reproduce a larger penal culture of risk adversity, without providing meaningful opportunities for regulation and oversight. Such measures should be understood as the performance of accountability rather than ensuring fair treatment. We show that these administrative procedures effectively replace traditional external oversight performed by courts, and thus undermine the transparency of the review process. Because segregation is positioned as an indispensable tool of ‘security’ and ‘safety,’ we argue that the oversight process further legitimizes its normative and frequent use, rather than serving to curtail and diminish its position as a form of population and institutional management.
Keywords: segregation, segregation review, accountability, administrative oversight, prison
Author: Struthers Montford Kelly, University of Toronto/Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies
Title: The Limits of Evidence-Based Corrections: Solitary Confinement as a Carceral Enjoyment
This presentation analyzes the recalcitrance of solitary confinement in Canada and the United States. I argue that while other aspects of the criminal legal system, such as sentencing, risk assessment, and correctional programming have purportedly moved to evidence-based approaches, practices of solitary confinement are seemingly immune to evidence, despite decades of conclusive research documenting its harmfulness. I show that when constitutional and human rights challenges are levied, prison services enter into ‘evidence’ methodologically discredited research that denies the harms of solitary confinement. Their representatives also repeatedly claim that segregation is a necessary security tool, without providing empirical evidence to support this point. By extending Andrew Dilts’ concept of “carceral enjoyments,” I suggest that solitary confinement is largely insusceptible to empirical and judicial critique that results in its abolition, as it contributes to and fulfills larger social functions of classed and racialized social control. While others have argued that solitary confinement is historically premised on western ontologies of the human, I argue that it is sustained by the carceral subject marked as sub-human—irredeemable, irrational, unmanageable, and thus unable to be accommodated in alternative housing arrangements.
Keywords: solitary confinement, evidence, abolition, carceral subject