Imprisoned: Construction, Abolition, Alternatives


This workshop, offered in spring 2023, considers the history and conception of incarceration that has produced “prison” as it is constituted in the United States. We will address the law of prisons, the market for prisons, and the perspectives of those who direct prisons, work in prisons, and are detained in prison, as well as the communities and families affected by prisons. Our topics include the sources and development of prisons and of prisoners’ rights; the use of specific forms of in-prison punishment and detention such as solitary confinement; the rise of detention facilities owned and operated by the private sector; and growing concerns about the costs— dignitary, social, political, and financial — of the system now in use. When doing so, we will examine the racial and gender dynamics of imprisonment, as women and men of all colors are not equally subjected to imprisonment. We will look at both U.S. and non-U.S. law, including the 1933 Guidelines of the League of Nations; the European Prison Rules of the Council of Europe; the 2015 U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners known as “the Nelson Mandela Rules.” We will consider the degree of oversight that courts, legislatures, and other actors have in shaping the parameters of permissible sanctions, in generating and tolerating the profound loss of autonomy commonplace in U.S. prisons, in regulating conditions of confinement, in crafting remedies for violations, and in conceiving of “prison’s end.”

For more information, please contact Liman Center Director Jennifer Taylor.