Rebranding Mass Incarceration: The Lippman Commission and Carceral Devolution in New York City

Authors: Jarrod Shanahan*, CUNY Graduate Center, Zhandarka Kurti, SUNY-Binghamton
Topics: United States, Political Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Rikers Island, prisons, jails, mass incarceration, non-profits
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Gallier A, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2017, after a year-long study of the conditions on Rikers Island, the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform (the Lippman Commission) released its recommendations to close America’s last penal colony and replace it with a series of neighborhood-based jails and enhanced community supervision. The Commission was spearheaded by former court of appeals Judge Jonathan Lippman in collaboration with numerous social justice non-profits. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged support to the plan, and its fulfillment is purportedly in the works. Through a close reading of the Commision's report, and a historical survey of decaration theory, our presentation examines the Lippman Commission report and its recommendations to close Rikers Island as a contemporary case study in local decarceration and carceral devolution. We ground our reading in recent empirical data and the latest theorization of decarceration and carceral devolution, through which we interpret the plan to close Rikers not as a challenge to mass incarceration, but as a "community-based" mutation of the carceral net, branded as opposition to mass incarceration.

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