Imaginaries of Nature and the Practice of Transformative Justice

Authors: Zoe Alexander*, Rutgers University - Piscataway, NJ
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: incarceration, carceral reform, political economy, economic geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: 8226, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The partnership between the Horticultural Society of New York (HSNY) and Rikers Island, and those like it across the country, is revered for its use of “time in the garden” to instill a sense of personal responsibility to reduce recidivism and the cycle of mass incarceration. While this remains a problematic (mis)understanding of the apparatus in which racialized policing and the carceral state function, it represents certain aspirations of a better future, especially for those most targeted by the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). Considered in the context of “progressive punishment” as described by Judah Schept, the jail-based garden helps to legitimize carceral expansion in the name of providing “therapeutic justice, education, and other treatment to its most needy citizens” (Schept, 2015). In this paper, I will introduce the contradictions internal to HSNY’s programs at Rikers between the discursive validation for carceral expansion via programs drawing on agrarianism and social imaginaries of nature, specifically, and its simultaneous project to provide a space of refuge amid a decrepit place and system and juxtapose it with the theory and practice of transformative justice (TJ) as a liberation politic. I ask how TJ’s aim to transform social relations and relations of production for the whole over the subjective moralities of the individual can (and continue to) inform our analyses of and projects to renounce the PIC. Schept, J. (2015). Progressive Punishment: Job Loss, Jail Growth, and the Neoliberal Logic of Carceral Expansion. New York: New York University Press.

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