Carceral Crisis

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: 8229, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Lydia Pelot-Hobbs
Chairs: Anne Bonds


Too often the development of the US carceral state has been rendered as a linear process -- easily shepherded by neoliberal imperatives and the dominance of racist punitive logics. However this narrative obfuscates how the growth of punitive power is fundamentally imbricated in crisis. As Stuart Hall (1983) teaches, all crisis, whether political, economic, or social in origin, is the consequence of inherent contradictions in the social formation that amass in such a manner that the social formation is no longer able to reproduce itself through existing structures. While in the current conjuncture, the US state across scales has sought to manage such crises through the extension of punitive power in the form of mass criminalization intertwined with the advancement of neoliberal racial capitalism, this process has repeatedly proved to be uneven. Among the multitude of political crises that mass criminalization serves to contain is the repeated crisis of legitimacy of policing and incarceration itself.

This panel examines the different sites and spaces where carceral crisis comes into view -- from prisoner protests to the challenges of penal expansion projects -- to think through the fissures and contradictions of carceral state development. Attending to the spaces of crisis illuminates that while the recent fix to racial capitalist instability has been increasing carceral power, this has never been the inevitable outcome. Rather, these papers point to the centrality of contingency and contestation to punitive state aggrandizement -- reminding us that crises are open to being resolved through a number of means including through the realization of abolition geography (Gilmore 2017).


Hall, Stuart, and et. al. Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order. Critical Social Studies. London: Macmillan, 1978.

Gilmore, Ruth Wilson. “Abolition Geography and the Problem of Innocence.” In Futures of Black Radicalism, edited by Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin. London: Verso, 2017.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Lydia Pelot-Hobbs*, CUNY Graduate Center, Jailing Louisiana: A Spatial Fix to Penal Overcrowding 20 9:55 AM
Presenter Jack Norton*, , Immigrant Detention and Local Jails 20 10:15 AM
Presenter Stephen Cassidy Jones*, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, Rehabilitation and Repression: California's Prisoner Classification System, 1945-1980 20 10:35 AM

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