Racialized Carceral (Im)Mobilities Across/Within Spaces Unknown: The Reentry Landscape in Washington, D.C.

Authors: Maya S. Kearney*, American University
Topics: Urban Geography, Black Geographies, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Carceral Geography, Blackness and place, carceral landscapes, prisoner reentry, (im)mobility
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 19
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In Washington D.C., the justice system operates as a highly unknown, expansive and fractured landscape of institutions that function as trans-carceral spaces of control and punishment. As a result of the Revitalization Act of 1997, most of D.C.’s judicial and penal functions are under the control of the federal government which included the closing of its only local prison, Lorton. Since 2001, about 5000 majority Black D.C. residents are warehoused in Federal Bureau of Prison facilities hundred and even thousands of miles away from home when convicted of a D.C. code felony. This paper introduces a conceptualization of D.C.’s unique carceral landscape through a spatial analysis that considers the (in)voluntary movement patterns of residents reintegrating from BOP facilities. To understand the exacerbated challenges of reentry for Black D.C. residents, I attempt to deconstruct and demystify the various forms of carceral (im)mobilities they navigate during and after release to survive under state surveillance. Pulling from Black feminist theory, this paper develops the concept of what I call the “intersecting liminalities” of reentry that describe the embodied and physically occupied overlapping marginalities of the carceral continuum that extends beyond the prison into community spaces of social control. The D.C. carceral state magnifies these processes due to its pronounced racial and class disparities, federal governance, and the intracontinental reach of its carceral geography. Overall, this paper provides foundational insight that can inform future research on the different types and scales of carceral spaces under racial capitalism that shape the (im)mobility of oppressed groups.

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