Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books: Prison Land

Review of Prison Land by Brett Story

From broken-window policing in Detroit to prison-building in Appalachia, exploring the expansion of the carceral state and its oppressive social relations into everyday lifeStory approaches the topic of mass incarceration from the perspective of a geographer. Prison Land began as her doctoral dissertation and was also visualized in her documentary The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (released in 2016). Like the film, the book Prison Land provides the audience with insight into the locations of mass incarceration. According to Story, finding answers to the question of where punitiveness happens will contribute to a better understanding of the reasons, the why, that led to its popularity in the first place. In order to expose the many locations of mass incarceration, Story elucidates the prison not merely as a building or a place separated by walls from the rest of society but as a set of relationships. To expose the many marks incarceration has left on our society, Story did not study the prison itself, but rather visited communities and talked to individuals who have been affected—either directly or indirectly—by it. This includes the formerly incarcerated, their loved ones, police and correctional officers, and business owners profiting from punitiveness. While the documentary retells stories of these individuals without commentary, the author chose for her readers a novelistic, picturesque, and creative writing style to share her observations; a style reminiscent of French sociologists Michel Foucault or Loïc Wacquant.


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