Carceral state

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Carceral state describes "institutions, structures, ideologies, and practices that engage in punitive “solutions”, especially as a means of responding to crime, poverty, migration, and those living with health issues and addiction; a complex web of social institutions that includes the prison industrial complex, medical industrial complex, surveillance culture, and border patrol — all of which perpetuate harm through criminalization and institutionalization." - Ruby Tapia, adapted by Michelle Xie [1]

By definition, carcerality extends beyond the formal incarceration itself (prisons, detention centers, and carceral programs of probation and parole). Carcerality includes the ways we shape and organize society and culture through policies and logic of control, surveillance and criminalization. The carceral state has both produced and reinforced massive inequalities along lines of race, class, gender, sexuality, and other identity categories. [2]

The carceral state includes all aspects of life in which people are subject to surveillance and the threat of punitive policies under the premise of safety. 

Examples of the Carceral State

Where police are deployed

  • There is a higher deployment of police in poor, mostly black and brown communities while wealthier white communities are left alone, and subsequently the mass incarceration of these populations.

Surveillance of immigrants

  • Restrictions placed on immigrants compared to people with full citizenship.

Conditioned to call the police

  • Carcerality is ingrained in our way of living. Do you need to call the police if your neighbours music is too loud? Or can you knock on their door and ask that they turn it down? (Example from PG Watkins from No New Jails Detroit).
  • There are also often limited alternatives to police made available by the state other than police when safety is at risk 

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