Prisons and State Building: Promoting ‘The Fiasco of the Prison’ in a Global Context
Prison expansionism around the world is, in part, facilitated by extolling the prison as a symbol of ‘Western-democracy’ which is justified as an effective and transparent means of enforcing the rule of law and as an internationally recognised indicator of a strong state. This article, however, argues that the realities of prisons do not match up with their symbolic and extolled virtues. Drawing on existing empirical and theoretical literature, this article argues that the role of the prison as a symbol of effective ‘state-building’ ignores the irrefutable evidence of the ‘fiasco’ of the prison, either to fulfil its own stated purposes or to operate in ways that adhere to or strengthen democratic ideals. Further, it suggests that international bodies, non-government organisations, state officials and scholars must engage more honestly with the ‘truth about prisons’ and their failure to function in the ways they are imagined to.
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