“Here I Sit in this Dismal Crypt”: Insider Interpretations of the Canadian Carceral Necropolis


This paper draws from the art produced in the Cell Count archive, a quarterly bulletin that the Prisoners’ Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Support Action Network distributes to persons incarcerated in Canadian prisons. The authors use necropolitical theory to undertake a content analysis of prisoner art to gain insights into how carceral life affects the incarcerated. Specifically, prisoners convey prisons as death-worlds. The mass incarceration practices, which are a mechanism of settler colonialism and white supremacy, strip populations down to bare life. First, prisoners depict their carceral experience as a kind of slow, protracted process of dying. Second, they describe themselves using imagery of the dead. Third, they explore notions of escape or release through an angelic or spiritual afterlife.

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Published: 2021-06-01
Pages:34 to 49
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How to Cite
Rinaldi, J. and Marques, O. (2021) “‘Here I Sit in this Dismal Crypt’: Insider Interpretations of the Canadian Carceral Necropolis”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 10(2), pp. 34-49. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.1709.

Author Biographies

Ontario Tech University

Dr. Jen Rinaldi is an Associate Professor in Legal Studies at Ontario Tech University. Her research takes up how non-normative bodies are read, marked, and produced in and through socio-legal discourse. Her work documenting survivors’ oral histories of a Canadian institution that housed persons with intellectual disability diagnoses resulted in a book co-authored with Kate Rossiter titled Institutional Violence and Disability: Punishing Conditions. Currently, Rinaldi is focused on research and activism related to deinstitutionalization, prison and police abolition, and migrant justice.

Ontario Tech University

Olga Marques is an Assistant Professor in the Criminology and Justice program at Ontario Tech University. As a critical criminologist, her research interests include the construction, policing and regulation of gendered, sexed and raced bodies, the inter-relationships between gendered/sexed social norms, control, and resistance. She also writes on the impacts of prisoning, critical re-articulations of ‘crime’, as well as Indigenous experiences of criminal (in)justice.