Disciplinary Engagements with Prisons, Prisoners and the Penal System



This paper reviews changing contemporary approaches to geographies of incarceration, the penal system, and the institution of the prison. Firstly, it suggests a propensity to position spaces of imprisonment within thematics of containment and exclusion, which removes from consideration the particular contextual issues of reform and rehabilitation. By highlighting emerging literature within and beyond the discipline, which focuses upon both the development of the prison as a purposeful form of punishment and the complex interlinkages between prison and society, I have noted geography’s tendency to concentrate upon political economy analyses, with other disciplines providing a different register of interest. This paper concludes by calling for intervention from the repertoire of cultural geography with such things as performance, media, embodiment and spectacle, to open up the political at a more ‘personal’ level.