• preventive imprisonment;
  • penal state;
  • sovereignty;
  • security;
  • Christianity;
  • political theology;
  • urban renewal


This essay examines inmate “crucifixion protests” in Ecuador's largest prison during 2003–04. It shows how the preventively incarcerated—of whom there are thousands—managed to effectively denounce their extralegal confinement by embodying the violence of the Christian crucifixion story. This form of protest, I argue, simultaneously clarified and obscured the multiple layers of sovereign power that pressed down on urban crime suspects, who found themselves persecuted and forsaken both outside and within the space of the prison. Police enacting zero-tolerance policies in urban neighborhoods are thus a key part of the penal state, as are the politically threatened family members of the indicted, the sensationalized local media, distrustful neighbors, prison guards, and incarcerated mafia. The essay shows how the politico-theological performance of self-crucifixion responded to these internested forms of sovereign violence, and were briefly effective. The inmates’ cross intervention hence provides a window into the way sovereignty works in the Ecuadorean penal state, drawing out how incarceration trends and new urban security measures interlink, and produce an array of victims.