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Courting Carcerality: The Rise of Paraprisons in the Era of Neoliberal Racial Statecraft

  • Author(s): Petrella, Christopher Francis
  • Advisor(s): Scott, Janelle
  • et al.
Abstract

My project examines the legal, political-economic, and ideological manifestations of the U.S. neoliberal racial state through the lens of parapublic carcerality. I introduce and elaborate the term parapublic carcerality throughout this exploration to describe more accurately the incursionary, politico-regulatory technology of what has heretofore been indexed by the lingua franca of “private prison” and/or “for-profit prison.”

Parapublic carcerality is a significant conceptual contribution to the subfield of carceral studies in that it invites a shift in scholarly analysis from prison as a static, readymade punitive institution to carcerality as a tentacular (re)iterative site of regulatory social practice and meaning-making all while avoiding the analytic snares inherent to public/private dichotomization.

Moreover, my project explores the ways in which the internal logic of the U.S. neoliberal racial state is operationalized and crystallized in modern carcerative sites and practices. That is, it considers the techniques by which the neoliberal racial state pits law against capital and courts against corporations in order to broker temporary socio-political balances that maintain hierarchies of social difference oriented toward white supremacy and black subjugation.

More specifically, my project challenges the notion that the expansion of the U.S. prison state in the mid-20th century, as well as the emergence of profit-generating companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group (GEO)—firms which embody the praxis of parapublic carcerality—represents a unidirectional backlash to victories achieved during the modern civil rights movement. Instead, I argue that the emergence and expansion of such companies and practices, in part, is also a consequence of efforts to remedy the “problem” of prison crowding as defined by the federal courts.

I contend that the federal courts throughout the 1970s and 1980s absorbed radical critiques of white supremacy in the form of lawsuits filed by black prisoners and their organizational allies like the NAACP and ACLU in two interrelated ways: 1) by reframing lawsuits explicitly filed to remedy racial injustice as a (neoliberal) colorblind issue of crowding and 2) by generally refusing to rule in favor of prisoners unless crowding allegations were central to their suits.

And finally, my examination assesses the extent to which the praxis of parapublic carcerality is tethered to the larger project of neoliberal racial statecraft, a project of both “governance and a state of condition” in which whiteness serves as a proxy for social deservedness and blackness approximates criminality and what I term the “anti-citizen.”

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