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What is the Carceral Studies Network Project?

As people struggle to understand their own entanglement with mass incarceration and the carceral state, teachers and learners are designing new courses and producing innovative scholarship on imprisonment, policing, punishment, and community responses to violence. For some of us, these issues lie beyond our core scholarly focus, and many lack specific pedagogical training that can enable us to effectively, respectfully, and creatively engage these controversial issues in the classroom. This site is intended to help.

The Carceral Studies Network hosts resources for those seeking to teach or learn about prisons, policing, and the carceral state. Designed by instructors and students at Duke University, the site is meant to help teachers develop new courses from the ground up, or enrich existing courses with new materials. Learners will also find helpful resources, including texts that can complement assigned readings and syllabi that might facilitate self-study and community-based learning. We hope that this site will be a continually evolving hub for scholarly exchange, innovation, and dialogue, and we encourage users to share their own pedagogical materials with other teachers and learners.


One way the Carceral Studies Network attempts to help scholars and educators share knowledge about mass incarceration and the carceral state is by finely curating resources associated with this topic around a handful of themes. The below six themes were developed out of discussions that occurred in classes and events tied to the Humanities Writ Large funded Emerging Networks project, Mass Incarceration and the Carceral State. Users can browse by these themes (and their various subthemes) to discover resources related to their scholarly or pedagogical focus more easily. During the site’s beta period, we welcome feedback on theme names and categorization.

Main Themes


Prison and Society

Prison Experience

Policing and Law

Prison and Identity


Suggested Resources
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Death Row

the American Film Institute, the Polaroid Foundation, the Playboy Foundation, the Levi Strauss Foundation Bruce Jackson Diane Christian July 6, 1979 Death Row is a film about daily life on Death Row in Texas. When the film was made in March 1979, 114 men were housed in the special death cells of Ellis prison’s rows J-21… Read More »Death Row

A Black man in profile with the title "Frontline"

Stickup Kid

PBS Frontline UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism (Investigative Reporting Program) Caitlin McNally October 29, 2016 Investigative report focused on Alonza Thomas, a 16-year old sentenced to an adult prison. More Information

Discipline and Punish cover

Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison

Michel Foucault In this important work, Foucault suggests that such vaunted reforms as the abolition of torture and the emergence of the modern penitentiary have merely shifted the focus of punishment from the prisoner’s body to his soul. A classic work of theory on the birth of the modern prison. More Information



Suggested Research Resources
23/7 book cover

23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement

Yale University Press Keramet Reiter Originally meant to be brief and exceptional, solitary confinement in U.S. prisons has become long-term and common. Prisoners spend twenty-three hours a day in featureless cells, with no visitors or human contact for years on end, and they are held entirely at administrators’ discretion. Keramet Reiter tells the history of… Read More »23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement



A main goal of the Carceral Studies Network is to increase the volume of research being done on mass incarceration and the carceral state. The Research section of the site hopes to support unique scholarship in this subject area by curating materials across genres and media. This section allows users to browse scholarly articles and books, multimedia films and podcasts, news aggregators, from popular films like Fruitville Station to innovative projects like HAL: States of Incarceration. For those just beginning research in this subject area, the suggested resources to the left offer a great place to start your scholarship.



Another main goal of the Carceral Studies Network is to grow instruction on the subject of mass incarceration and the carceral state. The Teaching section of the site sets out to scaffold teachers’ incorporation of materials about this subject in their classrooms. This section allows teachers to browse course syllabi and classroom assignments that have been generously shared by other instructors and remix and reuse them in their courses. The site also contains resources for teaching about mass incarceration and the carceral state in the classroom, as well how to teach in a prison settings. For those new to the subject or just beginning to think about how to incorporate the subject into their courses, the suggested resources to the right are a great place to start.

Suggested Teaching Resources
A student raising their hand, seen from the back

Speaking of whiteness

compromise as a purposeful pedagogical strategy toward white students’ learning about race Journal Teaching in Higher Education Laurel Puchner Donyell L. Roseboro May, 2011 This article discusses pedagogical issues that arise in higher education when instructors of color teach classes with predominantly white students. We use student interview data collected during one graduate social foundations… Read More »Speaking of whiteness