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Themes

Teaching the Carceral organizes material by resource type (scholarship, news source, etc.) and by broad topical themes. Here, users can browse by themes and subthemes related to their scholarly or pedagogical focus. We chose these themes based on conversations with educators and students, and during the site’s beta period, we welcome feedback on theme names and categorization.

Movements

This theme includes movements seeking to change current practices of policing and imprisonment. Users looking for materials on policy proposals, constitutional challenges, abolitionism, transformative justice, community-based safety, and grassroots movements will find it here. We welcome feedback on this organization during our beta period.

Subthemes

Abolitionism
Black Lives Matter
Prison and Policing Reform
Transformative Justice

Example Resources
Thin Blue Line movie poster

The Thin Blue Line

Errol Morris The Thin Blue Line is a 1988 American documentary film by Errol Morris, depicting the story of Randall Dale Adams, a man convicted and sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit. Adams’ case was reviewed and he was released from prison approximately a year after the film’s release More Information

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Graphic showing that local jails hold 11,700,000 people while state and federal prisons hold 631,000

Think Justice Blog

Vera Institute of Justice Various authors August 2, 2016 This blog includes series of posts and commentary around topics that address different issues related to the US criminal justice system and areas of that system the Vera Institute actively tries to reform. More Information

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Bryan Stevenson talking on a stage

We Need to Talk About an Injustice

TED Talks Bryan Stevenson March 1, 2012 In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America’s justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country’s black male population has been… Read More »We Need to Talk About an Injustice

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Policing and Law

This theme refers to prison’s multiple roles in contemporary society, including the ways imprisonment structures, and is structured by, other institutions. Users looking for material on the economic and social functions of prison will find it here. We welcome feedback on this organization during our beta period.

Subthemes

Criminalization
Death Penalty
Jail and Bail
Legal Issues
New Jim Crow
Police Procedures
War on Drugs
War on Terror

Example Resources
An icon of a folded page labeled "Class"

Crime and Punishment in American Culture: Power and Poetics

Daniel LaChance Emory University Discipline(s): History Syllabus Last Updated: March, 2016 This class aims to help students understand the ideological, economic, and cultural sources of the punitive turn, the ratcheting up of incarceration and other forms of harsh punishment since the 1970s. It gives equal attention to the  popular representations and imaginings of punishment and the lived experience of… Read More »Crime and Punishment in American Culture: Power and Poetics

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An icon of a folded page labeled "Class"

Humanities Action Lab: Mass Incarceration Project

Jessica Namakkal Duke University Robin Kirk Duke University Discipline(s): History, Global Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies Syllabus Last Updated: September, 2016 This course explores the theories, politics, and practices of socially engaged public humanities and museology by creating a project on the past, present, and future of incarceration, exploring the explosion of prisons and incarcerated people in the US – including immigration detention centers… Read More »Humanities Action Lab: Mass Incarceration Project

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Into the Abyss poster

Into the Abyss

A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life Werner Herzog In his fascinating exploration of a triple homicide case in Conroe, Texas, master filmmaker Werner Herzog probes the human psyche to explore why people kill-and why a state kills. In intimate conversations with those involved, including 28-year-old death row inmate Michael Perry (scheduled to die… Read More »Into the Abyss

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Prison Experience

This theme comprises materials about prisoners’ and outsiders’ experiences of prison. Users looking for materials that convey prisoners’ voices will find them here, as well as materials that focus on solitary confinement, the incarceration of youth and older adults, in-prison programs, and prisoner resistance. We welcome feedback on this organization during our beta period.

Subthemes

Aging in Prison
Prison Education
Prisoner Resistance
Prisoner Voices
Solitary Confinement
Youth Detention

Example Resources
Captive Nation cover

Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era

Dan Berger In this pathbreaking book, Dan Berger offers a bold reconsideration of twentieth century black activism, the prison system, and the origins of mass incarceration. Throughout the civil rights era, black activists thrust the prison into public view, turning prisoners into symbols of racial oppression while arguing that confinement was an inescapable part of… Read More »Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era

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Photo of the Parchman Farm Blues historical marker

Mississippi Prison Recordings 1948

Parchman 2/4 Association for Cultural Equity Alan Lomax February 9, 1948 The Lomaxes and other collectors of their time (and also decades later) found some of the most powerful vernacular music of the American South in the region’s oppressive and violent prison system.Description of resource. More Information

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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

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Prison and Identity

This theme contains resources pertaining to the disciplining and imprisonment of diverse identities. Users looking for material on the over-representation of people of color in prison, women’s prisons, queer and trans* incarceration, and crimmigration will find it here. We welcome feedback on this organization during our beta period.

Subthemes

Immigrant Detention
LGBTQ Incarceration
Race and Incarceration
Women and Incarceration

Example Resources
Cartoon of protestors and cops with "Stonewall was a police riot" written across it

Imprisonment and Justice

Dean Spade Seattle University School of Law Syllabus Last Updated: January, 2013 This syllabus for a four-day intensive January Term class introduces students to contemporary discussions of imprisonment through feminist, queer, trans and abolitionist texts and invites critical thinking about prison reform and social movement resistance to prison expansion.  The class was taught in Seattle… Read More »Imprisonment and Justice

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Liberty's Prisoners book cover

Liberty’s Prisoners: Prisons & Prison Life in Early America

Ben Franklin’s World Jen Manion American prisons are overcrowded. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and nearly 2.5 million Americans are serving prison sentences. Nearly all politicians agree that we need to reform the American prison system, but they disagree on how to do it. Can gaining historical perspective on… Read More »Liberty’s Prisoners: Prisons & Prison Life in Early America

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Eastern State Penitentiary cover

Eastern State Penitentiary

Forged Images Production Cooperative Christine Bowditch January 1, 1998 Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary was built in the 1820s, inspired by Enlightenment ideas and Quaker belief in solitary reflection and penitence. This documentary, illustrated with period lithographs, engravings, and photographs, gives a detailed history of the prison from its initial practice of total solitary confinement through… Read More »Eastern State Penitentiary

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Prison and Society

This theme covers prison’s multiple roles in contemporary society, including the ways imprisonment structures, and is structured by, other institutions. Users looking for material on the economic and social functions of prison will find it here. We welcome feedback on this organization during our beta period.

Subthemes

Carceral Geographies
Prison and Public Health
Private Prison Industry
School to Prison Pipeline

Example Resources
An icon of a folded page labeled "Class"

Restorative Justice, Prison Ministry, and the Church

Douglas A. Campbell Duke University Discipline(s): Divinity Syllabus Last Updated: October, 2016 The course describes and criticizes current realities in the American criminal justice system and its allied ideology of retribution in the light of a theology of reconciliation. Alternative models of restorative justice are explored, along with the role of the local church as an… Read More »Restorative Justice, Prison Ministry, and the Church

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Screenshot from States of Incarceration website

States of Incarceration

Humanities Action Lab October 4, 2016 States of Incarceration is created by over 500 people in 17 states, and growing. We explore the roots of mass incarceration in our own communities — to open national dialogue on what should happen next. More Information

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Historic photo of a large boarding school class posing in front of a building

Boarding Schools and the School to Prison Pipeline

University of Minnesota, Humanities Action Lab Class Fall 2015 An interactive timeline that looks at this history of Indian boarding schools in the United States. Includes information about the legislation of assimilation, the Dakota war, incarceration at Fort Snelling, and associated issues on the incarceration of indigenous peoples, primarily in Minnesota and the upper Midwest.… Read More »Boarding Schools and the School to Prison Pipeline

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Theory

This theme covers major theorists of the carceral state, both historical and contemporary, as well materials for ideas about teaching these subjects in the classroom. Users looking for material that explains a theoretical framework, overviews a theorists’ major contributions, or describes teaching philosophies about incorporating sensitive subjects in the classroom will find it here. We welcome feedback on this organization during our beta period.

Subthemes

Theories
Theorists

Example Resources

Hope and Hopelessness in an Age of Mass Incarceration

Lori Gruen Wesleyan University, Philosophy Discipline(s): Philosophy Syllabus Last Updated: August, 2016 This is an advanced course taught through the Center for the Humanities for interdisciplinary/multi-disciplinary undergraduate students. This interdisciplinary course, grounded on philosophical reflections on hope, respect, and exclusion, will critically explore the ethical, social, and political issues raised by mass incarceration. We will be… Read More »Hope and Hopelessness in an Age of Mass Incarceration

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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

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Foucault and the “Lesson” of the Prisoner Support Movement

New Political Science 34.1 Marcelo Hoffman February 14, 2002 Shocked by harsh prison conditions in France, Michel Foucault in February 1971 co-founded the Information Group on Prisons (GIP), a group dedicated to heightening public intolerance towards the prison system by facilitating the voices of prisoners themselves. Foucault immersed himself in the activities of the GIP… Read More »Foucault and the “Lesson” of the Prisoner Support Movement

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