Prisons As Sinks: Mapping the Slow Violence of Carceral Spaces


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships




This study brings together criminal justice studies with environmental humanities to explore how incarceration is marked by ecological violence stemming from pollution and climate change that is normalized and, by design, largely invisible to the lay public. The theoretical innovation animating this project is the conceptualization of carceral spaces as “sinks”–places deemed expendable, where pollution and climate change impacts are absorbed, and rendered necessary by state and industrial actors. To show how prisons operate as sinks, this project uses a discourse analysis to examine publicly available documents that reflect formal justifications for prison siting, and of external and internal environmental conditions of incarceration (namely, air quality, ambient temperature, and water quality) in California and New Jersey.