The Science of Incarceration: Care, Coercion, and Consent


Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships




Debates about mass incarceration and the subsequent concerns about prisoner reentry have garnered a shift towards the use of evidence-based practice and policies within the carceral state. That shift was in part intended to ensure the efficiency of the prison employee’s interactions with incarcerated people, manage costs, and reduce recidivism rates. Bringing together the anthropology of prisons, critical race theory, and science and technology studies, “The Science of Incarceration” examines how the institutionalization of evidence-based practices instituted a new wave of governance, one that synthesizes punitive power with systems of care within prisons. “The Science of Incarceration” argues that the criminal justice system’s recalibration towards scientific practices and rationalities takes over functions that were previously based on other kinds of rules and practices. This in turn has multi-faceted effects in terms of changing institutional culture and how staff understand their labor within the institution.