Witness in the Era of Mass Incarceration
Discovering the Ethical Prison
By (author) Doran Larson
Publication date:17 July 2017
Length of book:196 pages
PublisherFairleigh Dickinson University Press
Witness in the Era of Mass Incarceration works from the premise that if the law establishes and maintains both its practical and symbolic authority on the basis of its monopoly on legally sanctioned violence and the suffering threatened and delivered by such violence, then we cannot know the full human cost or concrete moral status of any legal state without human witness to the depth and manner of suffering meted out by such violence. The prison writer stands in the position to offer such witness. The prison writer knows the law’s violence in the flesh. For every other writer, reflection upon the degree and manner of suffering meted out under legal sanction—that is, reflection upon the full human cost of the contemporary legal order—is necessarily speculative. In close readings of first-person witness from prisons in the U.S., Ireland, and Africa, Witness in the Era of Mass Incarceration discovers literary tropes that chart at once local, national, and transnational conditions of carceral experience—the extant conditions of legalized suffering. In exhibiting the labor required to move from institutionalized abjection to the minimum requirements of rights-bearing personhood, this witness offers the sole credible vision of the possibility of a post carceral understanding of freedom.
Witness in the Era of Mass Incarceration is a timely work on a tremendously important subject, and Doran Larson’s wide knowledge, profound reading of prison writing, and powerful insights could be of inestimable value for us in the first quarter of the twenty-first century.