Theorizing Penal Change (and Stasis)

My research on penal change focuses on two overlapping areas of penal change:
  • Revisiting “Moments” of Innovation and Replacement: Penal scholars have long been drawn to moments when an old punishment is apparently replaced by a newly innovated one. However, a closer look at such moments reveals that innovation always has longer roots (a prehistory) that precede these moments and the apparent replacement is usually something more like displacement and layering.
  • Understanding Diffusion After Innovation: As penal scholars have been drawn to these moments of innovation, we have also traditionally paid less attention to what happens next—the diffusion that follows.

The Black Flower’s Slow Bloom: The Life Course of Proto-Prisons, 1776–1822

Paper in development: This paper examines the rise of the concept of penal incarceration as prisons transitioned from administrative holding tanks for a variety of people into places of punishment. It develops an ideal type model of the proto-prison and examines how this model came about, manifested in the 1790s, and ultimately gave way to the modern prisons of the 1820s and 1830s. 

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