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Prison and Social Death, Joshua Price with Silvia Federici, Brooklyn Commons, February 15, 2015
Prison and Social Death
February 15, 2016, 7PM
Sliding scale: $6 | $10 | $15
The United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. To be sentenced to prison is to face systematic violence, humiliation, and, perhaps worst of all, separation from family and community. It is, to borrow Orlando Patterson’s term for the utter isolation of slavery, to suffer “social death.” In Prison and Social Death, Joshua Price exposes the unexamined cost that prisoners pay while incarcerated and after release, drawing upon hundreds of often harrowing interviews conducted with people in prison, parolees, and their families.
Price argues that the prison separates prisoners from desperately needed communities of support from parents, spouses, and children. Moreover, this isolation of people in prison renders them highly vulnerable to other forms of violence, including sexual violence. Price stresses that the violence they face goes beyond physical abuse by prison guards and it involves institutionalized forms of mistreatment, ranging from abysmally poor health care to routine practices that are arguably abusive, such as pat-downs, cavity searches, and the shackling of pregnant women. And social death does not end with prison. The condition is permanent, following people after they are released from prison. Finding housing, employment, receiving social welfare benefits, and regaining voting rights are all hindered by various legal and other hurdles. The mechanisms of social death, Price shows, are also informal and cultural. Ex-prisoners face numerous forms of distrust and are permanently stigmatized by other citizens around them.
A compelling blend of solidarity, civil rights activism, and social research, Prison and Social Death offers a unique look at the American prison and the excessive and unnecessary damage it inflicts on prisoners and parolees.
Joshua M. Price, is an associate professor of sociology at SUNY Binghamton. Prison and Social Death, Rutgers University Press, 2015, has come out of a project in which Joshua participated between 2004 and 2007, together with students and other community members, investigating the healthcare conditions of prisoners in upstate New York. He interviewed 150 people at the Broome County Correctional Facility and twenty former prisoners at the office of the NAACP. Among the organizations he contacted in the course of his project there were INCITE, Critical Resistance and the New York Prison Justice Network. Joshua Price is also the author of Structural Violence: Hidden Brutality in the Lives of Women. He is the Director of the Broome County Jail Health Project based in upstate New York.
Silvia Federici is a feminist activist, writer, and a teacher. In 1972 she was one of the co-founders of the International Feminist Collective, the organization that launched the international campaign for Wages For Housework. From 1987 to 2005 she taught international studies, women studies, and political philosophy courses at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. All through these years she has written books and essays on philosophy and feminist theory, women’s history, education and culture, and more recently the worldwide struggle against capitalist globalization and for a feminist reconstruction of the commons.