The prison cell and the third space

priosn-cell-model.jpg

Happiness is Door-Shaped: Issues of Control and Safety in Prison – Anita Wilson, Literacy research centre, Lancaster University

‘Happiness is door shaped’ is a phrase well-known to those of us who undertake long-term sustained prison ethnographies. We hear it uttered by disillusioned, ‘old-style’ prison officers who are uncomfortable with contemporary prison policy and its ‘modern’ ideas of prisoner rehabilitation through socialisation rather than isolation. Happiness for these officers is achieved by putting prisoners ‘behind the door’, thus creating a protective barrier that maintains the distance between ‘us’ (the keepers) and ‘them’ (the kept). Confining prisoners to their cells appears to make these officers feel secure, protecting them from risk of attack, disease, or emotional attachment to or from prisoners.

Ironically, while not exactly ‘happy’, and albeit for quite different reasons, many prisoners are agreeable to such distanciation. What officers see as confinement, prisoners see as liberation. Time spent ‘behind the door’ provides them with a much needed opportunity for contemplation, for ‘personal’ time, and for relaxation. What staff see as punitive, prisoners see as a welcome escape from their day to day proximity to shouting, jostling, fighting, bullying, anger, fear and distress.

However, while ‘door-shaped happiness’ for officers is achieved through the single act of protecting themselves from contact with prisoners, ‘ door-shaped happiness’ for prisoners involves engagement with complex and continual acts of transformation, which take on any number of subtle and personalised forms, and respond to the status of the person and the place in which they find themselves. They identify some nuanced strategies for resilience and survival, that draw on the practices of social rather than institutional worlds.

This paper takes a look behind various prison doors to reveal how prisoners create some of their own places of ‘safe living’ as a way of countering the ‘door-shaped unhappiness’ of imposed confinement.

US Army Muslim Chaplain James Yee talk

US Army Muslim Chaplain James Yee

Photo credit: Rob Miller

US Army Muslim Chaplain James Yee gave his first ever talk in the UK at Lancaster University on Wednesday, November 28, 2007. Addressing a crowd of nearly 200 people, Chaplain Yee addressed one of the programme themes of ‘designing safe citizens’ by reflecting on his experiences as a US Armny Muslim Chaplain at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and his subsequent wrongful arrest on charges of spying for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Chaplain Yee was designated a US enemy combatant, subjected to sensory deprivation, and held in solidary confinement for 76 days before all charges against him were dropped.

guantanamo bay prisoners sensory deprivation

Guantanamo bay prisoners on arrival are subject to complete sensory deprivation with the use of blacked out googles, ear guards and face masks.

Obese man fails BMI & gets rejected by New Zealand Immigration

Check it out>

Read more here>

Vexed Generation: protective fashion

Parka

PARKA:From the 1997 Autumn Winter collection made from Black ballistic Nylon[the same material used in bullet proof vests]

Vexed Generation are a fashion label that were founded in 1994 by Adam Thorpe and Joe Hunter. Their garment designs each address issues of air pollution, urban CCTV surveillance and civil liberties whilst catering for a performance lifestyle. Specifically utilising respiratory protection, and performance fabrics which are waterproof, breathable, fire retardant and knife retardant.

A quote from Vexed Generation’s 1997 season statement on their archive website:

“A Vexed garment will not clean the air
A Vexed garment will not protect public privacy
A Vexed garment will not change uncivil/civil legislation
A Vexed garment may improve your quality of life.”

Guess the prison/gated apartment block/detention centre?

Prison, apartment or detention centre?

An article about how “The role of prisons or correctional systems is to make society a safer place” can be found here>

Taryn Simon @ The Photographers Gallery

taryn simon avian quarantine facility
Avian Quarantine Facility, The New York Animal Import Center, Newburgh, New York. European Finches seized upon illegal importation into the U.S. and African Gray Parrots in quarantine.

Currently at the photographers gallery in west central london, is a wonderful exhibition by Taryn Simon entitled: An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar. This exhibition is a culmination of four years extensive research and documentation of the unseen and inaccessible hidden below the surface of national identity. She has managed to infiltrate various hidden institutions of diverse subjects from across the realms of science, government, medicine, entertainment, nature, security, and religion. These range from Cryopreservation Units, Scientology’s screening rooms, fireworks and explosive devices testing sites, HIV laboratories, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Contraband Rooms, a Nuclear Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility, an Avian Quarantine Facility, Marijuana research units, the CIA art gallery, etc.

Film series: SAFE

SAFE by Todd Haynes

On October 16th, Cindy Weber introduced the film ‘Safe’ directed by Todd Haynes and released in 1995. It is the first film in the program of films co-sponsored by Dukes Cinema and IAS program year New Sciences of Protection: Designing Safe Living. (see film schedule here>)

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