Carceral Studies

One modern mode of inequality that scholars have only recently begun to consider as central to social and racial inequalities is mass incarceration. Its class and labor dimensions stand out starkly, from the “jobs” jail provides to the stigma it brings once you get out of it. Mass incarceration not only warehouses the poor and working classes, but prisons are also sites of labor exploitation for both the state and private corporations where prisoners receive little to no pay but where both the state and private corporations relying on extremely low paid/unpaid prison labor greatly profit. Stony Brook already claims a constellation of faculty across multiple departments who have the research skills needed to understand this phenomenon better, whom we hope to involve here, led by historians Rob Chase and Nancy Tomes. In October 2015, Chase and Zebulon Miletsky hosted a first conference devoted to the topic. The next goals will be to begin coordinating a broader, scholarly lens on this and related issues, from the “Black Lives Matter” movement to the war on drugs and mental health, while also developing means for educating and engaging the university and the surrounding community, including local medical and law enforcement officials.