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We Are Not SlavesState Violence, Coerced Labor, and Prisoners' Rights in Postwar America$
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Robert T. Chase

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469653570

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469653570.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 21 September 2021

Fears of Contagion, Strategies of Containment

Fears of Contagion, Strategies of Containment

Pathologizing Homosexuality, Incarcerating Bodies, and Reshaping the Southern Prison Farm

(p.31) Chapter 1 Fears of Contagion, Strategies of Containment
We Are Not Slaves

Robert T. Chase

University of North Carolina Press

The first chapter offers an analysis of prison reform through the lens of sexualized containment, where elite northern reformers sought to replace the notorious 1940s prison farm and open dormitory system with the best practices of northern criminal justice and blended with a southern work model to create an efficient, business-oriented agricultural enterprise system. During the 1940s and 1950s, postwar criminologists employed metaphors of disease and contagion that warned that prison sex and sexual violence between men could spread from one prisoner to another. In the U.S. South, the practice of housing prisoners in labor camps and shared dormitories contributed to the metaphor of disease and contagion, a particular fear that the South’s open living spaces hastened the southern prison’s production of homosexuality. The chapter argues that such a Cold War–era reform plan stressed the social quarantine of prisoners through the adoption of the northern penitentiary’s design of cells and wings as a way to contain the sexual violence that occurred all too frequently in open southern dormitories. Such an external emphasis on prison space and containment had profound consequences, as it enhanced the spatial power and reach of an internal trusty where the prison system relied on prisoners as guards.

Keywords:   Sexual Violence, Spatial Power, Prison Labor, Prison Reform, Sexualized Containment, Pathologizing Homosexuality, Prison dormitories, Prison Trusty, Austin McCormick

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