Response to Discussion on Gender and Prison

While most of the dominant discourse on prison is around men and specifically black men, it is important to point out that female prison population is also growing


Since women are generally omitted from most of the scientific and social inquiries, I wonder if anyone looked into why that is, what are the special needs and challenges that women in prison face and what got them there in the first place.

As far as prison system being used as a new form of slavery, I want to again mention Foucault and his book called “Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison“. Foucault believes that we now live in a disciplinary society where several forms of practices that shape us in who we are have replaced other direct forms of control such as slavery. He believes that is a modern rational society “the disciplines became general formulas of domination”, instead of being forced into a position of domination we are instead trained to exist in a state where we are not aware of being in this position.  Foucault describes how discipline while increasing the forces of the body in a physical sense, diminishes them in the form of obedience (hence the term “docile bodies”). We are raised not to challenge the way things are, we are trained to frame and perceive reality without questioning it and this results in several serious issues – it enslaves us, misleads us, eliminates freedom of thought and, as a result, stops real progress in society.  This lack of internal evaluation is what Foucault believed discipline ultimately produces. Foucault states that discipline ultimately creates “docile bodies,” referring to individuals that are subjugated, obedient, and exploited. Foucault explains how sovereign government that we mentioned in class (let live or make die) was replaced with the biopolitical system (make live/let die) that targets populations rather than individuals.  In the past, when we had public executions, everything that was done to individuals, although viewed today as barbaric and inhumane, it was all out in the open and can spark protest and unrest. Today, however, we are not aware of what is really going on in our prisons. We may believe that we treat prisoners more humanely, but do we really know it from experience?  Foucault points out that by creating a veil between public and those imprisoned,  the government has more control over populations than it ever had.




2 thoughts on “Response to Discussion on Gender and Prison”

  1. The prison system has long been guilty of instituting an underlying system of slavery meant to house those that society wants to rid. While the common belief is that young, black men are usually incarcerated–an alarming rate of women have been susceptible to this housing system. After taking multiple sociology classes where the subject of prison has been discussed multiple times, I believe that I have become more alert towards the inhumane practice and social ratifications we have taken to housing certain people in our society. Prison has always been known as a place to hide away and teach our criminals a lesson. However, when applying a sociological lens to the topic, you begin to notice a clear pattern in the race, gender and class of people who are being housed. It is an unfortunate way to keep certain people segregated from society and even once they leave, they are forever succumb to the social imprint of a ‘criminal’.

    I appreciate Foucault’s breakdown of discipline. It is the very reason of never questioning why things are the way they are as to why things ARE THE WAY THEY ARE! In order for change to happen and the injustice to be responded to–we must be able to internally evaluate! Hopefully, the overwhelming number of minorities that are imprisoned will decrease and society will be able to look back and realize how docile we were in our modern day slavery practice. With this understanding, we will be able to make better strides in society and reach the level of equality we have always fought for!


  2. I agree with the idea as well, that prison has instituted a new form of slavery, and it has targeted the exact same people. The chain gang didn’t ‘teach criminals’ any lesson on how to be better people, it put black people back in chains working for white men. Even now, we truly use prison as a way to remove those unwanted people from our streets. But prison doesn’t just keep them away from society for however many years they are sentenced to, it sets them up to be unable to succeed outside of prison. It makes sure that people of color know that there is still a way to ensure that they don’t receive equal rights or treatment, and it can be blamed on them. I think the way you related Foucault to the discussion was perfect. Society has us into ‘docile bodies’, and like Beesan said, nobody questions why we do what we do or why things are the way they are. Whit people don’t want to question the prison system because it could mean potentially having to accept that the systematic racism that is so highly discredited by white people in power is real. Looking deeper into who is actually imprisoned and why they are imprisoned in relation to race will leave most people feeling very uncomfortable with the truth of the entire prison system’s racist practices. Confronting this systematic racism though is something, like Foucault says, that we are trained not to do. I hope that with enough people who have actually taken the time to look deeper standing up and saying things are not right will cause others to listen and take notice, but if we all just continue to be docile bodies nothing will ever change.


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