Food and Carceral Politics

I am currently interested in the intersections between food and carceral politics.

First, I am studying the breadth and practice of prison agricultural activities in the US penal system. This includes creating the first-ever complete list of federal and state correctional facilities run by government entities with agricultural activities. This initial infographic provides some preliminary findings.

This has provided the basis to develop the Prison Agriculture Lab, which has consisted of undergraduate and graduate researchers and a post-doc. Together we have designed two surveys, one for overseeing authorities and the other for incarcerated participants involved in such activities to understand how agriculture and food intersect with different notions and practices of justice in the context of mass incarceration. This survey will provide the basis for strategically sampling a set of places and initiatives to conduct in-depth case studies.

A few related projects are also ongoing. One is a critical GIS analysis and satellite mapping of correctional facilities with agricultural activities. Another is interrogating racial, class, and gender inequalities via how the US penal system designates “essential” food work in prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Second, I am investigating prison hunger strikes. I am curious as to what drives this tactic, the response of authorities, and its efficacy in meeting prisoner demands. I have worked with a graduate student to develop a database of all New York Times and Washington Post coverage of hunger strikes in the United States between 1971 (year of Attica Prison uprising) to 2018. We will trace patterns in coverage as well as trends/anomalies in the use of hunger strikes.

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