Policing and Incarceration

Becoming fugitive: Prison breaks and the space of punishment

Dominant metanarratives of prison escape—as rebellion in the name of freedom and as spectacular revelation of prison organizational failure—stand in stark contrast to the experience and meaning of escape for those for whom it matters most: prisoners. For prisoners, escape does not necessarily constitute a line of flight out of the space and time of punishment. Instead, it abruptly transforms their relationship to state power and communal belonging that more often than not reifies the isolation that incarceration insists upon. Guided by a prisoner’s narrative of escape from a Guatemalan prison, evasion, exile, and re-capture, this essay brings the phenomenon of prison escape into conversation with carceral geography’s exploration of essential connections and reflections between the prison and other social, institutional and geographic spaces, highlighting how multiple actors and forces beyond the carceral state collude in fixing vulnerable bodies in place. Ultimately, the freedom that escape might promise the prisoner recedes before discourses and infrastructures of punishment and isolation built far beyond the prison, showing how incarceration and freedom cannot be defined by prison walls, nor by the law’s calculations that pretend to mete out justice in discrete units of time.

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Volume 40 Issue 5

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