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Rethinking Prisons: The Enlightened (and Endarkened) Prison

Rethinking Prisons: The Enlightened (and Endarkened) Prison

(p.183) 11 Rethinking Prisons: The Enlightened (and Endarkened) Prison
The Distressed Body
Drew Leder
University of Chicago Press

This chapter, evolving out of a thirty-person philosophy class in a maximum-security penitentiary, proposes ways in which prisons should be reformed. The men draw on personal experience of what damaged, or occasionally assisted, their quest for positive change. They are critical of the typical “endarkened” prison—it is marked by despair and stasis, and focuses on classifying and isolating inmates, judging and punishing them for demerits. This has often been their experience of penitentiary life. By contrast, the “enlightened” prison they envision would embody opposite values: support for hope, growth, individuality, and community, with merit recognized and rewarded. Perhaps this is a utopian ideal. Yet this chapter also reflects on the conditions under which it was written—the pursuit of education, and positive community—as a sign of hope.

Keywords:   prison, penitentiary, reform, education, rehabilitation, community

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