Page of

Rethinking Prisoners and Animals: “They’re Animals” and Their Animals

Rethinking Prisoners and Animals: “They’re Animals” and Their Animals

(p.196) 12 Rethinking Prisoners and Animals: “They’re Animals” and Their Animals
The Distressed Body
Drew Leder
University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the relationship, both in the public imagination, and in actual practice, between prisoners and animals. It was written by a philosopher in consultation with a recently released long-time prisoner, and members of a maximum-security philosophy class. Prisoners are often portrayed in political and media-driven discourse as animal-like, savage and predatory. This image can drive the racist leanings of the criminal-justice system, and be used to justify the caging, and sometimes brutal treatment, to which inmates fall prey. The position of prisoners is compared to that of zoo-animals, and those abused in factory farms. More positively, the second part of the chapter looks at the surprising relationships that inmates are able to form with actual animals, sometimes illicit, sometimes sanctioned by authorities. This can range from pet rodents adopted by prisoners, to official service-dog training programs. The chapter explores how cross-species communication creates an ethos of mutual protection and nurture in an otherwise harsh environment. If prisoners and many animals are “discarded bodies,” they can yet reclaim and rescue one another.

Keywords:   prison, reform, rehabilitation, animal, racism, media, factory farms, animals, protection, nurture

Sign In

Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy and Legal Notice