On the violence of incarceration


Race & Class, Vol. 51, No. 4, 27-38 (2010)
Race & Class


The violence of incarceration: a response from mainland Europe

Luk Vervaet

The publication of The Violence of Incarceration, a collection of essays on imprisonment and state violence in the US, UK and Australia, edited by Phil Scraton and Jude McCulloch, provides an opportunity to reflect on the steady convergence of mainland Europe s penal policies with those of the US. This convergence undermines any notion of a European moral high ground in relation to incarceration and reflects a general trend among western states of increasing acceptability of violence, war and even torture as solutions to social and political problems. From this perspective, the cruelties at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib are not isolated examples of excess but, rather, have much in common with everyday practices in domestic US and European prisons; the focus of this article is this wider structural shift in incarceration practices, linked to, but going far beyond, the‘war on terror’.

Key Words: cruel and inhuman treatment • penal policy • state violence • war on terror • youth violence

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