Degree Year

2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Comparative American Studies

Advisor(s)

Gina M. Pérez

Committee Member(s)

Charmaine Chua
Annemarie Sammartino

Keywords

Carceral geography, Urban studies, Jail studies, Critical prison studies, Incarceration reform, Neoliberalism, Mass incarceration, Criminalization, New York City, Rikers Island, Borough-based jails, Criminal justice reform

Abstract

This project seeks to interrogate the socio-spatial implications of New York City's contemporary criminal justice machine through mayor Bill de Blasio's ongoing jail reform plan to build new, "borough-based jails." In 2017, following decades of controversy over entrenched violence and horrific abuses on Rikers Island, New York's notorious island penal colony, de Blasio announced a 10-year plan to "to close Rikers Island and replace it with a smaller network of modern jails." While the plan claims to make jails in New York "smaller, safer, and fairer," this project analyzes the plan's strategies, its rhetoric, and its goals to understand the vision of New York City that is being produced and propagated. Rather than a plan to contain, shutter, or dismantle the carceral legacies at work on Rikers Island, this project unpacks how liberal criminal justice reforms in the urban context rely upon exclusionary citizenship, spatialized inequality, and commodification of neighborhoods to take shape. While the plan is in the early stages of implementation with an uncertain future, this research helps to uncover how the carceral state and neoliberal governmentality in contemporary U.S. cities cohere at the street level, working to normalize the capillary expansion of carceral control in the name of urban consumption.

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