1932

Abstract

When the state incarcerates, it assumes an affirmative, non-negotiable obligation to keep people in prison safe and to provide for their basic needs. In the United States, the three branches of government—legislative, executive, and judicial—are in theory collectively responsible for making certain that this obligation is fulfilled. In practice, the checks and balances built into the system have failed to ensure even minimally decent carceral conditions. This review maps this regulatory failure. It shows that, in all branches of government, rather than policing prison officials, the relevant institutional actors instead align themselves with the officials they are supposed to regulate, leaving people in custody unprotected and vulnerable to abuse by the very actors sworn to keep them safe. This pattern is no accident. It reflects a palpable normative hostility and contempt toward the incarcerated, an attitude with deep roots in the virulent race hatred endemic to the American carceral project from its earliest days.

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