Carceral territory: experiences of electronic monitoring practices in Scotland
Gacek, James Richard
Arguably we speak now of living in a ‘carceral age’ more so than ever before. Yet how does this carcerality manifest directly into individual lives on the outside of carceral spaces? If the carceral should not be solely conceptualized in terms of its anchorage to the prison, then how do aspects of carcerality subsume the private space of the offender’s home? What effect do these aspects have upon offenders and their routines and behaviours, family and friends? A critical appraisal of carcerality demonstrates how diverse scholarly conversations have become when conceptualizing the notion of the ‘carceral’. The presence, proliferation and expansion of electronic monitoring (EM) is an appropriate example of the way in which the normative nature of the carceral age has taken shape in the West. EM manifests as an explicit symbol of punishment for the individual while they remain within their home and community, one node of the “great carceral network” which we are embedded within (Foucault, /1995: 298), and a notion which is already explicitly discussed in literature addressing community sanctions, penalties, and alternatives to confinement. However, there exists a greater exploration of how EM, as one tool of the carceral regime, literally and legitimately territorializes spaces in the community to monitor offender compliance and its violations. A fuller discussion must be had in terms of how EM takes place—not only through its protocols and procedures (whether they be directly controlled through government or contracted out to the private sector, the latter being the case of G4S Scotland), but also through its manifestation in the physical residence of the offender. Drawing upon ethnographic observations and qualitative interviews with inmates, this study contends that EM should be geographically contextualized as a form of ‘carceral territory’. This apt frame of reference examines how the inscription of punishment upon the personal territories, routines and lifestyles of inmates and their loved ones takes place, and queries how carceral territory further spreads the carceral out into society, permeating the homes and residences of those it seeks to monitor and punish. The capacity of research to provide understanding, give voice to unheard populations, and to even evoke positive social change demonstrates the need for continued ‘carceral work’. By inviting the respondents to speak of their struggles and movements between the prison and the community, this research attempts to give voice to unheard populations of society while attempting to comprehend experiences of the ‘carceral’ and the ‘territorial’ more effectively. Taken together, this study crystallize a more capacious conception of how carceral territories are created, sustained, and perpetuated in the spaces and places of everyday life.