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  • Prisons at the Border: The Political Geography of the Mason-Dixon Line

    Sara M. Benson

    Chapter from the book: Benson, S. 2019. The Prison of Democracy: Race, Leavenworth, and the Culture of Law.


    This chapter explores the racialization of the penitentiary by examining slavery as a form of mass incarceration. In general, most southern penitentiaries are viewed as “backward institutions” that relied on retribution rather than rehabilitation. Because of this memory of the southern prison, border-state systems of punishment have not been studied in relation to slavery or mass incarceration. By exploring the historical political geography of prisons on the border, this chapter explores the connections between prisons and slavery deeply anchored in the concept of mass incarceration. The chapter connects this history to the federalization of crime and punishment because of Leavenworth’s place as a crowning institution in the line of prisons built along the border. This chapter argues that border states have used prisons to define the concepts of freedom and bondage during the post-Reconstruction era.

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    Benson, S. 2019. Prisons at the Border: The Political Geography of the Mason-Dixon Line. In: Benson, S, The Prison of Democracy. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.66.e

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    Published on April 16, 2019


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