GWS 133AC, Blog Entry for 3 December 2013
Closing blog post
Read the Introduction as well as one additional article of your choice in the “Prison and Animals” Special Issue of Journal of Critical Animal Studies, accessed online: http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/volume-10-issue-2-2012/
As the final subject matter of the course, I found the “Prison and Animals” readings to be a provocative engagement that left with me with many unfinished threads. As the United States stands at the forefront of highest rates of imprisonment globally, the conversation about mass incarceration has never been more important. Combined with the heavily disparate ways in which persons of colors and those of lower socioeconomic status are criminalized and imprisoned, the injustice (or “neo-slavery”) of the penal system is flagrant. The critical animal and prison studies tradition is expanding this conversation to include the millions of animals who too are kept behind cages until death for medical or otherwise experimentation, food consumption, or entertainment purposes. The overlap between these forms of imprisonment are not wholly congruent, but nonetheless reveal important affinities between the language that justifies the imprisonment of both human and non-human animals.
In Amy J. Fitzgerald’s essay, “Doing Time in Slaughterhouses: A Green Criminological Commentary on Slaughterhouse Work Programs for Prison Inmates” this relationship between incarcerated human and non-human animals is probed through the lens of slaughterhouse work programs. In both the United States and Canada, there are programs which are meant to offer rehabilitory opportunities to prison inmates. This programs are supposed to give inmates experience working, discipline, and important structure that will enable them to be “productive,” “good” citizens upon their re-release into society. However, one such program puts inmates directly into slaughterhouses where they themselves are slaughtering and “processing” the animals. Fitzgerald calls upon the theorizing of Piers Beirne (2004) by saying, “violence perpetrated against them [non-human animals] might affect the perpetrators, even when the violence is socially approved of” (19). In this way, this practice not only does not function in any kind of rehabilitory way but also is a violence to both the human inmate and the non-human animal. Contrary to numerous studies that demonstrate the positive benefit of non-human animal relationships within prisons, this kind of work directly affects the psyche of the inmate who is mandated to work in slaughterhouses. The connection and exploitation of both non-human animal and human inmates demands a much more comprehensive exploration, including thinking through what the possibilities of a re-imagined criminal justice system could be in the United States.