Da Thoreau al Supermax


  • Roberto Cagliero




Starting from the canon of the nineteenth century (Melville, Poe, Thoreau) this essay looks at primary and secondary sources on the carceral universe in the USA. Transforming the condemned in an inmate and eventually in a proletarian is one of the goals of mass incarceration. It produces a space where guilt is automatically associated to sentences as a manifestation of social cruelty, to prison as human warehouse, to detention as progressive manipulation of the most fundamental qualities of a human being. Retaliation instead of rehabilitation, profit instead of compassion, long sentences instead of re-entry programs: such are the features of a revengeful legislation, which turns poverty in United States into a crime, following a political rather than moral pattern. The recognition of trauma as the key factor in generating crime (as seen in prison life itself, and in novels by Bunker and Kushner among others) opens up a chance for separating inmates from experiences that keep them tied to a tragic past. Far from punitive fantasies and political decisions, such a trauma-sensitive approach is progressively taking hold in American prisons, offering a reconsideration of human beings as separated from their crimes.


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