Mechanisms of communicative control (and resistance): Carceral incorporations of ICT and communication policies for physical mail

Jeanie Austin


The communication practices of people inside of United States carceral institutions has long been of interest to individuals with the power to police, surveil, and punish. Communications policies in jails and prisons reflect this impetus. Previous research on communications policies in carceral institutions approached the topic from an ideology that embraced the supposed normative functioning of the carceral institution and did not incorporate the role of ICTs as surveillance technologies implanted in carceral settings. Using the Wayback Machine as a means to review changes in formal and informal publicly available policies related to communication, this research examines three carceral sites to illustrate how increasing use of ICTs may shape policies for physical communications. The research reveals that the increasing use of ICTs is shared across the local, state, and federal levels, that physical correspondence may be more limited in high ICT carceral environments, that ICTs for communication often market themselves as an extension of surveillance, and that the incorporation of ICTs into communication policies blurs the line between private and public carceral practices.

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