Searching prison cells and prisoner bodies: Redacting carceral power and glimpsing gendered resistance in women’s prisons – 2018

In this article, I explore the routinized practices of prisoner discipline: searching bodies and cells in four Canadian federal women’s prisons. Through an analysis of post-search reports as well as reported incidents of use of force, I discuss three key findings: searching and confiscation patterns across institutions are not dictated by size of the inmate population or security level of the institution; the redaction of information by prison authorities is an increasing and pervasive tactic of penal governance legitimated through an inter-legality of privacy and security; and that the searching of prisoner bodies and cells suggests a highly discretionary use of searching authority across women’s federal prisons that produces a gendered organizational logic. The text of the reports implies how women prisoners continue to be censured for their errant behaviour through the confiscation of personal items deemed to be unauthorized. These data also illustrate the ways in which women prisoners seek to achieve agency and self-determination within limited means.

Gillian Balfour
Criminology & Criminal Justice, April 2018