Michael Anthony Lufty
Oct. 3rd, 2014
Thinking Critically about Prison Tours
Carceral tours allow the public to walk through the halls of prison to obtain an understanding of incarceration. Carceral tours had numerous uses for architects, inspectors and officials throughout the nineteenth century, but recently the tours are used as an observational research opportunity for social science students who are interested in learning about the carceral institutions.i The articles, “Problematizing Carceral Tours,” by Justin Piche and Kevin Walby and “In Praise of the Carceral Tour: Learning from the Grendon Experience,” by David Wilson, Roy Spina and Joyce E. Canaan, had valid documentation for their arguments on opposing and supporting the effectiveness of carceral tours for research purposes. In the article “Problematizing Carceral Tours,” by Justin Piche and Kevin Walby, they believe that carceral tours do not show the reality of prison therefore they lack research value for students.ii They used evidence from Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) obtained through the Access to Information Act requests to justify their argument since they cannot use their own experiencesiii. In carceral tours there are specific staff members or prisoners chosen to lead the tours in order to control the notion of how imprisonment is decent.iv “Bordt and Lawler (2005) as well as Meisel (2008) have argued that the facility tours them and their students participated in appeared to be carefully scripted, thereby preventing any deeper discussion about how imprisonment is actually experienced by either prisoners or staff.”v Participants in the tour will not gain any raw data or information about the reality of prison when the tours themselves are too precise and restricted.vi There are restrictions that state when certain tours can be functioning and during the tours the guides also have a strict plan about what to say, when and where.vii Piche and Walby suggests that the restrictive tours imply there is something too hidden within the prison.viii Regulations do not just apply to the guides and the prisoners but also the participants, they are not to acknowledge the inmates and after the tour is finished, they are required to leave the area.ix The prisoners are treated as if they do not have rights and are savages; their decency is taken away when they are observed like animals in a cage – the principles of research and teaching are violated.x The tours are meant to enforce the stereotypical ideas of prisoners, “the tour script then taps into other cultural forums, such as movies, where narratives on imprisonment are produced.”xi The perceived view of prisoners on the tours imply they are all dangerous and belong in the prison for rehabilitation – prison allows them to take responsibilities for their personal need as would a person in society would.xii The restrictions of a scripted tour only shows what the eyes can see but in order to obtain the pure experience of imprisonment, there has to be a great amount of time has to be spent in prison.xiii In the article, “In Praise of the Carceral Tour: Learning from the Grendon Experience,” by David Wilson, Roy Spina, and Joyce E.Canaan, they opposed Piche and Walby’s argument because of their belief of the educational benefits that come with carceral tours based on the forty reflective accounts.xiv In order to verify their arguments, Wilson, Spina and Canaan stated three factors to support their counter argument –Piche and Walby’s opinion. Students had certain views on the exterior and interior appearance of the institution as well as the social and emotional aspects of the prison.xv The preconceptions of the exterior infrastructure were reinforced as the ideas they had going into the prison were similar to the ones they had already imagined however the interior appearance and the atmosphere were not accurate to their preconceptions...
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