Author:Francesca Cerbini (CRIA-ICS/University of Minho)
Paper short abstract:
The “kind” of prison is crucial in understanding whether an ethnography might be relevant for public policies. My ethnography in the prison of San Pedro (Bolivia) can shed a light on the possibilities of affecting local penitentiary policies.
Paper long abstract:
In order to evaluate the relevance of a prison ethnography for public policies, it is important to begin by reflecting on the "kind" of prison we are talking about. For example, a prison settled in Latin America usually shows a lot of "peculiarities" in the internal management and organization which create a dramatic fracture between the idea of prison people get used to think about and the reality of the prison itself. As a consequence, in non-western prisons there is a difference in the State's "regard" on this kind of humanity and the social context. Ethnographic deep analysis can fill the gap between theories about prison and reality. This has been my main engagement during my ethnographic fieldwork in the prison of San Pedro, a self-governed penitentiary in the middle of La Paz city (Bolivia). Due to the State institutions' political "laxity" and the Justice corruption, the inmates lived completely neglected. Once inside the prison, they were forced to buy or rent a cell and to pay for a lot of services that usually are free. In this very critical context, to which extent can we discuss about public policies? Do people living outside the prison and within the State really want to know what happens inside the jail? I would discuss my attempt of restituting my work to the prison community and formal authorities in order to question the concept of "relevance" of my ethnographic work for local penitentiary policies.
Confinement institutions, ethnography, and public relevance [Anthropology of Confinement Network]