Accepted paper:

The containment and surveillance of 'mentally impaired accused' people in an Australian Disability Justice Centre

Authors:

Jocelyn Avery (The University of Western Australia)

Paper short abstract:

I extend the notion of confinement to containment to show just how socially embedded the belief in the need to contain 'Mentally Impaired Accused' people is. The consequences of this can be used instrumentally to reinforce the original justification for the containment and perpetuate the belief.

Paper long abstract:

I have developed a model of a contaminated self, that is, the way in which some groups of people are confined and managed so as to prevent them from contaminating their environment, but the poor physical and mental health that may result from these processes means it is they who are at risk of developing a contaminated self. In applying this model to people with severe intellectual disabilities it was necessary to develop the notion of 'confinement' to more closely resemble 'containment' through the use of medication, for example, as well as segregation or physical restraint. Surveillance then becomes the handmaiden of containment to ensure its ongoing effectiveness. I discuss this with reference to the construction and operation of a Disability Justice Centre in an Australian suburb. Despite a dogged community campaign against the centre being built in the suburb, the justice centre was eventually built to accommodate the designated 'Mentally Impaired Accused' - people who are alleged to have committed a crime but who are considered to lack the intellectual capacity to understand their crime, much less to answer for it in a court of law. Beyond human rights breaches and miscarriages of justice, my analysis reveals a socially embedded belief in the necessity of containing some groups of people and that the consequences of this can be used instrumentally to reinforce the original justification for the containment and perpetuate the belief.

panel P004
Confinement as a category of practice and a category of analysis [Anthropology of Confinement Network]