William Pearson

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Princeton U.

Grant number

Gr. 9266

Approve Date

April 11, 2016

Project Title

Pearson, William H., Princeton U., Princeton, NJ - To aid research on 'The Porosity of Prisons: An Ethnography of Citizenship and Security in Rural New Jersey,' supervised by Dr. Joao Biehl

Preliminary abstract: A proliferation of recent academic and media attention has presented ‘mass incarceration’ as a national crisis, and high-ranking politicians are now engaging in bipartisan efforts for massive reform. My research will examine ‘mass incarceration’ as a local problem in the rural town of Bridgeton, New Jersey, home to two prisons built in the 1990s (one state, one federal) and an expanded county jail. The conditions that created the possibility for and continue to perpetuate the expansion of ‘mass incarceration’ have been investigated at length, with segregated neighborhoods, racialized policing practices and neglected public schools consistently highlighted as major contributing factors. In a yearlong ethnography of Bridgeton, I will investigate the aftermath of the prison openings, focusing on shifts in public education opportunities, like the opening of a new technical high school; locally learned practices of surveillance, especially in public spaces where off-duty corrections officers, police officers and the formerly incarcerated continue to interact; and a new kind of racialized citizenship, which is being reinscribed through local, carceral dynamics. In doing so, this project seeks to investigate how prisons leak into their locales, thereby changing local institutions and transforming people, and constructing the conditions for a new kind of shared carceral future. By examining the consequences that followed these two prisons, my research aims to illuminate a more localized depiction of ‘mass incarceration,’ as it redirects local institutions and redefines belonging/citizenship. It also seeks to contribute to current public debates between activist organizations and politicians working to end ‘mass incarceration.’