Jessica Nosalski Philip Sorenson UCWR 110-038 28 March 2014 The Ubiquity of Power in Prisons Governments in a variety

of cultures have been attempting to discover the ideal prison to ensure that its citizens abide by that society’s specific laws and customs. While the governments and prison systems are all diverse, they all stem from the notion of power. Within this institution, power acts as an omnipotent force that migrates throughout the structure itself and also through the guards and prisoners. Various prisons throughout different cultures have shown that power changes based on both the occupation and environment that it is hosting; these institutions also show that power unendingly manifests within itself which only increases its presence as the most dominant and prevailing force in the world. In the majority of American prisons, power maintains itself in a prison model that involves the power exchange between prisoners and guards. The Western world has grown comfortable with this model and it represents the common perception of power within prison that is held by that society. In the typical American prison “prisoners are atomized, relatively weak and dependent upon staff” (Liebling 414) while the guards hold the majority of the power. The structure of the prison itself alters the way power decides to flow through the institution. Inmates are often kept in solitary confinement and under constant surveillance which only decreases their power while the guards inversely maximize their power this way. The prison acts as a panopticon because the “enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point…[where] power is exercised…[resulting in] a continuous hierarchal figure” (Foucault 211). Because of this hierarchical system, power effectively builds upon itself via each level towards infinite power by

Nosalski 2 these disciplinary mechanisms of surveillance and enclosure. These mechanisms allow power to act as an unsurpassed force, where it can be “omnipresent and omniscient… [and] subdivide itself…to the ultimate determination of [every] individual” (Foucault 211). Power can easily identify the individual aspects within every person and maximize the efficiency and usefulness of that person because of that knowledge. The structural hierarchy only aids to the efficiency of power because it manifests via itself on each level. Power does not have a finite end in the prison guards because they must be subject to “a vigorous system of internal and external controls on their behavior, including judicial and legislative oversight, media scrutiny, occupational norms and standards, rigorous internal supervision and inspections…and openness to outside research” (Diluilo 235-236). Power does not have a finite end in any of these occupations or legalities either; there is always more power manifesting via itself ceaselessly. Power acts specifically in this way in the Western world due to the structure of typical American prisons. Within some prison systems, the traditional hierarchical structures have shifted because power is now residing mostly in the prisoners because of the prisoners themselves. This is displayed in various prisons in Mexico where drug cartels, namely Los Zetas, are “increasingly seizing control [of the prisons]...self-rule is practiced in 37% of the country’s prisons” (Agren 8). Within these types of prisons, inmates have “total control over an inmate population along with the ability to communicate with the outside without restrictions” (Agren 8). They have gained increasing control over the prisons, even appointing their own guards and cooks. The leaders of these prisons are also leaders in Los Zetas and they are “proud of how [they] have put order in the [prison]…in a place where nothing works, they make things work” (Argen 8). The panopticon is also present within this environment because of the commanding authority that Los

Nosalski 3 Zetas provides the prisons. Within these prisons, the panopticon gives power more strength by making “any apparatus of power more intense…assur[ing] its efficacy…[and] its continuous functioning and its automatic mechanisms” (Foucault 213).The fear and the intimidation that Los Zetas poses on the prisoners allows power to thrive effectively. Because of the massive drug trade and gang affiliations that invade the prison population in Mexico, power is thriving within Los Zetas and thus their respective prisons. Power is only increasing and manifesting via itself because of the strong gang affiliations that are present within the prisons and the ability to communicate with outside gang members. Within this type of environment, it reinforces the idea that “power is quite different than and far more complicated…then a set of laws or a state apparatus” (Calura 624). Although the Mexican government is fighting against the Los Zetas, the realistic power and influence that Los Zetas has among the prison population is undeniable. Panopticism is also displayed in this environment because of the new hierarchical structure that has been formed which involves top gang leaders, members, and associates. Power is working through Los Zetas by “reduc[ing] the number of those who exercise it while increasing the number of those on whom it is exercised” (Foucault 220). Although traditional hierarchical structures may shift, power only increases its ubiquity and effectiveness by adapting to the changing environment. When the hierarchical structure of prisons is eradicated, power ends up retracting back to its former structure in an eerily similar way which demonstrates the permanent grasp power holds. This is shown in a prison in San Pedro, Bolovia where the prison model operates in a completely different way than typical prisons in America. The prison guards have “no order inside the prison…their primary job is to keep inmates from escaping” (Skarbek 573) while the

Nosalski 4 inmates are responsible for buying their own cells, maintaining their own businesses, and resolving all disputes within the prison. The panoptic regime is still displayed within San Pedro prison despite having “no guards, no [prison] uniforms, no metal bars on cell windows” (Skarbek 573). Although the prisoners had the opportunity to move away from these structured roles, they immediately chose to fall back into the hierarchal structure that felt familiar to them. Prisoners within this institution run kiosks, restaurants and other small shops while the cells can range from desolate to glamorous depending on the revenue the inmate earns. Non-inmates may choose to live and work with the inmates and prisoners can conduct tours of the facility. The prisoners of San Pedro have also created their own mini-jail within the prison. A prison within a prison displays how deeply engrained the concept of power and control truly is within prisons. The panopticon has been perfected within San Pedro prison because it has become the “generalizable model of functioning…a way of defining power relations in terms of the everyday life of men” (Foucault 219). Within this type of structure, power migrates through the prisoners because of the environment that it is in. Power is functioning purely and idealistically because it has transcended the hierarchical structural roles and it is now the ultimate “machine…in which everyone is caught” (Calyua 625). Power remains the prevailing and inescapable force within this prison. Power displays its strength by its ability to adapt in a variety of environments. Power can easily shift throughout a variety of prison environments depending on the positions that are currently available within that institution. It is able to effortlessly flourish using itself and prisons are merely one of the means that power uses to exert its force. Prisons are only one example of how encompassing and authoritative power truly is; it does not act this way intentionally but more so in the way that a virus behaves. All individuals, within any institution,

Nosalski 5 are helpless to ever escape from this infective agent. People are merely disposable hosts that power habitually uses and exhausts to extract more power. There is no final intention that power has except to continue inhabiting, existing, and thriving.

Nosalski 6 Works Cited Argen, David. “Self-rule on the Rise in Mexico’s Prisons.” USAToday, 1 Jun. 2011. Web. 29 Mar. 2014. Caluya, Gilbert. “The Post-Panoptic Society? Reassessing Foucault in Surveillance Studies.” Social Identities. 16.5 (2010). 621-633. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Mar. 2014. Diluilo, John. Governing Prisons. New York: Free Press, 1990. Print. Foucault, Michel. “Panopticism.” Ways of Reading. Eds. David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford, 2008. 207-237. PDF. Liebling, Alison. “Social Relationships Between Prisoners in a Maximum Security Prison: Violence, Faith and the Declining Nature of Trust.” Journal of Criminal Justice 40.2 (2012). 413-424. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Mar. 2014. Skarbek, David. “Self-Governance in San Pedro Prison.” The Independent Review 14.4 (2010). 569-585. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Mar. 2014.

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