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Empathy and Punishment
Punishment & Society (2012)
  • Michelle Brown
With its foundations of injury, harm, and pain, the sociology of punishment is poised to give attention to the role of empathy at precisely those instances of social experience where human connection, understanding, and social knowing are destroyed, avoided, prohibited, or simply impossible. I explore this predicament through a specific case drawn from fieldwork in a geriatric prison, where institutional and intersubjective relations established by prison workers challenge empathic connections. The ‘graying’ of the prison population, one of mass incarceration’s unanticipated consequences, brings issues of pain, death, and dying to the fore. The majority of research to date on aging and dying in prison has had an important descriptive and policy orientation. There has been less of an emphasis upon the theoretical underpinnings of such a turn and the nature of intersubjective relations at the intersection of care and punishment. There have been no intensive ground-level analyses of aging in prison against the backdrop of mass incarceration in the contemporary era. This study seeks to fill that vacuum while offering a more complex understanding of the relevance and limits of empathy to the study of punishment. doi: 10.1177/1462474512452507
  • aging and illness,
  • catastrophic penal institutions,
  • catastrophic thinking,
  • empathy,
  • mass incarceration
Publication Date
October, 2012
Citation Information
Michelle Brown. "Empathy and Punishment" Punishment & Society Vol. 14 Iss. 4 (2012)
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