The primacy accorded individual civil and political rights is often touted as one of the United States' greatest achievements. However, mass incarcerations of indefinite duration have occurred consistently throughout U.S. history and have primarily targeted people of color. The dominant narrative insists that the United States is a political democracy and portrays each instance of indefinite detention in exceptionalist terms. This essay argues that the historical patterns of indefinite detention are better explained by recognizing the United States as a settler colonial state whose claimed prerogative to expand its territorial reach and contain/control populations over which it exercises jurisdiction inevitably results in the involuntary inclusion and concomitant exclusion of peoples of color.
The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in Social and Legal Studies, https://doi.org/10.1177/0964663918769362, published by SAGE Publishing, All rights reserved.