Prison Media Networks (SCMS 2016 Panel)

full name / name of organization: 
Daniel Grinberg (University of California, Santa Barbara) and Joshua Mitchell (University of Southern California)

We seek papers that address the complex historical or contemporary interactions between media and carceral institutions through approaches beyond textual analysis, including exhibition, production, reception, distribution, and ethnography.

As the recent scholarship by Alison Griffiths has elucidated, motion pictures entered U.S. prisons as a form of entertainment in the early 20th century amidst public and administrative debates around the access of such entertainment to imprisoned spectators. Since then, global carceral spaces have differently adopted moving image technologies into their institutional frameworks, thereby mediatizing diverse experiences of capture and confinement. Considering the dramatic expansions of detention infrastructures in the U.S. and internationally since the 1970s, the dynamic role of these technologies and practices has become an urgent area of inquiry.

This panel aims to survey the broad and uneven logics and economies of media operationalization as they unfold within sites of detention, including in state and federal prisons, supermax facilities, county jails, military complexes, juvenile and immigrant detention centers, psychiatric hospitals, correctional boot camps, internment camps, and house arrest. To enhance the extant scholarship on the representations of prisons and prisoners, we hope to more fully examine the understudied industrial processes that create and disseminate media, as well as the practices and effects of presenting and consuming media, in an array of prison systems.

Potential issues to consider within the context of prison media include but are not limited to:

- Film production programs

- Access to videogames, television, Internet, radio, or DVDs

- Public or legislative debates on prisoners accessing media

- On-site cinemas or organized screenings

- Educational or religious programming

- Media-based vocational training

- The censorship or restriction of texts

- Media as a biopolitical mechanism

- The media practices of guards and administrators

- Surveillance cameras and electronic monitoring programs

- The distribution networks for content

- Prisoners' experiences of and interactions through particular media

Please email a 250-300 word abstract and a short bio to Daniel Grinberg ( and Joshua Mitchell ( by July 31, 2015. We will respond with a decision by August 7.