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The Exceptional Prison

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Bueno, Samira 
Denyer Willis, GAN 


Between 2013 and 2016, police in one Brazilian city killed 3,287 people -66.5% of whom were black. It might not seem surprising, then, that this place is also one of the only in the world that has a prison just for police. But this prison is exceptional, a ‘model’ place as those who run it say. It isn’t 'dungeon-like' or a ‘warehouse of black lives’ as scholars argue of prisons in this country and elsewhere. Around the apiary, a tilapia pond, and groves of citrus trees, few police are here because they killed on the job. Using ethnography from in and outside this prison, we examine narratives of socialisation, redemption, and discussions of mundane and exceptional killing, to illustrate what operates beneath the public veneer of the punishment of police. This lays bare a set of key assumptions about the function of policing, and the possibility of reform amidst capitalism, in a vital moment of global political rupture. To speak of impunity for police violence, or of iterative gains in reform, is to dramatically misunderstand the work of policing.



4407 Policy and Administration, 4402 Criminology, 44 Human Society, 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

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Public Culture

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Duke University Press