• Prisoner capture: welfare, lawfare and warfare in Latin America’s overcrowded prisons

      Macaulay, Fiona (2019-05)
      This chapter focuses on the forms of legality and illegality produced by, and within, prison systems in Latin America where prison populations have risen five-fold, leading to a serious structural crisis in the criminal justice system. The chapter develops the concept of “prisoner capture”, a double-sided phenomenon of illegality in the state’s practices of detention, on the one hand, and informal, or parallel, governance exercised by those that it detained, on the other. State authorities held tens of thousands of people in extended and legally unjustifiable pretrial detention, and frequently denied convicted prisoners their legal rights, including timely release. This officially sanctioned form of kidnapping created such overcrowding and under-investment in prisons that national, constitutional, and international minimum norms on detention standards were routinely, systematically and grossly violated. These multiple illegalities on the part of the state in turn encouraged the emergence of prisoner self-defence and self-governance organizations. This resulted in “prisoner capture” of a different kind, when inmates took over the day-to-day ordering of prison life. In turn, this produced a parallel normative and pseudo-legal world in which inmates adjudicated on and disciplined other inmates in the absence of state officials within the prison walls. The chapter further examines what the study of Latin American prisons and penal practices can add to the field of socio-legal studies in the region and the implications of this phenomenon of prison capture for the dominant socio-legal literature on prisons and imprisonment.