Prison Rape: Law, Media, and Meaning

Prison Rape: Law, Media, and Meaning
Michael A. Smyth
September 2011

ISBN-13:  978-1-59332-474-2 / Hardcover
Dimensions:  5.5 x 8.5 / vi, 190 pages

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Focusing on discourse generated between 1969 and 2006 in the legal arena and in the print news media, the author takes an historical-interpretive approach to illuminate the role of cultural forces and attendant ideologies in shaping the contours of the phenomenon commonly known as “prison rape.” Locating this work within the sociology of punishment, the author employs frame analysis and draws on two previously unrelated literatures – Garland’s cultural analytic model and constitutive legal scholarship – to produce a genealogy of discourse about sexual assault in carceral settings as manifest in two important arenas of meaning making. In addition to providing a detailed analysis of the often counterintuitive relationship between these discourses over time, the book considers the recent unanimous passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (2003) at a highly punitive historical moment in a nation that has traditionally preferred to litigate rather than legislate questions around the treatment of those it incarcerates.

About the Author

A member of the Sociology Department at Susquehanna University since 2008, Michael A. Smyth’s areas of expertise and research interest include the sociology of law, critical perspectives on penality, sex, and sexualities. Empirically, his research in these areas has focused on discursive models of sexual violence in U.S. carceral facilities, construction of the “homosexual male” in “gay-panic” homicide trials, and effectiveness of law as a mechanism of penal reform.

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