Discussion | Reimagining Prisons as Public Space


The IPK's Race and Public Space working group invites you to join us for a lunchtime presentation and discussion about prisons and public space, with Garett Felber. His talk will discuss the Norfolk Prison model of the “community prison” (where Malcolm X was imprisoned in the late 1940s) and Muslim prison communities as points of entry into rethinking the relationship between prisons and the public. Using Malcolm X as a nexus for our discussion, the panelist will explore notions of the community prison from the 1930s-1950s, Muslim prison organizing in the 1960s, and our current moment of prison privatization and mass incarceration. One of the central aims of prison organizing has been to make prisoners’ struggles visible to courts and the public more broadly. As prisons have become increasingly privatized and rural, their interactions with communities have become sparse and their practices more opaque and inscrutable by the public. Looking back at the “Norfolk Plan,” designed by penologist Howard Belding Gill in the 1930s, helps us interrogate our ingrained assumptions about prisons and punishment. Norfolk can be used as a lens to understand broader shifts in federal crime policy, the “punitive turn” away from rehabilitation and education, and the impact of demographic changes in prisons after the 1960s. 

Garrett Felber is a scholar of 20th century African American history at the University of Michigan in the American Culture Department. He earned a B.A. in English and American Studies from Kalamazoo College and a M.A. in African American Studies from Columbia University. His dissertation, Those Who Know Don’t Say: The Nation of Islam and the Politics of Black Nationalism in the Civil Rights Era, explores the role of black nationalism in the civil rights era by looking at the politics of the Nation of Islam (NOI) in prisons, courtrooms, and on college campuses. His teaching and scholarship focus on postwar social movements, black nationalism, and prison organizing and the carceral state. His scholarship has been published in the Journal of African American HistorySouth African Music Studies, and SOULS. He has also contributed to The GuardianThe Marshall Project, and Viewpoint Magazine. His next book project is tentatively titled The Norfolk Plan: The Community Prison in the Age of Mass Incarceration. He was senior research adviser on the Malcolm X Project at the Center for Contemporary Black History and is co-author of The Portable Malcolm X Reader with Manning Marable. In 2014, he founded the Black History Study Group at the Columbia River Correctional Institute in Portland, OR. He is a regular blogger for the African American Intellectual History Society.


 Friday, March 11, 2016 12:00 PM - 02:00 PM
 Institute for Public Knowledge
20 Cooper Sq, Room 222, New York
NY 10003, United States

 Registration Closed


All Dates

  • Friday, March 11, 2016 12:00 PM - 02:00 PM

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