The Prison of Democracy: Race, Leavenworth, and the Culture of Law

The Prison of Democracy: Race, Leavenworth, and the Culture of Law

by Sara M. Benson

Paperback(First Edition)

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Built in the 1890s at the center of the nation, Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary was designed specifically to be a replica of the US Capitol Building. But why? The Prison of Democracy explains the political significance of a prison built to mimic one of America’s monuments to democracy. Locating Leavenworth in memory, history, and law, the prison geographically sits at the borders of
Indian Territory (1825–1854) and Bleeding Kansas (1854–1864), both sites of contestation over slavery and freedom. Author Sara M. Benson argues that Leavenworth reshaped the design of punishment in America by gradually normalizing state-inflicted violence against citizens. Leavenworth’s peculiar architecture illustrates the real roots of mass incarceration—as an explicitly race- and nation-building system that has been ingrained in the very fabric of US history rather than as part of a recent post-war racial history. The book sheds light on the truth of the painful relationship between the carceral state and democracy in the US—a relationship that thrives to this day.  

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520296961
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 04/16/2019
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 204
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Sara M. Benson is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at San Jose State University and teaches at Oakes College at the University of California, Santa Cruz. 

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: The Idea of Leavenworth and the Prison of Democracy
1. The Architecture of Liberalism and the Origins of Carceral Democracy
2. Territorial Politics: Mass
Incarceration and the Punitive Legacies of the

Indian Territory
3. Federal Punishment and the Legal Time of Bleeding Kansas
4. Prisons at the Border: The Political Geography of the
Mason-Dixon Line
5. Leavenworth’s Political Prisoners: Race, Resistance,
and the Prison’s Archive
Postscript: “Walls Turned Sideways Are Bridges”: Abolition Dreams
and the Prison’s Aftermath

Abbreviations Used in Notes


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