As the May ’68 revolution reached a boiling point, a remarkable assemblage of philosophers, writers, and incarcerated persons, doctors, nurses, social workers, and sociologists, activists and organizers, and militants in France turned their attention to the problem of the prison. At a time when prisons were mostly hidden from view, practically impenetrable in France to outsiders, at a time long before we recognized mass incarceration in countries like the United States, the Prisons Information Group (the Groupe d’information sur les prisons or the “GIP”) coalesced to spotlight the travesty of justice that is the prison – one that continues unabated today or, even worse, is exacerbated in Western liberal democracies. As I write these words, people are being violated, slashed, stabbed, and deprived of food and security at the jail on Rikers Island in New York City, with almost a third of the guard staff not even showing up for work. As of mid-October 2021, thirteen people imprisoned at Rikers have died this year. Our jails and prisons are broken – an intolerable crisis, as the GIP maintained already in 1970.
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Bernard E. Harcourt,
“Let those who have an experience of prison speak”: The Critique & Praxis of the Prisons Information Group (1970-1980),
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/3054