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Architecture and attachment : carceral collectivism and the problem of prison reform in Russia and Georgia

Piacentini, Laura and Slade, Gavin (2015) Architecture and attachment : carceral collectivism and the problem of prison reform in Russia and Georgia. Theoretical Criminology, 19 (2). pp. 179-197. ISSN 1362-4806

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Abstract

This article looks at the trajectory of prison reform in post-Soviet Georgia and Russia. It attempts to understand recent developments through an analysis of the resilient legacies of the culture of punishment born out of the Soviet period. To do this, the article fleshes out the concept of carceral collectivism, which refers to the practices and beliefs that made up prison life in Soviet and now post-Soviet countries. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 revealed a penal culture in notable need of reform. Less obvious, in retrospect, was how over the course of a century this predominantly ‘collectivist’ culture of punishment was instantiated in routine penal practices that stand in opposition to western penalities. The article shows how the social and physical structuring of collectivism and penal self-governance have remained resilient in the post-Soviet period despite diverging attempts at reform in Russia and Georgia. The article argues that persistent architectural forms and cultural attachment to collectivism constitute this resilience. Finally, the article asks how studies of collectivist punishment in the post-Soviet region might inform emerging debates about the reform and restructuring of individualizing, cell-based prisons in western jurisdictions.