Foucault: Birth of the prison

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Foucault: Birth of the prison
He claims that there are two different forms of punishment:
Sovereign power : typical of the period before the 19th century. The monarch had power over
people and their bodies. People were punished through inflicting pain, which was seen as a
spectacle (incapacitation). This allowed the monarch to assert control.
For example: a description of an execution in 1757.
On a scaffold that will be erected, the flesh will be torn from his breasts, arms,
thighs and calves with red hot pincer, his right hand burnt with sulphur, and,
on those places where the flesh will be torn away, poured molten lead, boiling
oil, burning resin, wax and sulphur melted together and then his body drawn
and quartered by four horses and his limbs and body consumed by fire, reduced to ashes and
thrown to the winds.
Disciplinary power: became dominant from the 19th century. This new system seeks to govern
the body and the mind or `soul' of the offender. This is done through the use of surveillance and
the design of the panopticon.
Foucault illustrates disciplinary power with the panopticon ­ a design for a prison in which all
prison cells are visible to the guards in the central watchtower, but the guards are not visible to
the prisoners. This means that the prisoners know they might be being watched, but do not know
if they actually are being watched. Therefore, they have to behave at all times as if they were
being watched. The surveillance turns into selfsurveillance and discipline becomes selfdiscipline.
Instead of being a public spectacle, control takes place within the prisoner.

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Foucault: Birth of the prison
For example: a prison timetable in the 1830's.
Article 17: The prisoner's day will begin at 6am ... and they will work for 9
hours a day.
Article 18: Rising. At the first drum roll, the prisoners must rise and dress in
silence. At the second drum roll, they must be dressed and make their beds.
At the third, they must line up and proceed to the chapel for morning prayers.…read more

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