Silencing Prisoner Protests: Criminology, Black Women and State-sanctioned Violence

  • Britany J Gatewood Howard University
  • Adele N Norris Waikato University
Keywords: Black women, mass imprisonment, prisoner resistance, state-condoned violence


Protests and resistance from those locked away in jails, prisons and detention centers occur but receive limited, if any, mainstream attention. In the United States and Canada, 61 instances of prisoner unrest occurred in 2018 alone. In August of the same year, incarcerated men and women in the United States planned nineteen days of peaceful protest to improve prison conditions. Complex links of institutionalized power, white supremacy and Black resistance is receiving renewed attention; however, state-condoned violence against women in correctional institutions (e.g., physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and medical neglect by prison staff) is understudied. This qualitative case study examines 10 top-tier Criminology journals from 2008-2018 for the presence of prisoner unrest/protest. Findings reveal a paucity of attention devoted to prisoner unrest or state-sanctioned violence. This paper argues that the invisibility of prisoner unrest conceals the breadth and depth of state-inflicted violence against prisoners, especially marginalized peoples. This paper concludes with a discussion of the historical legacy and contemporary invisibility of Black women’s resistance against state-inflicted violence. This paper argues that in order to make sense of and tackle state-condoned violence we must turn to incarcerated individuals, activists, and Black and Indigenous thinkers and grassroots actors.


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Author Biography

Britany J Gatewood, Howard University

First Author

How to Cite
Gatewood, B. J., & Norris, A. N. (2019). Silencing Prisoner Protests: Criminology, Black Women and State-sanctioned Violence. Decolonization of Criminology and Justice, 1(1), 52-77.