Bree Carlton


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From H Division to Abu Ghraib: Regimes of Justification and the Historical Proliferation of State-Inflicted Terror and Violence in Maximum-Security

This article highlights continuities between the deployment of counterinsurgency tactics and brutalizing penal practice in U.S.-run military prisons such as Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq and the historical proliferation of such practices in Western civilian maximum-security prisons. Recent critical contributions have centered on continuities between practices in U.S. military prisons and the U.S. domestic prison system. This article builds on this analysis to provide a comparative critique of the systemic use of violence integral to Abu Ghraib and the Australian state of Victoria’s Pentridge Prison H Division maximum-security unit in the 1970s. It is argued that trends witnessed in the U.S. represent an exportable phenomenon evident within prison systems in other Western states such as Australia. The official deployment of denial, discourses of dangerousness, and the defensive construction of regimes of justification as official responses to the public exposure of abusive practices and systemic violence are also subject to examination.

counterinsurgency, state violence, penal practice, U.S. military prisons, maximum-security, official denial, regimes of justification

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 4 (2006): 15-36