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Social Science and Public Policy

CPR Seminar Series: Gabriela Kirk-Werner

March 23, 2023 at 3:30pm5:00pm

Eggers Hall, 060

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Gabriela Kirk-Werner (Syracuse University) will present, “Reforming the Shadow Carceral State: the Repeal of Prison Pay-to-Stay Laws in Illinois” as part of the CPR Seminar Series.


Punishment scholars
have theorized why, how, and when lawmakers advocate for reforming the carceral
state through criminal legal change. What remains less understood are the same
processes as they pertain to reforming the shadow carceral state, which
requires change at the intersections of criminal, civil, and
administrative legal systems.

This article interrogates this puzzle by
examining the repeal of prison pay-to-stay laws in the United States.
Pay-to-stay refers to the practice of charging incarcerated individuals per
diem fees for the cost of their criminal incarceration in jails and/or prisons,
with jurisdictions mobilizing civil and administrative law to recoup unpaid
fees. Pay-to-stay’s contemporary use exemplifies policies endemic to the shadow
carceral state. We draw on a novel dataset on prison pay-to-stay in Illinois
consisting of legislative debates, state statutes, and civil lawsuit case

Our historical sociological analysis suggests lawmakers who
advocated for reforming the shadow carceral state by repealing prison
pay-to-stay repurposed penal logics they had once used punitively, such as
protecting taxpayers, fiscal efficiency, and rehabilitation. Lawmakers
advocating in this manner used this strategy to position their state as a
bi-partisan leader in the governing balance between protecting the welfare of
its citizenry and attending to state fiscal austerity. Their advocacy took
place amidst public political debates over the utility of pay-to-stay in
Illinois, with critics pointing to the excessive harm caused to incarcerated individuals,
the high cost taxpayers, and the impact on rehabilitation.

This event was first published on March 2, 2023 and last updated on March 6, 2023.

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