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building - crime - punishment

The Widow of Saint-Pierre (2000) - Patrice Leconte
[FR] [DE] [UK]

Sociological experiments with prisons: Stanford prison experiment

Fictitious prisons: Le Carceri by Piranesi

Tropes: women in prison

Key texts: Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison () - Michel Foucault


A prison or penitentiary or jail comprises a building or system used to hold persons convicted of crimes.

Undergoing punishment though a prison sentence has the colloquial name of "doing time". Synonyms of "prison" include "hoosegow", "clink" and "lockup". --wikipedia


  1. Bad Boys (1983) - Rick Rosenthal [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Sean Penn delivered a star-making one-two punch in the early '80s, debuting as stoner Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and turning up only a few months later, all but unrecognizable, as a steel-nerved teenage convict in this raw, powerful prison drama--and both performances hold up remarkably well. While the story line of Bad Boys has the familiar contours of classic jailhouse melodrama (Penn's fearless Mick stands tall against a bullying Latino gang boss played by Esai Morales), the sense of tightly wound raw force the actor conveys is so convincing that it's actually a little scary. It goes way beyond the blunt-force impact of a standard action star; Mick's acts of violence are expressions of personality, practically eruptions of his life force. The authenticity of this portrayal is reinforced by the closely observed production design: the youth-prison set is so cunningly textured that many moviegoers took it for the real thing. Ally Sheedy also made her film debut in Bad Boys, as the girl Mick leaves behind on the outside. --David Chute for Amazon.com

  2. Deadlock (1991) - Lewis Teague [Amazon US]
    A science-fiction adventure that steals from Alfred Hitchcock's 39 Steps and Stanley Kramer's Defiant Ones. Director Lewis Teague may not be in the same league as those two directors, but he did a dandy job with this futuristic prison flick. Originality may not be its strong card, but Deadlock offers appealing performances by Mimi Rogers and Rutger Hauer. They play convicts linked by high-tech neckbands that explode if one prisoner ventures more than 100 yards from another prisoner with a matching collar. None of the inmates knows to whom they are paired, so all are forced to stick around. When Rogers and Hauer discover that their collars match, the duo embark on a gutsy prison break. Of course, they must to stay together as they head for the diamonds he hid before his arrest. This may not be art, but it is, ah, a great escape. --Rochelle O'Gorman for Amazon.com


  1. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison () - Michel Foucault [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    In this brilliant work, the most influential philosopher since Sartre suggests that such vaunted reforms as the abolition of torture and the emergence of the modern penitentiary have merely shifted the focus of punishment from the prisoner's body to his soul.

    Beginning with the emergence of Western penal methods in the seventeenth century, the noted French philosopher explores the role of prisons in society and shows that prisons today, as always, simply define, refine, and perpetuate crime.

    Foucault learns from history by looking backwards in time until a salient rupture appears, then goes forward detailing all of histories accounts. In Discipline and Punish, he takes us through the early 1800's to a time when the methods of upholding law and order were much more severe. He describes to us certain rituals of torture that were implemented not to uphold justice, but to extract truth. He contends that punishment was directed at the body and the spectacle of torture was the keeper of order. He then has us move past the Middle Ages to a rupture in history where the prison is born. Foucault now contends that punishment is no longer directed at the body; that it is aimed towards the soul. He posits that in our society we no longer have the spectacle of torture to keep us in line--no, a more economical restraint is applied: guilt & responsibility. It is the responsibility of being a model citizen that wills us to abide by the law. It is the fear of guilt that craves us to be 'good'. It is the fear of being defined as 'bad'; for fear of being suspect is as heavy as the physical chains worn by the malefactor-the ubiquitous invisible-chains; the inculcating chants of the anthems; the responsibility of the citizens to uphold the law and the guilt of not doing so. Foucault also inquires about other institutions-other architectural structures of power networks. One can wonder why the carceral system can be seen in schools, factories, hospitals, and so forth; these environments that we enter, spend a part of our lives in, and then leave to enter another. How many different institutions do you enter and leave in a day? How many hierarchical environments do you exist in the typical 24 hours? How many hierarchical roles do you play? How many different disciplines and regulations do you adhere to? One begins to feel fragmented, even schizophrenic, to the countless performances that we act out. Who are you really? Better yet, when are you? At work? When you are sitting home alone in your room? At any rate, it's a great book, but I wouldn't recommend it for the casual reader. --warmsticky for amazon.com

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