A History of Prison and Confinement in Africa by Florence Bernault

By Florence Bernault

Over the final 30 years, a considerable literature at the background of yank and eu prisons has built. This assortment is without doubt one of the first in English to build a background of prisons in Africa. themes contain precolonial punishments, residing stipulations in prisons and mining camps, ethnic mapping, modern refugee camps, and the political use of felony from the period of the slave alternate to the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

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Senegalese correctional houses wished to inculcate children who urun the streets ... free [and] unoccupied" with new habits of work and obedience (Thioub). A few decades later, the mining companies in Katanga devised a series of working camps to transform African peasants, seen as unstable~ undisciplined, and physically vulnerable, into docile and prolifte industrial workers (Hanretta). Later still, at the end of the Second World War, colonial authorities in Central and West Africa established agricultural colanies for minors.

99 No geographical exceptions existed: both urban and rural prisons made systematic use of penal Iabor. Second, the penal administration routinely assigned detainees to work for private entrepreneurs, especially after the abolition of forced Iabor. Third, colonial rulers percei ved penal Iabor as a necessary, even vital, part of the colonial economy. At times, the high demand for penallabor resulted in competition between different detention centers. In French Guinea, in the early 1920s, the govemor tried repeatedly to convince rural district chiefs to send part of their prison population to Conakry, in order to meet the need for Iabor in the capital.

Contrary to the westem penitentiary, the colonial prison did not provide a therapeutic space of virtuous domesticity, nor a utopian cellular architecture. 102 To the contrary, public violence saturated their architectures, seeking to assemble African prisoners as a compact mass, separate them from Europeans, and herd them into forced Iabor. Not surprisingly, treadmills remained rare in the colonial prisons, as Africans were not supposed to partake in any personal reformation, but in the economic construction of European hegemony.

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