chapter  4
The resurrection of the body in penology: prison health care as physical punishment in a twentieth-century US correctional system
Pages 22

The notion of the body as a central concept in penology emerged with Foucault’s (1977) thesis that the body as an object of punishment in public spectacles gave way in the eighteenth century to private punishment. This private punishment had a focus on the body as something to be organized and reformed, rather than subjected to pain. Foucault’s thesis, however, skirts the possibility that despite the fact that formal sentences in western legal systems no longer include in iction of pain, informal sentences (those that are actually carried out in penal institutions) may include a focus on the body as a site of physical punishment and other disciplinary practices. If we are to examine the place of the body in late twentieth-century penology, prison medical systems and practices (where the focus is on the physical body) offer the opportunity to assess attitudes and practices that have the body as their target. Speci cally, they may highlight the status of the body in prison. Is the sick body seen as an object for compassion or reformation (treatment) at one extreme (the medical perspective), or as an object for punishment at the other extreme (a punitive penological perspective)? Liebling with Arnold (2004, pp. 3-4) note that the late modern prison highlights the rapidly changing social context in which the prison currently exists, and the tension between this and the often outdated prison physical structure and experience (including health delivery). However, many late twentieth-century prisons, while exhibiting this tension, were not fully modern and thus I prefer the temporally situated term “late twentieth century.” This tension might be exhibited both in prison disturbances and in court cases relating to prison conditions, and the treatment of the imprisoned body was frequently a focus of such action.