Power, Control and Money in Prison : the case of the Yaounde Central Prison

Abstract of the  paper presented by Marie Morelle at the Association of American Geographers Annual meeting as part of the Paper Session: Mobilities, Borders, and Confinement III: Place and Fixity (scheduled on Friday, 4/15/2011 at 14:40 PM. Washington State Convention Center Level 6, Seattle, Washington) :

Power, Control and Money in Prison : the case of the Yaounde Central Prison

This paper aims at analysing the interactions between inmates and the penitentiary authorities, in a carceral situation, from a spatial point of view. It focuses especially on internal mobilities, in the Central Prison of Yaounde. It draws from fielwork undertaken in the Yaounde Central Prison, in April and July 2010. The fieldwork was based on enquiries and on observations.

The Yaounde Central Prison (known as « Kondengui ») is overcrowded : it was built in 1968 for 800 to 1 000 inmates, according to the differents sources. It now hosts between 3 000 and 4 000 of them. This overcrowding acts upon the appropriation of space and the power structures at the level of the prison, in a context where the prisoners are unevenly divided into the 13 districts of Kondengui. How does the right to circulate inside the prison and even to have access to a bed, to a cell, to a district is guaranted inside the prison ?

The formal prison organization cannot be opposed in a binary way to the inmates’ resistances to spatial and temporal constraints. Some prisoners are neither subjected to nor entirely resisting the carceral order (of the guards as well as of the penitentiary authorities). They negociate a place to live. These kinds of negociations produce a secure (money, access to different places, etc.).

This paper therefore proposes a microgeography of the carceral space to understand the power relationships in a context of confinement.