Wednesday, January 19, 2011


In 2002, a group of communication scholars gathered at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association in New Orleans, LA. What they had in common was a deep disgust with alarming national incarceration rates, as well as the growing relationship between private corporations and state prison systems. Many had spent years teaching inside penitentiaries. Others brought experience at the grassroots level, organizing efforts to change local, state, and national penal policies. All were communication scholars anxious to use their work as academics to combat the nation's rapidly expanding prison system. They adopted the acronym "PCARE" to represent the composition of their talents and experiences: Prison Communication, Activism, Research, and Education.

Since 2002, the American prison population has continued to grow. In fact, the United States incarcerates a larger percentage of its adult population than any nation in the world. As a result, PCARE continues its efforts to encourage communication activism by our friends and colleagues. Mass incarceration is one of the great crises of our time and is inextricably bound to the troubling discourses of crime and punishment that permeate our schools, media, and communities. Additionally, our collective experience tells us that when we empower the incarcerated to communicate, their lives are transformed. Because of this, we believe communication scholars and practitioners have an important role to play in the struggle to fight our nation's race to incarcerate and work toward alternative responses to crime.

This blog is one part of our work. We have already published an article in the NCA journal Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies discussing the intersection between communication and incarceration. We also routinely intervene at academic and political conferences to promote the critical engagement of the American prison system. We plan to use this site to keep our colleagues and allies updated on both our collective work and important developments in the American penal system.

Numerous scholars have noted that mass incarceration is a relatively new phenomenon. Accordingly, it is by no means natural or permanent. Only by denaturalizing the prison's role in American politics and culture can we begin the difficult but profoundly important work of dismantling this prison-industrial complex.

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