Are The[se] Kids Alright?: States of Incarceration and Subordination in the Learning and Lived Experiences of Youth in a Juvenile Detention Facility
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AbstractThis study examines the dynamics and implications of trans-spatial subordination in/across the lived experiences of six incarcerated participant youths in a secure custody facility for juveniles in Louisiana. Five male teenagers (four African American, one White) and one female teenager (African American) discuss the limitations, harassment, and confinement in various aspects of their lives and speak about the impact on their expectations for the future. The author employs several methodologies in order to develop a multimedia, multifaceted representation of their lives. The narratives elicited through interviews provide the bulk of the data as the participants describe this perpetual subordination. The photographs, resulting from the implementation of a visual ethnographic methodology, provide images that serve as catalysts for introspection and analysis of significance in the mundane and routine, particularly as they apply to the carceral facilities, structures, and policies themselves. Film viewing and discussion offer an array of depictions of youth and criminality to which the youths responded, granting a simultaneous peek at how these marginalized youths viewed themselves and how mainstream media productions depict them. After a particularly provoking viewing session of an animated film, the author expands the preliminary boundaries of the work beyond cells and the walls of the prison. The expanding focus examines subordinating elements in their lives with their families and in their neighbourhoods. The challenges, harassment, and obstacles experienced in their communities continued in their schools and during their encounters with law enforcement, the latter of which often led directly to imprisonment. Finally, the youths reflected on the confining subordination that existed in the facilities, the product of the combination of: their discomfort with the surveillant structure, their perceived arbitrariness of privilege, and the lack of any relevant education. They also identified opportunities for voicing their opinions and recognized the relative safety of this facility compared to others. As the participants conceptualized their futures and articulated their relatively narrow and often ambiguous hopes, the sobering influence of such perpetual subordination is evident. The author closes with a discussion of the study’s importance to future research with marginalized youth in a society of increasing surveillance and security as well as implications for teacher education.