The general notion of prison refers to a variety of institutions aimed at the confinement of persons who have been sentenced, who are awaiting sentence, or who are on remand, but also of refugees and asylum seekers awaiting permission to remain in the country. Modern prisons are the outcome of centuries of cultural and civilizational processes beginning around the 1750s in the Western world. Although prison settings and populations differ hugely today, Michel Foucault’s (1926–1984) and Michael Ignatieff’s (1947–) studies of prisons are good starting points to understand these institutions’ historical development. Foucault observed cultural changes in French society, which included the promotion of discipline through an array of institutions such as schools, the military, and prisons. He also pointed to the symbolic role that ...

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