by Melissa Munn & Bethany Sanjenko

Abstract: Every year, millions of people spend Christmas behind bars, yet very little scholarship examines the carceral Christmas. This research attempts to add to the literature by using over 70 years of prisoners’ writings to describe how this holiday season is physically and psychologically experienced by convicts. Drawing on third space scholarship, we argue that prisoners use the manifestations of the holiday season to temporarily ‘escape’ the carceral milieu. More specifically, we contend that the dominant discourses, while not completely refuted, become redefined and reconstituted during the celebratory period. The typical binaries found within the prison (free/captive, inside/outside, keeper/kept), are blurred as a more liminal space emerges. Ultimately, this new imagined space provides a mechanism through which prisoners survive a carceral Christmas.

Available in the The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice