Jarrod Shook is the lead author of a new article problematizing virtual carceral tours


Jarrod Shook (undergraduate student), along with Justin Piché (Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa) and Kevin Walby (Associate Professor, Criminal Justice, University of Winnipeg), have published an article entitled "Getting 'Beyond the Fence': Interrogating the Backstage Production, Marketing and Evaluation of CSC's Virtual Tour" in volume 7 of the Annual Review of Interdisciplinary Justice Studies. The journal is produced by the University of Winnipeg's Centre for Interdisciplinary Justice Studies and its latest edition includes papers from the Critical Criminology / Representing Justice conference held at the University of Ottawa in May 2017.

In 2015, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) launched a virtual tour promising a ‘first-hand’ and ‘realistic’ depiction of life and work inside a federal penitentiary titled Beyond the Fence. Based on an analysis of Access to Information disclosures, which are linked in the body of the paper itself, the authors examine the backstage activities that went into the production, marketing and evaluation of the tour. Drawing on Goffman’s (1959) notions of frontstage and backstage, as well as MacCannell’s (1973) idea of staged authenticity, the study reveal's how representations of incarceration and punishment were sanitized to build legitimacy and consent for imprisonment. The paper concludes by reflecting on the need to study the content and form of state depictions of penalty, and the challenges that representations pose to working toward a future without carceral institutions.

The paper is part of the Carceral Cultures Research Initiative's broader project "Problematizing Carceral Tours", which examines how tours of operational carceral sites (e.g. prisons) are one approach used by academics to get at the realities of imprisonment for pedagogical and research purposes. Through an analysis of previously unpublished regulations, protocols, scripts and other government documents obtained using access to information requests, as well as privileging the voices of prisoners, this study aims to work towards a more comprehensive understanding of the ethics, benefits and limitations of this approach to generating knowledge about prison life.