In 2016, the A&E cable network partnered with the Clark County Jail in Jeffersonville, Indiana, to incarcerate seven volunteers as undercover prisoners for two months. This article takes the reality television franchise 60 Days In as a case study for analyzing the convergence of prison and television, and the rise of what we call the prison-televisual complex in the United States, which denotes the imbrication of the prison system with the television industry, not simply television as an ideological apparatus. 60 Days In represents an entanglement between punishment and the culture industries, whereby carceral logics flow into the business and cultural practices of entertainment, and the demands of the attention economy – ratings, content, profitability, sharing – come to bear on the prison as a disciplinary institution. The prison-televisual complex, we argue, participates in and facilitates carceral governing practices, including the TV industry’s involvement in the classification, criminalization, and warehousing of dispossessed populations.
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- mass incarceration
- media industries
- reality television