Kaya N. Williams
My work seeks to unsettle the seeming intractability of incarceration as a peculiarly American problem. My current research projects engage ethnographically with efforts by policymakers, lawyers, organizers, and other city residents to shape the future of New Orleans’ municipal jail. In this research I am not interested in the practice or experience of confinement itself but in the day-to-day work of people seeking to change the city’s carceral practices. My current book project focuses on the political and legal battles surrounding a proposed “mental health jail” in the city of New Orleans. Tentatively titled “Our Bridge to Nowhere,” the book tracks the material construction of New Orleans’ jail complex post-Katrina alongside the cultural and historical production of projects of criminal justice reform more generally, paying particular attention to the arenas of law, policy, and community organizing. My next research project will be a multi-sited study focused on the rise of progressive prosecution in the United States.