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Reiko Margarita Hillyer, PhD
Lewis and Clark College (Portland, OR 97219-8091)
Windows in the Walls: The Permeability of the Prison in the Twentieth Century United States

Research for a book on the permeability of the prison from the postwar period to the end of the 20th century.

The prison has become an urgent site of inquiry for scholars of the humanities, but historians of U.S. prisons have only begun to analyze the relationship of prisons to the outside world. My research demonstrates that, until recently, practices such as furlough, conjugal visits, clemency, and religious outreach rendered prisons surprisingly porous. This project is about the "thickening" of prison walls in the late 20th century U.S. and examines the invention and decline of practices that had connected people to free society. By historicizing the impermeability of the prison, I trace the increasing social isolation of prisoners as cause and consequence of punitive policies. In a moment characterized by presentism and the rapid-fire spread of information, my work provides much-needed context for a national conversation about prisons and thus contributes to the NEH’s goal of advancing civic education and embracing the humanities as a means of building “A More Perfect Union.”

Project fields:
American Government; American Studies; U.S. History

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2020 – 7/31/2020