The Conflicting Uses of Prison Visitation in Mandate Palestine

Orna Alyagon Darr, Rachela Er'el

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The British who ruled Mandate Palestine established a prison visiting system that enabled inspection and oversight of carceral conditions by officials and lay representatives. In often contradictory and variegated ways, both the British and their subjects used this system as a political tool. For the British, lay participation in prison visiting was consistent with colonial pursuits such as advancing penal reform, attempting to civilize the local population, preserving the colonial difference, pacifying the locals, and co-opting opposition. The colonized employed prison visits for their own conflicting purposes: to advance both national goals and a universal agenda, to defy the colonial difference and to embrace it at the same time. British repurposing of reformist ideology to advance its civilizing mission was thus vulnerable to the claims of the colonized, who employed prison visiting to advance claims for ethnic and national equality, striking at the core principle of colonial difference. By examining the prison visit policy in Mandate Palestine, this article offers a pioneering approach to the political history of the colonial prison and the tension between penal reform and the larger colonial agenda.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)920-945
Number of pages26
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 13 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Anthony Bottoms, Vincent Chiao, Antony Duff, Antje du Bois-Pedain, Shachar Eldar, Miri Gur-Arye, Rinat Kitai-Sangero, Mordechai Kermnitzer, Shai Lavi, Sandra Marshall, Matt Matravers, Dana Pugach, Amit Pundik, Paul Roberts, Boaz Sagero, Anat Scolnicov, Lorenzo Zucca, and Leslie Sebba, the participants of the 2019 Beccaria Workshop at the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge, and the participants of the 2020 Criminal Law Workshop at Hebrew University and the 2020 Colloquium at the law school of Sapir Academic College for their comments on earlier drafts. We would like to thank Yam Traiber and Nir Propper for all their help as research assistants. Our thanks and appreciation go to Dr. Yochai Ben-Ghedalia, director of the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, for his assistance with the Magnes Archive. Special thanks are due to four anonymous reviewers and Christopher W. Schmidt for insightful and inspiring comments. This study was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant no. 368/20). Both authors contributed equally to this article.

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)
  • Law


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