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Tombstone Towns and Toxic Prisons: Prison Ecology and the Necessity of an Anti-prison Environmental Movement


Within the field of green criminology, scant attention has been paid to prison ecology, or the unique characteristics of the common environments of correctional facilities. As investigative reports by human rights and prison abolition organizations have highlighted, there is growing evidence to suggest a systemic pattern of prisoners being exposed to environmental injustices resulting from their proximity to federal Superfund and other contaminated sites. One of the most expensive Superfund sites in the Midwest, the former Velsicol Chemical Corporation plant site in St. Louis, Michigan has been contaminated with DDT, PBB and pCBSA. Located one and a half miles from the site is one of the State’s largest correctional compounds- the Central Michigan and St. Louis Correctional facilities- which house more than 3500 prisoners who are disproportionately men of color. Despite multiple civil rights lawsuits filed by prisoners at the facility, little has been done to address the problems of water contamination at the prison. Furthermore, the failure of the Environmental Protection Agency to consider prisoners within federal environmental justice guidelines facilitates continued harm for this vulnerable population. Given the increasing revelations of toxic prisons across the U.S., it is necessary for environmentalists and green criminologists to work together with prison abolition organizations to fight the epidemic of toxic prisons.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth A. Bradshaw.

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Bradshaw, E.A. Tombstone Towns and Toxic Prisons: Prison Ecology and the Necessity of an Anti-prison Environmental Movement. Crit Crim 26, 407–422 (2018).

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