Ecuador’s “black site”: On prison securitization and its zones of legal silence

“When a state of emergency in Ecuador’s prison system was declared in 2007, municipal leaders in Guayaquil built the country’s first “supermax” prison, La Roca, for the administrative segregation of inmates considered a security threat. I suggest that administrative curtailment of access to these so-called “worst of the worst” prisoners merits legal comparisons with the juridical status of detainees in US “black site” facilities, the inter-American drug wars now paralleling the global war on terror insofar as prisoners’ rights are concerned. Contrasting my brief visit to La Roca with political-economic and media analysis, my article draws two conclusions: (1) that limited physical access to prisoners, stimulated by administrative “zones of legal silence”, demands an ethnographic focus on daily conditions of prison life using inconsistencies in administrative rhetoric; and (2) that measures to securitize the prison system have augmented prison directors’ powers to coerce inmates and to confound understandings of their living conditions.”

Chris Garcés, Cornell University

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