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Hidden Hands and Divided LandscapesA Penal History of Singapore's Plural Society$
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Anoma Pieris

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780824832216

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824832216.001.0001

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The Colonial Prison

The Colonial Prison

Chapter:
(p.62) Chapter 3 The Colonial Prison
Source:
Hidden Hands and Divided Landscapes
Author(s):

Anoma Pieris

Publisher:
University of Hawai'i Press
DOI:10.21313/hawaii/9780824832216.003.0003

This chapter examines several permutations of the colonial prison as it evolved across the three Straits Settlements. It focuses on prison models from the early years at the inception of the settlement (1825–1860). There is evidence that the colonial government constantly reinterpreted the terms of confinement to maximize the deployment of penal labor for urban development. The space allocated to each individual prisoner or racial group of prisoners, the geographic range of his or her mobility, and the extent of association allowed between different racial groups chiefly reflected the government's economic priorities. While association was the preferred penal model, it needed to be rationalized in ways that ensured control of the penal subject and limited his or her mobility during labor. Unlike in Europe, the colonial prison was forced to accommodate an ambivalent authority and priorities outside punishment. While prison spaces remained inherently flexible due to these priorities, alternative systems of segregation gradually took precedence over penal reform. The administration shaped its own ideas of morality and subjectivity, reciprocally, through the constant reorganization of penal spaces, schedules, and sentences so as to maximize labor.

Keywords:   colonial Singapore, penal transportation, Straits Settlements, prison system, colonial prison, penal labor, urban development, segregation

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