Cover Image

Larger ImageView Larger

Escape to Prison

Penal Tourism and the Pull of Punishment

Michael Welch (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 304 pages
ISBN: 9780520286160
May 2015
$34.95, £28.00
Other Formats Available:
The resurrection of former prisons as museums has caught the attention of tourists along with scholars interested in studying what is known as dark tourism. Unsurprisingly, due to their grim subject matter, prison museums tend to invert the “Disneyland” experience, becoming the antithesis of “the happiest place on earth.” In Escape to Prison, the culmination of years of international research, noted criminologist Michael Welch explores ten prison museums on six continents, examining the complex interplay between culture and punishment. From Alcatraz to the Argentine Penitentiary, museums constructed on the former locations of surveillance, torture, colonial control, and even rehabilitation tell unique tales about the economic, political, religious, and scientific roots of each site’s historical relationship to punishment.
List of Illustrations

1. Penal Tourism
2. The Museum Effect
3. Dream of Order
4. Architecture Parlante
5. Religion and Governance
6. Work and Economics
7. Suffering and Science
8. Colonialism and Resistance
9. Memorialization
10. Cultural Power

Michael Welch is Professor of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University and a Visiting Professor at Mannheim Centre for Criminology in the Department of Social Policy at the London School of Economics.
"An invaluable critical contribution to the growth of cultural criminology and dark tourism literature." —Lindsey L. Upton Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology
"The book's importance lies in its contribution to dark tourism theory and its exploration of the human drive to gaze—not just at prisons, prisoners, and implements of punishment but also at the darkness of human suffering. . . . Recommended."—R. Price CHOICE connect
"Escape to Prison is a stimulating work ... It will be a particularly useful volume as we expand our cultural analyses of punishment."—Punishment & Society
"Michael Welch’s Escape to Prison brings a criminologist’s focus to prison museums and the roles they play in constructing cultural understandings of crime and punishment. [His] criminological perspectives provides new tools to explore the interplay of public memory and public policy, and imagine alternatives."—American Quarterly
"An exemplary study of penal heritage... [provokes] harder questions about public complicity in the durability of the prison."—British Journal of Criminology
“A steady trickle of journal articles has long hinted at the potential of the prison museum as a research site. Michael Welch’s Escape to Prison redeems that promise in full. The book deftly combines cultural sociology, tourism studies, and penology with an impressively global comparative case-study method. Welch shows the prison museum to be a deeply meaningful artifact that can, when at its best, sustain complex meditations on power, identity, modernity, and dignity. This book is a comprehensive and definitive statement, a milestone that will immediately define its field as the shared point of reference.”—Philip Smith, Professor of Sociology, Yale University, author of Punishment and Culture

“This volume serves as a critical travelogue in the cultural sociology of punishment. The author takes us on a series of international prison tours, themed to a set of sociological issues and theoretical perspectives, in order to display the cultural power of punishment. Relying heavily on a Durkheimian and Foucaultian theoretical backdrop, the author illuminates the rise in prison tourism through the lenses of dark tourism. Michael Welch has innovatively pursued this goal through historically driven comparative work and a geographic span of sites that is quite remarkable.”—Michelle Brown, author of The Culture of Punishment: Prison, Society, and Spectacle

"In Escape to Prison, Michael Welch has produced a veritable tour de force. Moving from country to country, city to city, and prison to prison, Welch constructs an arresting survey of the ‘modern’ form of punishment, showing both the amazing similarities and subtle differences between prison institutions located in the most diverse countries. A must-read for the penal tourist and the scholar of punishment alike.”—Dario Melossi, editor in chief of Punishment and Society

Join UC Press

Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more