Chapter 7 Hazardous or vulnerable? Prisoners and emergency planning in the U.S.
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Within the field of emergency management, prisoners occupy a variety of roles and identities. Across the U.S., emergency management has been shown to utilize labor provided by prisoners to prepare for and respond to various emergencies and disasters. Emergency management and corrections officials alike have traditionally viewed prisoners as a hazardous population, concentrating preparedness efforts to respond to riots, hostage situations, escapes, and general violent disorder within prisons. However, in more recent history, scholars and policymakers have begun to recognize prisoners as a vulnerable population lacking the resources and individual agency necessary to protect themselves in the event of an emergency or a disaster. Should a natural disaster or technological event threaten a corrections institution, prisoners must fully rely on the staff of the institution to provide for their safety and welfare. Additionally, prisoners are viewed as a nuisance population, who fabricate grievances against the Department of Corrections, particularly in a disaster. Despite a major role in disaster planning, there has been little effort to comprehensively examine the differences in how prisoners are viewed by emergency management. This analysis examines the different roles and identities invoked within emergency management operations (source of labor, hazard, vulnerable population, or nuisance) and how these roles and identities vary across states and the implications of these differences. Differences in how prisoners are identified prompt questions about their role within the disaster context as well as a need for further research
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Emerging Voices in Natural Hazards Research