The Illusion of Inclusion: A Proposal to Investigate How Citizenships and Legal Status Shape Community Perspectives on Prison Complexes within a Small California Town

Martín Olea : Interdisciplinary Studies Field

Mentor: Professor Ruth Gilmore, Geography

This project, which will be Martin’s senior honors thesis for Interdisciplinary Studies, will explore the process through which a small town, populated mostly by farmworkers, approved the construction of carceral facilities that are detrimental to a significant portion of its population. Prisons today are of significant importance to the communities of the California Central Valley, yet rigorous debate persists as to whether this is a positive trend. This research, which will draw from key informant interviews and archival research, will try to illustrate why it is important to comprehend the motivations and justifications for this community to want to attract multiple prisons, more specifically, an INS detention facility. The question put forth here is: why does Mendota, a town whose majority is comprised of Latino farm workers, want these facilities? And how have notions of citizenship and legal status legitimized and informed the political decision-making of this small Central Valley city?