Prison as Power

Spectra of Anguish

Let me radically aver: No one is in prison because of what they did, rather they are there because of who they are. Fundamentally re-visioning contemporary juridical and disciplinary practices will elucidate the moral, ethical and social hypocrisy of state power. Structural power based on complex, historical-material techniques of control augment acts of criminality into acceptable, laudable and punishable. The extreme sentencing powers given to judges, often compelling them via mandatory minimum sentences, in the US and UK, needs explicating in order to examine racist, classist and  sociohistorically living mythologies which enable these oppressive practices. These living, or real, mythologies (nearly all created within the last 200 years) involve deep, often unconscious, bourgeois and petit bourgeois suspicions of the poor, people of colour, and immigrants. Developing conceptually offensive criminalities through the dialectic of Benthamite utilitarianism and Judaeo-Christian redemption/penance, the penitentiary is the hidden nexus of care/punishment. Medicalisation of prisoners, tracking them via ‘suicide watches,’ and other ‘caring’ mechanisms couple with enforced segregation, mark the prisoner homo nihilis. The prisoner looses his body. Advanced biopolitical practices create, mark, contour and manipulate prisoner subjectivities.

My number was A0915DV. I am marked. I write as a marked subject, a post-prison philosopher, ready to humbly mark out. Aiming to abolish the prison-industrial complex, I am compelled by the numerous men I met ‘inside’ to bring their anguish outside. Anguish can crush when turned inward (all too common on the inside); ergo, my journey is, at its core, political. Returning to the premise at the beginning, some will be argue that I am excusing acts of violence, fraud, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am attempting to demonstrate the hypocrisy of a sociojuridical system that imprisons Black men for over a decade in the US for drug charges (without evidence and based on hearsay — see: conspiracy to supply, etc.) whilst allowing Christine LaGuard of the International Monetary Fund to escape with a one-year suspended sentence for “financial negligence”  involving fraud to the sum of €400 million (Source). Whilst burglars are given 4 to 7 year sentences in the UK, others longer, Global Research reports “Bank of America and Wells Fargo will pay zero, yes ZERO in federal taxes for 2009. Bank of America will net a $3.6 BILLION benefit from the federal government in 2009. Wells Fargo, after $8 BILLION in earnings for 2009, will net $4 BILLION from the federal government … John Stumpf’s company is paying ZERO in taxes so that he can personally swipe another $21.3 million of tax payer funds. Al Capone is a dime store thief compared to this guy!

Birmingham prison

Criminality is contingent, contextual, conditional and determined by who you are within the economic and political structure. War creating death and destruction on a genocidal level (as with US intervention in Iraq, Libya, Sudan [bombing the only pharmacy manufacturer in the nation], etc.) is often rewarded under the aegis of patriotism, internationalism and other rationalisations the elite relay on. Tony Blair, George Bush (I and II), Reagan, Clinton (See Chomsky, A New Generation Draws the Line — Indonesia, Turkey, Colombia) have killed en masse, pillaged entire nations to enrich their friends, all under the rubric the highly dubious notion of ‘international stability.’ Yet they will never see a day in prison. Prison is not about what you do, it is about who you are.

Michel Foucault, a key theorist in this work, analysed this class based necessity of juridical power in his seminal book Discipline and Punish, additionally he examined the intended effects of all-seeing state monitoring in generating the (new) soul of the repentant ‘offender.’ Julia Kristeva, another central figure in my work, avers the abject as both the ‘excess’ which is feared by the subject and also connected to the same matrices as the sublime, compelling a desire for it. Let me aver that the figure of the prisoner on the ground of hegemonic statist capitalism is the abject sublime. Feared and envied, consciously or otherwise, the prisoner is an ongoing obsession of Utilitarian Utopia; a post-mechanised, digitalised dataveillance congregates around the prison-as-nucleus; the way that excess/effluent ‘criminals’ are then held (retained) has far-reaching psychoanalytical possibilities. Foucault’s research revealed a spiritual, medical, psychological, genetic and sociological obsession inherent in the fields of criminology, psychiatry, penology and what I would call post-pedagogical instrumentalisation. This  includes current tropes revolving around ‘skilling up’ prisoners for employment. Employment is bandied around administrative and educational nodes of the prison system as a means to end recidivism, yet globally the fundamentals of large-scale economic expropriation carried out by corporate barons remains unaddressed. As long as massive amounts of wealth, resource and power are concentrated, ’employment’ will remain an insufficient balm.  Furthermore, through post-pedagogical instrumentalisation the prisoner is taught, in daily interaction, to obediently submit to the will of the guard-figure, to fit into the Symbolic register of the ‘Name/No of the Father’ (Jacques Lacan). All are a clear attempt to induce hypersensitivity to discipline, a much needed attribute in the low-wage employment sectors many prisoners face after release. Critical reasoning is not, of course, encouraged, and during my time inside a British prison, my attempt to teach critical thinking resulted in accusations of radicalisation and strike-organising; these comments were made not by guards but rather within the so-called education department and by a representative of the Prisoner Education Trust. Ultimately,  the prison-industrial complex and those in its employ, even the most ‘liberal’,  cannot truly desire its abolition, let alone advocate for the overthrow of the very hypocritical micro and macro practices which act as its social rubric. Therefore, I ask nothing from it or them, I cannot countenance ‘reform’ within a structure so inherently unethical. Slavery required abolition, and so does mass global incarceration. Prisoners of the world unite, you have only your cells to lose. 

USA California Prison System Overcrowded


10 thoughts on “Prison as Power

  1. This is an unbelievably pretentious piece of pyrotechnic, self-serving and self-pitying nonsense.

    RE: your “attempt to teach critical thinking…”

    Judging from the news report about your conviction for credit card theft, blackmail and fraud charges –
    it appears your qualification to “teach critical thinking…” gave you the elevated self-awareness to tell a jury HUGE lies – the kind of lies which allowed you to simultaneously con and blackmail a vulnerable young woman out of several thousand pounds as an *unqualified* shrink whilst churning out this regurgitated, plagiarised pseudo-academic tripe.

    I will of course expect this comment not to be printed, as this will spoil your attempt at post-prison respectability – and I will not include my personal email address, as there is no doubt you are probably a very experienced troll.

    Let’s just say that your recent case has been a huge source of amusement amongst my undergraduate psychology students, who as it happens, have recently been covering Laing’s methods (except he actually helped people).


    1. Dear Dr Hanson,

      I hope this finds you well.

      I have allowed your comment to be published here in full.

      I would also say that I have no intention of being a ‘troll,’ as I prefer reasoned dialogue over ad hominem attacks.

      Making a concerted effort to keep my work away from such interpersonal, trite conflict, I find your comments puzzling. Yes, I have actually publicly admitted culpability here “In point of fact, I was inappropriately sexually touched, I could see the jury – the white men especially – smirking as I stated this, and I knew it was over. I am not proud of how I mishandled this situation, and I admit culpability to the charge of stealing — of which I was found guilty and served my time (and more) for. Yes, I did take her cards, etc. to leave a very hostile situation; I know what happened, and what happened was a mess created by both subjects.

      You mention, helpfully, that I am unqualified. I am completely and totally unqualified to operate as a psycho-metric machine under the current epistemic psycho-regime. And many in Laing’s time called him a charlatan, a fraud, etc. I am not making comparisons. I am totally without ‘qualification’ under this current epistemological regime to administer psychoanalysis. I have, for other reasons – personal – moved from praxis to theory. I am focusing on the problematics associated with mass incarceration I noted whilst I was in prison. Leaving aside my readings of Sartre, Foucault, Kristeva, Lacan, Freud, Hegel, Marx, Bakunin, etc. I would like to address your central feature of attack, an attack which is rooted in something you need me to be, something that I am not. Do you need the Spectre of the Criminal to bring ‘huge amusement’ to your undergraduate class? (I am flattered that I’ve entered academia’s halls as a subject of investigation!) Do you need me to be the unqualified bad man (“bad hombres” to quote D. Trump) to provide you with a sense of security around your own qualifications. And we must ask: what does it mean to be ‘qualified’ under decaying social apparatuses? Qualified for what? Paul Goodman wasn’t qualified, yet he administered and developed Gestalt therapy in the US. Wilhelm Reich wasn’t qualified to administer Orgone collection? And finally, there are a number of ‘qualified’ analysts who have committed egregious abuses of power.

      The case you mention was incredibly complex. It involved two subjects engaged in a mess. I acknowledge theft, yet I will never deny that I was sexually inappropriately touched (what some would call sexual assault). I am not seeking post-prison respectability. I have never sought respectability (a chimera) in my life. A white-trash intellectual can never gain such an effect, especially after being in prison. But haven’t I – even by normative standards – served my time? Haven’t I done my penance? Should I be eternally reminded and punished? I am not taking patients (what a terrible term); I am working on theory. I need neither your respect or approval. I would only ask that you ask – as a psychologist (I assume) – why the need to contact me?

      Yours Sincerely,

      Tony Cochran


    2. Dear Dr. Eve Hansen,

      I am left rather perplexed even disturbed by your ad hominem attach upon someone you have no personal knowledge about, for which you exploit for amusement. It is indeed deeply disturbing that a so-called ‘professional’ lecturer like you should cynically exploit the traumatic experiences of an ex-prisoner as merely amusing. Your lack of empathy with Mr. Cochran is also alarming and insensitive and one wonders what your students think of such a callous and spiteful attack on someone you have absolutely no knowledge of apart from tabloid media gossip, essentially selective and sensationalist reporting on the case.

      I contend, as Mr. Cochran has theorized, that people do not go to prison for what they do but for who they are, and history is a testimony to this brute fact. I strongly suspect that Judge John Plumstead’s harsh sentencing was largely due to the fact that Mr. Cochran exposed the Judge’s intellectual ineptitude concerning certain phrases and terminology and his knowledge of psychoanalysis publicly humiliating and exposing the Judge’s appalling ignorance.

      People are sent to prison for what they do but for who they are. As these names testify to: criminals Blair, Bush, Clinton, Obama, Trump, and financial terrorists Jamie Dimon, Christine Lagarde, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, and Timothy Geithner are at large because of who they are.

      What you term as ‘pseudo-academic tripe’ is actually your acute anti-intellectualism unable to grapple with complexities of theories stated here. I am very surprised that you have such an uncritical analysis of news reporting as objective fact.

      Indeed your response overtly revels bitterness, even anger and I wonder why? Your conservative recourse to the consensus of ‘qualification’ (‘legitimization’) overtly demonstrates an historical ignorance about the very origins and foundations of knowledge as necessarily being without qualifications especially in the fields of the empirical science as well as the creative arts where such nominations as ‘qualifications’ are null and void and completely absurd.

      To resort to the class-snob politics of one being ‘qualified’ reveals a profoundly parochial and petty bourgeois narrow-minded worldview. Remember: Freud was not ‘qualified’ as a psychoanalysis, rather Freud created psychoanalysis just as

      Mr. Cochran created his own unique form of radical existential analysis. I even had the Ham & High editor remove the slanderous headline ‘Fake psychoanalysis’ to ‘Radical psychoanalysis’.

      Examples of people who were poorly educated and not ‘qualified’ include: Leonardo di Vinci, William Shackespere, Abraham Lincoln, Mar Twain, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Charles Darwin, William Herschel, Gregor Mendel, H.G. Wells, Truman Capote, Charles Dickens, Jack London, Ray Bradbury.

      Please could you kindly inform me why has Mr. Cochran’s case has “been a huge source of amusement amongst my undergraduate psychology students.”…? What was so amusing and how was it approrprately significant for you to warrant using Mr. Cochran’s case for you class?


  2. I thank you for your response – I must tell you that the manner in which your case is being discussed in my department is nothing to be “flattered” about. The only thing it will serve is a cautionary warning to the general public.

    I’m very familiar with other fraud/extortion cases committed by delusional “radicals” such as you describe yourself, and yours has completely confirmed my suspicions that the judge and jury who sent you down made the right decision.

    Virtually every point of your response is pure textbook narcissist – especially the fact you that you even conducted your own defence, in which you eventually pleaded guilty to all charges (according to the report on your sentencing). You didn’t just “admit culpability to the charge of stealing…” – you also admitted “culpability” to the fraud and blackmail.

    Would you also care to justify the numerous fake crowdfunding appeals (as mentioned in the news reports) for yourself, posing as non-existent African charities?

    One of my keen-eyed students spotted that you recently had a Youtube video offering your services to would-be new patients in Poland recently – a video which is no longer online. Care to deny its existence or explain why you suddenly took it down?

    I will let you work out why I have responded to your blog’s contents – if it isn’t obvious, then you have truly ticked off all the boxes.


    1. Reporting on my sentencing said nothing of admitting culpability to all the charges. In point of fact, I made the Judge quite angry when I, during sentencing, admitted to theft and fraud but maintained the truth about being touched sexually inappropriately. Even the prosecuting barrister acknowledged during trial that if this was the case, then the blackmail would not stand (for the menaces must be unreasonable). In any case, the reporting never mentioned I admitted culpability to blackmail charges, unless you can provide me with a source?

      Narcissism is a strong charge, one that I find interesting given that I have spent a great deal of my life attempting to improve the world. However, I admit that when I had this episode, I was acting, out of various traumas, selfishly. In fact, I wasn’t acting ethical. A narcissistic personality wouldn’t be able to admit this, and I think you know that.

      Your department seems to have a great fixation with me, and your keen-eyed students seem to have a level of interest in me beyond the academic. I can therefore fairly closely deduce that you are probably connected with the former plaintiff, who I will not mention for obvious reasons of anonymity, and therefore I will no longer engage in conversation with you. Dots connected, boxes ticked.


  3. Irrespective of the ins and outs of the blogger’s criminal history, there is something that rings true about these posts – they are riddled with pseudointellectual jargon that my own supervisor has reprimanded me for in my current thesis project.

    (Admittedly, I did this to pad out the word count, and I’m now forced to rewrite huge sections of it…)


    1. Dear L Francis,

      Might I ask what you find in my writing that is ‘pseudo intellectual,’ and what does that even mean? Could you kindly define the parameters of ‘intellectual’ vs. ‘pseudo intellectual?’ I have never claimed to be a member of the intellectual class, whatever that be or mean. I have never claimed a need for legitimacy via a big Other, in the form of either degrees or academic supervisors. Whatever novel thoughts you may have, if you do in fact have thoughts, please don’t let your supervisor narrow your vision.


      Tony Cochran


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