Computerizing carceral space: Coded geographies of criminalization and capture in New York City

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This article examines how computer software mediates the way cities conceptualize relations between corrections, law enforcement, and urban space. Focusing on New York City, it builds on concepts from carceral geography and geographic studies of software to decipher the “coded spaces” of corrections and law enforcement, or spaces whose existence and morphology are partially determined by software. It does so through discourse analysis of technical documents from New York City criminal justice agencies and specialized publications on applications of software in corrections and law enforcement. In analyzing these materials, the article demonstrates how the New York City Department of Corrections and Community Supervision envisions software as a medium for embedding coded spaces of continuous surveillance, discipline, and capture across the city. It also chronicles how the New York City Police Department articulates software as a means of establishing functionally similar spaces of its own, albeit on larger scales. In each instant, authorities perceive software as a means of establishing intracity coded spaces in which correctional supervision looks more like policing, and policing more like correctional supervision. The article suggests that this coded dimension of surveillance, discipline, and human capture indicate new horizons for the geography of the carceral state, and merit further empirical investigation to understand their technicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)969-988
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Carceral geography
  • coded space
  • digital geography
  • policing
  • software studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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