Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type




Director of Thesis

Meredith DeBoom

Second Reader

Mary Abigail Chapin


This thesis will analyze the growth of the California prison system, situating it in the national context of mass incarceration in the United States. In Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s book Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California, Gilmore utilizes the theory of racial capitalism to explain the history and development of the California prison system. By analyzing Gilmore’s arguments about racial capitalism and integrating them with Rob Nixon’s theory of slow violence from his book Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, this thesis provides a new perspective in the current discourse around mass incarceration. This thesis will demonstrate that, when used in conjunction, racial capitalism and slow violence provide a more thorough understanding of mass incarceration in the United States and the ways in which it disproportionately harms two major groups: racial minorities and the poor.

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