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CPR Seminar Series: Gabriela Kirk-Werner

Eggers Hall, 060

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Gabriela Kirk-Werner (Syracuse University) will present, "Reforming the Shadow Carceral State: the Repeal of Prison Pay-to-Stay Laws in Illinois" as part of the CPR Seminar Series.


Punishment scholars have theorized why, how, and when lawmakers advocate for reforming the carceral state through criminal legal change. What remains less understood are the same processes as they pertain to reforming the shadow carceral state, which requires change at the intersections of criminal, civil, and administrative legal systems.

This article interrogates this puzzle by examining the repeal of prison pay-to-stay laws in the United States. Pay-to-stay refers to the practice of charging incarcerated individuals per diem fees for the cost of their criminal incarceration in jails and/or prisons, with jurisdictions mobilizing civil and administrative law to recoup unpaid fees. Pay-to-stay’s contemporary use exemplifies policies endemic to the shadow carceral state. We draw on a novel dataset on prison pay-to-stay in Illinois consisting of legislative debates, state statutes, and civil lawsuit case files. 

Our historical sociological analysis suggests lawmakers who advocated for reforming the shadow carceral state by repealing prison pay-to-stay repurposed penal logics they had once used punitively, such as protecting taxpayers, fiscal efficiency, and rehabilitation. Lawmakers advocating in this manner used this strategy to position their state as a bi-partisan leader in the governing balance between protecting the welfare of its citizenry and attending to state fiscal austerity. Their advocacy took place amidst public political debates over the utility of pay-to-stay in Illinois, with critics pointing to the excessive harm caused to incarcerated individuals, the high cost taxpayers, and the impact on rehabilitation.


Social Science and Public Policy


Lectures and Seminars



Open to


Students, Graduate and Professional


MAX-Center for Policy Research


Alyssa Kirk


Contact Alyssa Kirk to request accommodations