Policing Criminological Knowledge on Imprisonment in Pandemic Times: Confronting Opacity and Navigating Corporatization in Prison Research


  • Justin Piché University of Ottawa
  • Kevin Walby University of Winnipeg


Thousands of prisoners and prison staff have been infected by COVID-19 across Canada. Deteriorating conditions of confinement have become commonplace, with segregation-like measures imposed in the name of preventing COVID-19 transmission. While prisoners, their loved ones, advocates, and researchers have discussed trends regarding infection, public health restrictions, and even vaccination behind bars, less explored is the deterioration of government transparency related to incarceration during this pandemic. Engaging with literatures on the policing of criminological knowledge, access to information, and state corporatization, this article examines how Canadian government authorities have limited access to records about imprisonment during the pandemic. We examine how the recent centralization of freedom of information request processing, which reshapes government services to mirror corporate entities, has altered what can be known about penitentiary, prison, and jail policies, practices, and outcomes. In so doing, we highlight the need for social science researchers to contest information blockades and create pathways to promote state transparency.