Published: Jan. 2, 2010

Recent gender studies about criminality have tended to focus on the decriminalization of same sex relationships or on controversies about a woman's right to choose an abortion. While these issues are important, their implicit legal and political contexts have been considered narrowly. How are these issues reframed when we include a consideration of the larger criminal context, namely, the prison industrial complex and the huge growth of the prison system in the U.S. over the last two decades? The United States now imprisons a larger percentage of its population than any other country. One in every 31 adults is now in prison or on parole.* The Department of Justice verifies that over 7.3 million people were under some form of correctional supervision--probation, prison, jail, or parole—in 2008.** More than half of all immigrants imprisoned by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in January, 2009, had not been convicted of a crime.***

To contemplate this larger context, we would like to publish essays that analyze the U.S. system of criminality and prisons, and the semiotics of the cultural beliefs that support it. How do race and criminalization intersect and interact with sex and gender, especially in this faux "post-racial" age? How is sexuality deployed in the methods by which criminality and punishment are determined? What about the de facto decriminalization of rape within the legal system? What accounts for the widespread failure to prosecute this crime? More generally, how has the legal system created a no-fault semiotics of exoneration for actions that seem criminal on the face of it? What about the near non-existence of crimes in finance capitalism and the malfeasance of corporations? Have current legal controversies about gender and sexuality concealed the class structure of the political economy? How has the victims' rights movement rationalized a system of punishment without due process? Does the sexualization of torture displace the political-economic "reasons" for its occurrence? These are only a few of the questions that might be asked. We welcome other analyses as well, including those from an international perspective. We will publish essays on this special topic in regular issues as quickly as they are accepted for publication.

*Solomon Moore, New York Times, Mar. 2, 2009.

**Bureau of Justice Statistics (, Feb. 20, 2010.

***Michelle Roberts, The Huffington Post, Mar. 15, 2009.