Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Travis Linnemann

Second Advisor

Judah Schept

Third Advisor

Tyler Wall


The architecture of incarceration has undergone many well-documented changes since the late 18th Century. However, one of the constants has been the architectural symbolism of incarceration itself, and the role it plays in communicating ideas about punishment and control. In this thesis, I examine one of the most fundamental logics of control within this architecture that has largely gone unquestioned: verticality. Specifically, my interest lies in the role that verticality plays in the form of the prison gun tower, which I link to other measures of vertical dominance, such as the aerial drone, and the fortified hilltop. To better situate this, I consider the ways in which space has been employed within and outside of punitive institutions both historically, and contemporarily. This examination of verticality and space utilizes the framework of cultural criminology, and engages with various news media publications, song lyrics, art, and literature in order to make sense of carceral space as it exists in the cultural imagination. Of particular interest is the way that the gun tower has been presented as an anachronistic, yet comforting symbol in some cases, and as a tool of power in others. I conclude by proposing a reframing of the gun tower within punitive space that places it within the larger discourse of control, as opposed to viewing it as merely a given feature of prison-building practices. I then contend that such an approach provides an effective "launch point" for similar engagements in the future, particularly where broader questions of culture are concerned.