Abstract: Jerusalemite Children Speaking Against Home Arrest (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Jerusalemite Children Speaking Against Home Arrest

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, professor, Professor, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Background and Purpose: Home arrest (HA), is a community-based sanction, that developed within a neoliberal penological approach during the 1980s (Feeley & Simon, 1992; Gainey & Payne, 2000), and is argued by a majority of scholars as an alternative to punishment. Community based sanction, or more specifically home arrest, is viewed as a preferable form of rehabilitation for incarcerated children, as opposed to the traumatic effects brought on by mainstream imprisonment (Staples & Decker, 2008; Gainey & Payne, 2000). More importantly, research shows that HA tends to increase rates of optimal rehabilitation and community integration (Feeley & Simon, 1992; Staples & Decker, 2008 ; Gainey & Payne, 2000). This paper aims to challenge the narratives claimed above, by exposing the reality of HA exercised within a settler colonial context cloaked under domicidal politics, amongst children living in occupied East Jerusalem.

Methods: To comprehend the meaning and effect of home arrest on children, the study engages with 35 in depth interviews with children, examine their narratives, writings and encounters, as they portray it. With the help of parents, and while using children’s notes, voice notes, writings and words, a bottom up methodology was incorporated. The study also consult with theorization from other settler colonial and colonial contexts. Engaging with children when and while under HA is ethically challenging, but is crucial in building contextually sensitive interventions.

Results: Studying home-arrest from children’s own encounters, offered a unique opportunity to explore the relationship between children’s understanding and the regime’s violent dispossession. Children shared that HA is a violent invasion of their only shelter amidst military occupation. They discussed the psychosocial effect of such invasion apparent in the emotional overflow and overloaded bureaucracy, the state of waiting, the sense of erratic suffocation, and unending wounding. They insisted that home-arrest became a mode of state penetration of their visceral, a tool to social dismemberment, but also maintained that HA created new modes of resisting the occupation of home, and held their right to resist. Home arrest within children’s context, produced the opposite effects of: rehabilitation, community integration, and alternative punishment, and is in actuality, a form of domopolitical attack that targets the intimate bonds between children, their family, and the community as a whole.

Conclusions and Implications: Imperative to the role of social work in challenging the destructive imprints of state power, is the analysis of the psycho-social, legal, and political framework embedded in marking children's homes, bodies, and lives deemed as penetrable and disposable. HA within the colonial settler context strips the child from the childhood and the warmth of the home, and became a tool for unchilding and social dismemberment used against a colonized community. Critical social work must utilize interventions that are context-informed. Social work practice is called to not only combat racial atrocities camouflaged by “caring” policies, but enact and implement interventions that impedes the multiple technologies used to unchild, wound the home , and the family.