Police and pastoral power: governmentality and correctional forensic psychiatric nursing*

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Since 1978, the federal inmates of Canada have had access to a full range of psychiatric care within the penitentiary system. Several psychiatric units are now integrated into the correctional services of Canada. This paper presents the results of a grounded theory doctoral study undertaken in a multilevel secured psychiatric ward within the Canadian federal penitentiary system. The author describes and discusses the results of qualitative data that emerged from his fieldwork. The concept of governmentality, as defined by the late French philosopher Michel Foucault, constitutes one of the major theoretical tools that were helpful in analyzing these data. Police and pastoral power, two dimensions of the security apparatus of governmentality, were found to be useful in understanding and characterizing nursing practice caught between the penal and the psychiatric dispositifs. A Foucauldian perspective allows one to understand the manner in which forensic psychiatric nursing is involved in the governance of mentally ill inmates through three forms of power — sovereign, disciplinary and pastoral — which have posited nursing practice as a strategic tool of the correctional services. This research consists of a study of nursing practice in an extreme setting that deserves a radical analysis.

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