Beyond spaces of confinement – papers at RGS-IBG 2012

The provisional schedule for the RGS-IBG conference in Edinburgh in July this year is now available online. For those interested in geographies of imprisonment and detention, as well as the two sessions themed around ‘Everyday Geographies of the Punitive State’, there are a number of fascinating papers in store.

Selecting just two of these, both Menah Raven-Ellison’s paper Home beyond detention  and Avril Maddrell’s paper Doing time in the charity shop: space of reparation and rehabilitation for the Licensed Prisoner? A ten year review draw attention to practices of ‘confinement’ which take place beyond formal institutonal boundaries. Abstracts, taken from the RGS-IBG provisional programme, are given below.

Home beyond detention (Menah Raven-Ellison) In the third quarter of 2011, 6,593 people were detained in the UK for the purposes of immigration control (Home Office, 2011). While 1,123 of those detained were women, major shortcomings are identified in their treatment and calls made for a more gender sensitive asylum system that meets the needs of women asylum-seekers. Although 35% of these women went on to be released there is a lack of research that investigates the on-going legacy of detention and the consequences for the belonging, social integration and mental wellbeing of ex-detainees and those close to them. This paper presents some preliminary empirical findings, drawing on in-depth narratives of ‘home’ for previously detained women living in the UK. In doing so it seeks to uncover how women’s experiences of detention may endure over time and space, often defined by the enduring indeterminacy and exceptionality of detention and the imposing ‘spectre’ of future confinement. Conceptually, this paper seeks to contribute a critical feminist perspective to the emerging geographic research on detention, imprisonment and confinement by focusing on how geographies of detention may extend beyond institutional boundaries to the home as an equally geopolitical space as experienced in the everyday lives of women.

Doing time in the charity shop: space of reparation and rehabilitation for the Licensed Prisoner? A ten year review (Avril Maddrell) Research on charity shops ten years ago showed that they fulfil a number of social functions and draw on a wide range of volunteers, including licensed prisoners on day- release from open prisons. This identified the space of the charity shop not only as a conduit for fundraising, recycling and alternative consumption, but as a complex social environment in which prisoners ‘do time’ and shadow state functions are performed by shop managers and other volunteers who undertake explicit and implicit surveillance, re-training and social rehabilitation of prisoners on licence (Maddrell 2000; Horne and Maddrell 2002). In-depth interviews with charity shop prisoners, volunteers, licensed prisoners and prison officers are used to undertake a ten year review of this scheme, the implications for prisoners, prisons, charity shops and personnel, the general public and custodial policy. Questions addressed include whether in this context the charity shop can be read as panopticon? And whether the near-compulsory nature of community service work under licence challenges definitions of what constitutes a ‘volunteer’?