Tuesday 18th December 2018 11:40-13:00
5 Carceral Boundaries
Crossing the prison boundary? A study of UK prisoner writing competitions
Eleanor March (University of Surrey)
Writing has historically been viewed as a way for prisoners to escape their imprisonment. Through the act of writing, the prisoner can transcend their incarceration (Brombert, 1978; Carnochan, 1998) and convey a part of themselves beyond the prison walls. While prisoner writing undoubtedly offers numerous benefits, its liberatory function has been challenged (Rodríguez, 2006; Ahnert, 2013). Traditional conceptions of the impregnable prison boundary, and the resulting absolute division between inside and outside, have also been contested (Baer & Ravneburg, 2008). The prison border is revealed to be permeable and heterogeneous (Moran, 2015), an idea encapsulated by Turner’s model of the “boundary patchwork” that can be crossed in numerous ways, including via prisoner artwork (2016). This paper builds on Turner’s research by evaluating the function of prisoner writing as a boundary crossing, focusing on the spatial movement of texts within prisoner writing competitions. I examine written submissions to the Koestler Awards, alongside the annual Prison Reform Trust writing competition. I draw on my experience of volunteering for both competitions, along with my research into archive and published competition entries. My paper considers how competition entries leave prison, travel though the judging process, and achieve publication. By examining the literary practices involved, and relating these to the geography of the prison boundary, I conclude that the majority of prisoner writing remains unpublished and that publication often imposes further constraints on such writing. This interdisciplinary study thus suggests that, counter-intuitively, prisoner writing offers limited opportunities for boundary crossing.
The presentation of place in everyday prison life
Maddalena Rodelli (Università degli studi di Padova)
The interplay between individuals and their surroundings plays a fundamental role in relation to the intergroup psychosocial dynamics of inclusion end exclusion. This has significant implications in prison, a context with hardly permeable boundaries where convicts and prison officers are members of two inevitably opposed groups, due to the power asymmetry of their role of controllers and controlled ones. With this contribution I intend to explore the representation of places in everyday prison life, from the point of view of the various social groups populating the prison: convicts, penitentiary police officers and health care workers. The principle aim of this study is to analyze the role of prison’s physical and symbolic features in the processes of construction, negotiation and maintenance of an individual identity and groups’ sense of belonging or opposition. Assuming Goffman’s dramaturgical perspective, I will try to identify which could be, for each social group, the front stage and back stage places, highlighting their use and their perception. I will consider the concepts of place attachment, defined as a multidimensional bond between person and place, and territoriality, defined as the use of the space to communicate influence or control on places. The research is based on 30 dialogic interviews conducted both with inmates and staff of a minimum-security prison for drug addicted convicts. A part of the interviews was dedicated to the production of a personal map of the prison, in order to allow participants to express visually their cognitive and sensory experiences linked with the prison environment.
Closing Holloway Prison: The women’s voices
Carly Guest and Rachel Seoighe (Middlesex University)
This paper reflects on interviews and focus groups with formally/imprisoned women who experienced the closure of Holloway Prison in the summer of 2016, including oral history interviews conducted by Islington Museum. It considers the far-reaching implications the closure of the prison had on women’s lives; the women detail the impact on relationships within and beyond the prison. These include relationships with self, others, the carceral space and institution. The women’s experiences also illustrate how the inadequacies of support outside of the prison, such as housing and mental health support, forms another kind of carceral landscape that shapes their carceral journeys.