2B Prison Paradoxes

Parallel Session 2B (Day 1 13.00-14.20)

Prison Paradoxes

*Siobhan Neave (Royal Holloway, University of London, School of Law); Emily Glorney (Royal Holloway, University of London, School of Law); Lizzie Coles-Kemp (Royal Holloway, University of London, Information Security Group) : A model of care for male prisoners who self-harm: an understanding of information flow within a carceral space and its consequences for care


One might argue that the paucity of information flow related to the management of mental health and offender well-being within the carceral system is indicative of the failure to prevent self-harm in male prison estates.  Although this is rarely alluded to within the theoretical framework of prison systems, Goffman’s portrayal of mortification, institutionalised roles and boundaried interaction creates for endless possibilities of the disruption to the flow of information. However, contemporary prison researchers and UK governmental investigations have taken a more direct approach to this association, highlighting both human and system failures as a paradox against the current self-harm management process- Assessment Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT). Consequently, the disruption to information flow within prison is two-fold.  Firstly, the breakdown in institutional processes involved in the management, prevention and care of self-harming prisoners on an ACCT; the lack of access to healthcare information, failure in multi-disciplinary involvement, information not following transferred prisoners, are some of the most reported disruptions in information flow.  Secondly, the limitation of conceptualisations of information by individual actors or groups of actors can block information flow through conflicting perceptions of risk, inconsistencies with decision-making and unhelpful responses to the self-harm.  Together, the breakdown in institutional processes and the limitation in conceptualisation- both forms of disruption to information flow- are part of a systemic failure to prevent or effectively manage self-harm in male prisoners. This presentation will illustrate a theoretical and evidence-based argument for the failure in information flow surrounding male prisoners who self-harm.  Tronto’s (2009) model of care will form the basis of an imagined four stage model of care for these male prisoners.  This model will attempt to address previous failings in the flow of information through carceral space and promote a care-focused approach better suited to the needs of male offenders who self-harm.

Jason Warr (De Montfort University) : Spatial and Professional Territoriality: The Experiences of Prison Psychologists

The prison is constructed from varying carceral and disciplinary discourses, each of which is supported by a system of practice, expertise and bureaucracy. If, within an organisation, these systems of power overlap in their interests and duties a competition in terms of resources, influence and practice arises. This often results in behaviours that Hall (1990) would define as territoriality. Brown et al (2005) note that there are differing aspects of territoriality in the work place, from the benign (i.e. personalising one’s own desk/office space) to the malign (i.e. excluding people from projects or spaces), each designed to indicate ownership of particular physical, social (or even symbolic) objects that exist within the organisation. This paper explores the forms of territoriality that psychologists can become subject to as competition for disciplinary capital emerges. Territoriality in this sense has both spatial and professional dimensions as it impacts on their occupational practice within the prison. The paper will specifically focus on the territorial rivalry that exists between psychological practitioners and Offender Management personnel. The paper is based on research conducted with 20 forensic psychologists employed within prisons in England and Wales and 9 senior psychologists or HMP staff responsible for the development of contemporary psychological services.

Luca Sterchele (Università di Padova) : Biopolitical Prisons? Medical Knowledge and the Segmentation of Prison Space

In recent years, ethnographic observations conducted in Northern Italian penitentiaries showed major changes in the strategies of prison population’s subdivision into different areas of the institution. Alongside with the formal and well-established repartition based on the juridical position of the inmates, an informal one referring to different characteristics has been noticed. Between those new criteria, the sanitary status of the prisoners seems to be a major one: this inedited strategy led thus to an increased importance of medical evaluation in the institutional organization, and to the creation of informal wards exclusively dedicated to inmates with mental illnesses or drug related problems. With this contribution my aim is to start exposing some of those “ethnographic splinters” (Sbraccia, 2012) and to move on, reflecting on the medical role within the overall governmental strategies of the penitentiary. Medical ambivalence clearly emerges in fact from those operations: the subdivision of the prison space into different areas, though it may be considered as a way to make the distribution of therapies more practical, is also a strategy that makes control and government more effective. The segmentation of spaces, described by Foucault (1976) as the “soul” of disciplinary dispositifs, makes those more controllable and disciplining: medical knowledge, spatially inscribing the illness, increases both curability and control (Bazzicalupo, 2013), leading to the maximisation of the subjectivizing effects of the carceral-medical apparatus. This could lead to a better administration of a population considered particularly “at risk” (mainly of self-harm and suicide). Prisoners, by their side, react to this control in various ways, playing out different strategies of subtraction using an unqualified but relevant knowledge: those discontinuous, implicit and indirect critiques to power will be addressed, in their multiple facets, as possible forms of prisoner’s resistance.

Laura Rezzonico (nccr – on the move, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland) : Carceral experiences of exclusion: the confinement of migrants pending deportation in Swiss prisons


The overlaps between imprisonment and immigration detention have been largely recognized in scientific research (Moran et al 2013, Aas and Bosworth 2013, Bosworth 2014). While prisons have become key sites for border control (Kaufman 2013), immigration detention centres show many similarities with prisons, and such resemblance generates confusion and ambivalence both among detainees and staff (Bosworth 2013, 2014). This overlap is even more explicit when immigration detention actually takes place in prisons, which is very common in Switzerland. In this paper, I explore the relation between carceral space (Moran et al 2013, Moran 2015) and everyday experiences of detained migrants and prison officers in a context of crimmigration (Stumpf 2006, 2015). Based on an ethnographic study of two Swiss prisons confining migrants pending deportation as well as accused and/or convicted criminals, I show how carceral spaces and logics affect and shape interactions, practices, experiences as well as understandings of immigration detention. Analysing the nexus between imprisonment and immigration detention through the lenses of carceral spaces, I will shed light on the relation between migrants’ exclusion, discipline and punishment, as well as on the use of physical and symbolic violence in migration control.