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Subjective experience of early imprisonment

Williams, Hannah, Taylor, Pamela Jane, Walker, J., Plant, Gemma, Kissell, Anna and Hammond, A. 2013. Subjective experience of early imprisonment. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 36 (3-4) , pp. 241-249. 10.1016/j.ijlp.2013.04.020

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Background: Some say 'prison works', others say that it only harms. Overall, longitudinal studies of prisoners suggest some positive impact on mental state, but post-release recidivism is high. How do men at high risk for repeated imprisonment experience it? Aim: To explore prison (gaol) experience among men awaiting trial in custody. Methods: In a prospective longitudinal study, 170 men were interviewed just after reception about their social context and mental state and again three weeks later, when each was asked to describe his current prison experience; 75% had been in prison before. Data were analysed qualitatively and quantitatively. Results: Each man had views on his imprisonment. Data were saturated after 20 interviews. The core concern was its overall emotional impact, in full negative to positive range, with recognition that this could and did change in either direction, both passively and through active processes. Underpinning themes were along the dimensions of missing people to asylum from the outside world; in-prison bullying to positive staff and/or inmate relationships; boredom to relief in routine; and 'doing my head in' to salvation from drug-induced decline. Testing the model in the whole sample confirmed no association between prison impact and pre-prison factors. Negative experience was associated with severe depression within but not before this imprisonment. More positive experience related to good in-prison relationships. Conclusions: During pre-trial custodial detention, there is a greater range of experience than generally previously reported. The simple expedients of prison staff developing good relationships with prisoners, and facilitating these between prisoners, could be life-saving. Highly positive experiences may be more an indictment on community services than an endorsement of imprisonment.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG)
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine
Uncontrolled Keywords: Adult;Humans;Interviews as Topic;Male;Mental Health;Models Psychological;Prisoners;Prisons;Prospective Studies;Young Adult adult;article;boredom;bullying;custody;depression;disease severity;emotionality;experience;human;longitudinal study; male;mental health;prison;prospective study;social environment
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0160-2527
Last Modified: 23 Dec 2017 20:26

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