chapter  8
19 Pages

Inside-out: transitions from prison to everyday life: A qualitative longitudinal approach

The social organisation of prison has been investigated from multiple perspectives and by different disciplines and scholars during the last decades. Currently, we find macro-theoretical views like the one by Loic Waquant ( 2008 ) who focuses his argumentation on the correspondence of changing welfare regimes with the changing role of prison in society at the fore. Waquant shows how the “criminal justice system acts in concordance with workfare to push its clientele onto the peripheral segments of the deskilled job market” (Waquant 2008 : 25) and how incarceration is linked with the dynamics of the ghetto and “ethnoracial exclusion” (Waquant 2008 : 27) in the US. Beside this analysis of “the novel functions” of the prison from the perspective of a political sociology (Waquant 2008 : 33) we also find a criminological tradition of prison research that explores the changing social organisation of prisons from inside the institution itself, from the perspective of the inmates as well as from the prison officer, and analyses the ongoing privatisation of prisons (James et al 1997 ; Liebling 1992 , 2005 ; Liebling and Prince 2001 ; Crewe 2009 ). The quality of life in prison is investigated and prison is seen as a complex system of social relations. Such research also leads to questions about the “Effects of Imprisonment” (Liebling and Maruna 2005 ) on the life and wellbeing of prisoners — a perspective that has been investigated and discussed consequently by social psychologist Hans Toch from the 1970s onwards (1975, 1977; Johnson and Toch 1982 ). Here, Gresham Sykes’ ( 1958 ) concept of the “pains of imprisonment” has been taken up again, asking for the long-term consequences that incarceration has for the prisoner. Looking at these debates about incarceration, we find an important shift of perspective in relation to the authoritarian institution that prison is (and, following Sykes, will remain). Whereas abolitionists argued against any positive aspects of prison programmes and resumed that “nothing works”, reformers tended to ask “What works?”. According to Liebling and Maruna ( 2005 ) and relating to the work of Toch, the crucial question that shall lead our investigation of imprisonment is “What hurts”? (Liebling and Maruna 2005 : 11). Drawing attention to the “pains of imprisonment” means focusing on the extraordinary experience of the loss of autonomy and the existential anxieties the human being has to cope with in everyday life in prison.