chapter  8
18 Pages

The role of the Internet in the twenty-first-century prison: insecure technologies in secure spaces


Unlike many of the contributions in this volume, which discuss secure technologies in insecure spaces, this chapter is concerned with insecure technologies in secure places – specifically, internet use by inmates in prison. Apart from this paradigmatic relationship with the rest of the volume, the discussion that follows shares with other contributions several broad themes. First it is concerned with the interface between rights and security, and the curtailment of freedom and civil liberties of an already marginalised group. It explores these issues in the context of current access to the internet for prisoners in England and Wales, and argues that, in the twenty-first century, the denial of access to the internet constitutes a distinctive pain of imprisonment. Second, the chapter discusses how social relations come to be marked by distrust and suspicion, particularly with regard to people (in this case, convicted offenders) and technologies (the internet) defined as security threats. Third, the chapter notes that justifications made for denying prisoners access to the internet on grounds of security may be underpinned by more emotive objections based on nineteenth-century notions of ‘less eligibility’ and solitary confinement. Finally, in common with other contributions to this book, the chapter reflects on how the pursuit of security can result in greater levels of perceived and real insecurity, as policy on internet access in prison creates new forms of social exclusion.