This book offers a sustained study of one feature of the prison officer’s job: the threat and use of force, which the author calls ‘doing’ coercion. Adopting an interactionist, micro-sociological perspective, the author presents new research based on almost two years of participant observation within an Italian custodial complex hosting both a prison and a forensic psychiatric hospital.

Based on observation of emergency squad interventions during so-called ‘critical events’, together with visual methods and interviews with staff, ‘Doing’ Coercion in Male Custodial Settings constitutes an ethnographic exploration of both the organisation and the implicit and explicit practices of threatening and/or ‘doing’ coercion. With a focus on the lawful yet problematic and discretionary threatening and 'doing’ of coercion performed daily on the landing, the author contributes to the growing scholarly literature on power in prison settings, and the developing field of the micro-sociology of violence and of radical interactionism.

As such, it will appeal to scholars of sociology, anthropology and criminology with interests in prisons, power and violence in institutions, and visual methods.

chapter 1|16 pages


chapter 2|20 pages

‘Doing’ coercion

A micro-sociology bricolage 1

chapter 3|22 pages

Peacemaking and beyond

The prison officer’s everyday duties

chapter 5|22 pages

Implicit coercion logic

chapter 6|40 pages

The symbolic and credible threat of force

chapter 7|16 pages

The use of force 1

chapter 8|18 pages

Images from my visual ethnographic diary

chapter 9|18 pages

Methodological afterthoughts

chapter 10|8 pages


On prison officers and (good) violence