Imprisonment and the assault on the self
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It might seem curious to start a study of white-collar offenders’ desistance with a discussion of prison. After all, efforts to chart desistance and resettlement are difficult to pursue while offenders are still incarcerated. However, the experience of imprisonment is important because, as will be shown, the process of resettlement begins in prison, as prison is the venue for thinking and planning for the future and coming to terms with changes in the self that impact on later efforts to resettle. The experience of imprisonment was therefore quite significant for those whitecollar offenders subject to it. The reasons for this are explored below, but all relate to the way offenders understood themselves and what was happening to them. This chapter outlines the literature that has considered the impact of prison on offenders generally, highlighting particularly the ‘damage’ prison can do to offenders. Following this, the prison accounts of those white-collar offenders who spent time in prison are outlined, organised along several broad themes that emerge from offenders’ accounts. The focus of inquiry is on how the experiences of the whitecollar offenders who make up this sample differ from the experiences of prisoners more generally and white-collar offenders in particular. Under this somewhat sweeping investigation, observations of prisoners suggest several distinct aspects of the prison experience that will help to direct investigation. Therefore, the concerns of the analysis here are the effects of prison on white-collar offenders, the way time in prison is spent and the potential threats that a prison sentence introduces to a sense of who one ‘is’.