Changes in sentencing practices have led to an increasing number of men and women serving extremely long prison terms, often from a very young age. Yet the decline in research on long-term imprisonment since the 1970s and 80s means that knowledge about what it is like to undergo the most extreme sanction of the state is extremely sparse. This seminar details the principal problems of long-term confinement, and analyses how both male and female prisoners adjust to the predicament of living for extended periods in prison. Specifically, it focuses on how they come to terms with their situation, how they conceptualise time and the future, how they establish forms of control over their lives, how they deal with feelings about the offence they have committed, how they establish forms of purpose and meaning, and the forms of narrative development that occur over the course of their confinement. Drawing on the work of Margaret Archer, it seeks to theorise the ways in which long-term prisoners readjust to the various and acute ‘dislocations’ entailed by the sentence. The talk concludes by highlighting the implications of the findings, including the importance of foregrounding time (sentence length, age when sentenced, time left to live) and the distinctive features of the offence of murder (including its moral and existential implications) in seeking to understand the experience of undergoing a very long life sentence. 

 

Please join us at 3:00pm for tea and biscuits for a 3:30pm start.

Chaired by Professor Mary Bosworth