Prison Service Journal: 216

Monday, 3 November 2014

Prisons can often feel like insular worlds with their own culture and dynamics. Terms such as ‘total institution’, proposed by Erving Goffman, suggest that some institutions, such as prisons are almost hermetically sealed and exercise a powerful, dominating influence over those inside.

However, such a polar view could never be entirely sustained. There is always space, even if constrained and circumscribed, for the outside to seep in and for people to express and enact their own individual and collective will. In other words there is a dialectical relationship where there is to some degree a process of negotiation between different individuals or wider forces.

Broadly speaking, this is the loose theme that runs through this edition of Prison Service Journal. The articles explore how the inside and outside coincide across the range of prison life. They raise a range of questions that are both instrumental, about how things might be made more effective, and normative, about the moral nature of these spaces.

  • How and in what ways are the internal and external worlds entangled?
  • What are the effects of this upon prisoners, staff and the public?
  • What are the values that are reflected in these exchanges and interfaces?
  • How might these spaces be developed so as to ameliorate the pains of imprisonment?