Introduction: Toward a Sociology of Prison Escape

  • Gilles Chantraine
  • Tomas Max Martin
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology book series (PSIPP)


This introduction lays the theoretical and methodological foundations for a comprehensive, socio-historical and critical sociology of prison escape. This collective project relies on the founding idea that escape not only breaks the prison but more fundamentally makes the prison: in other words, avoiding escapes constitute the deep raison d'être of the prison. This also entails a double critique. Firstly, a critique of the dominant instrumental-cum-normative analyses that implicitly or explicitly consider escape control and avoidance as the Alpha and Omega of any reflection about escape. And secondly, a critique of the geographically biased and euro-centric analyses that focus on Western imprisonment practices, and consequently reduce the possibility of grasping the great diversity of the social meanings and practices of escape all over the world. Within this framework, the contributions gathered here are based on diverse methodologies, but they are all driven by a desire to intensively study empirical "cases" of escape, in order to decipher the anthropological, sociological, political, cultural, or psychological situations and contexts that give escapes their specific social meanings. As such the contributions jointly address questions such as: How to analyze the link between escape and the structuration of everyday life and daily resistances within the prison walls? What are the functions and meanings of prison escapes during political transitions and revolutionary moments? Beyond the mere legal definitions, how is escape shaped by institutional, bureaucratic and professionals power relations? Why does prison escape remain such a central image in popular culture? And why do we secretly love escape?


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gilles Chantraine
    • 1
  • Tomas Max Martin
    • 2
  1. 1.CLERSE—CNRS / Université de LilleVilleneuve d’AscqFrance
  2. 2.DIGNITY—Danish Institute Against TortureCopenhagen ØDenmark

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