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Time and Place

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Part of the Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology book series (PSIPP)

Abstract

Typically, prison sociologists have emphasised the temporal dimensions of imprisonment, while carceral geographers have focused on its spatial qualities. This chapter explores the ways in which long-term prisoners experienced both time and place over the course of their sentence. First, it highlights the profound challenges of managing and conceptualising time, expressed in particular by prisoners in the early sentence stage. These burdens related both to the overall sentence length, which was often longer than prisoners had been alive, and the everyday pains of living in a monotonous and overwhelming present. It describes the strategies that prisoners used to manage these pains, including forms of temporal denial, compression and suppression. The chapter goes on to describe the ways in which prisoners who had served more years in prison had found strategies for taming, transcending and making constructive use of time. A key contrast was between prisoners in the early sentence stage, who regarded prison as a ‘non-place’, and those at later sentence stages, for whom the prison had become ‘home’ and the outside world increasingly unreal. The chapter concludes by reflecting on the form of ‘contextual maturity’ that prisoners described, in which they felt themselves to have matured as individuals but recognised the many ways in which their social maturity had been inhibited.

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  • DOI: 10.1057/978-1-137-56601-0_8
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Notes

  1. 1.

    Nineteen of the 39 problems included in the survey were reported to be significantly more severe by respondents with tariffs of 20 years or more, compared to those with tariffs of under 20 years. Prisoners with tariffs of over 25 years found a number of problems to be significantly more severe than prisoners with shorter tariffs, including: ‘Feeling that your life has been wasted’, ‘Missing social life’, ‘Feeling that you are losing the best years of your life’, ‘Feeling that you have no control over your life’, ‘Not feeling able to completely trust anyone’, ‘Feeling that the length of your sentence is unfair’, ‘Feeling worried about your personal safety’, ‘Feeling that you have no purpose or meaning in your life’, and ‘Having to follow other people’s rules and orders’.

  2. 2.

    ‘Cut up’: in this context, to exercise in a way that removes fat so as to reveal muscle definition.

  3. 3.

    As we noted in Chapter 5, male prisoners who had served years in high-security establishments were clear that their experiences in such prisons were largely non-developmental, because of the levels of fear that they experienced. Time in these establishments was enervating and exhausting. It did not so much mature prisoners as age and exhaust them:

    When I was in the little wars I was in [in high-security], the time would go slow. I’d be thinking ‘fucking hell, man, I can’t get through tomorrow’. And that’s hard, and I used to be anxious all day, adrenalin all day, all day long. (Arkaan, 20s, mid)

  4. 4.

    The view that, on entry into custody, prisoners were simply ‘preserved’ in their current state of maturity was expressed by a number of participants. Stuart (40s, post-tariff), for example, described himself as still having a ‘young attitude’ and feeling ‘like I’m a young raver inside’, conjecturing that this might be ‘because I haven’t experienced maturing in the community’. On the whole, however, when prisoners made such claims, they contradicted them elsewhere in their interviews, or made them with reference to other prisoners’ immaturity: ‘people over forty, and they act like twenty year- olds’ (Antone 20s, early).

  5. 5.

    Prisoners often commented on the changes in technology that would render them of another time when released. Several talked about the possibility of ‘flying cars’, by the time they were freed. Others commented on the glimpses of change that they had seen when being transported between prisons or to external hospitals, for example:

    … this fucking [advertising board], it moved. It had three pictures on it. And not only that, it had the time, and it had the temperature on it, and I was like, ‘are you fucking for real?!’ (Tori, 30s, late)

  6. 6.

    A small number of participants—mainly female prisoners—welcomed the unnatural nature of the prison environment, because it offered them forms of safety and structure that had been missing earlier in their lives:

    • Prison, even though it’s a surreal, it’s not a real environment, you have that safety to grow in a healthy way without fear of attack or reprisal, or whatever. […] I came in [young] and I was a mum [in my teens], and I didn’t have any life experience. You know, those teenage years where you’re out partying and being daft with your mates were gone - they were gone.

    • Do you feel like now you have life experience?

    • Yeah, I’m not sure it’d do me any good in real life. [But] I’ve got plenty of prison life experience. (Gail, 30s, late)

  7. 7.

    Moran and Disney (2017) suggest that, for all prisoners, the world from which they have been removed continues to exist for them as a kind of ‘absent-presence’, while their existence in the world outside likewise endures.

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Crewe, B., Hulley, S., Wright, S. (2020). Time and Place. In: Life Imprisonment from Young Adulthood. Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-56601-0_8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-56601-0_8

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