It is estimated there are currently around 9 million people in prisons across the globe. Statistics can tell us which countries or regions have the highest rates of incarceration. The numbers can tell us about the most common offenses, subdivided by race and sex of offender. Statistics can record the number of assaults and fatalities among inmates. What these numbers cannot convey is the essence of what it means to be a prisoner and what the prison experience entails for those being punished.
The previous meetings of the Experiencing Prison research stream provided a platform for inter-disciplinary dialogues aimed at grappling with questions around the purpose, effectiveness, legitimacy and social impact of prisons.
The upcoming 8th Global Conference will be primarily focused on the prisoner and the impact imprisonment itself and the many shortcomings and civil rights violations that often accompany it have on the lives of the inmates. Living in a total institution can be profoundly traumatic in itself and doing so against one’s will, as a form of punishment is enough to generate powerful, specific emotions and experiences. But when faced with threats to one’s life, health or wellbeing because of issues such as prison overpopulation, physical and sexual violence, abuse of power by prison staff and management, prison riots and gang wars etc., loss of freedom becomes only one part of a more complex and darker story. During this year’s event, we will focus especially on answering questions such as (but not limited to):
- How does imprisonment affect its subjects on a physiological, psychological, sociological, economic and philosophical level?
- Who is most likely to become a prisoner (and why) and how do different kinds of inmates experience imprisonment?
- How do negative experiences associated with the prison environment (violence, overcrowding, poor living conditions etc.) affect the prisoners’ identity and evolution?
- What are the most crucial kinds of prison experiences – both positive and negative – that produce a lasting impact on the inmates’ lives?
- What kind of relationships do inmates build in prison and how do these relationships affect their lives both within and without prison walls?
- Are prisons truly capable of reforming inmates and if so, under what conditions?
The organisers welcome participants whose professional expertise or experiences contribute to the project’s inter-disciplinary understanding of prisons, especially corrections facility staff, legal experts, law enforcement officers, former inmates, medical/clinical professionals, clergy, journalists, civil servants, representatives from NGOs, creative practitioners whose work deals with prison issues, and academics working in relevant fields.
Some of the suggested topics for this event include (but are not limited to)
Prisoner Demographics, Typologies and Specific Experiences:
- Types of Prisoners: political dissidents, prisoners of war, violent offenders, non-violent offenders, white collar criminals, innocent/wrongly accused, asylum seekers
- Race, class, sex and other forms of discrimination in sentencing
- Poverty, class and prison
- The female experience in prison
- Race, racism and prison
- Transgender people in prison
- Old age in prison
- Child prisoners
Relationships and Prison:
- Prison and family: being a parent, a son, a daughter, a spouse, a friend from behind bars
- The role the outside support network plays in the psychological development and rehabilitation of the prisoner.
- The typology and meaning of relationships developed within prison walls (with other inmates, with guards and other prison staff etc)
- Social structures, control and power dynamics within the prison environment
- Love and sexuality in prison
- Prison rivalries, feuds and gang wars
- Prison camaraderie
Traumatic Prison Experiences:
- Rape, assault and other acts of violence
- Torture in prison
- Death and dying in prison
- Overpopulation and inadequate living conditions
- Isolation and humiliation as methods of punishment in prison
- Real or perceived lack of personal safety
- Lack of privacy and poor access to basic hygienic products (e.g. sanitary pads for women)
- Physical illness developed and treated in prison
- Depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders developed and treated in prison
Positive Prison Experiences:
- Learning and teaching in prison
- Finding spirituality behind bars
- Writing, art and other creative practices in prison
- Finding one’s vocation in prison
- Reinventing oneself while serving time
- Rehabilitation and education
Life After Prison
- Challenges of reintegration
- Fighting the statistically high odds of reoffending
- Discrimination against and stigmatization of former inmates
- Regaining one’s place in the family
- Living with PTSD after imprisonment
- Experiencing regained freedom
- Probation, community service and volunteerism
Prison as Institution
- Prison as workplace: experiences of guards, administrators and institutional officials
- Prison spaces: architectural design in theory and practice, boot camps, work camps, open air prisons, etc.
- Technologies of incarceration
- Counselling and other clinical experiences with prisoners
- (In)Famous prisons and their legacy (Auschwitz, Guantanamo Bay, Alcatraz, Newgate Gaol, etc.)
- Prisons and dark tourism
- Prison conditions around the globe
- Economics of incarceration: politics of awarding contracts, private vs public management, impact of prison location on local communities, etc.
Prisons in Law and Policy
- Theories and practices in rehabilitation and humane containment
- Balancing punishment and human rights
- Prison reform initiatives
- Innovative approaches to incarceration
- Relationship between justice system and corrections system
- Correctional services as public policy: governmental/civil service perspectives
- National and international legal provisions around prison conditions and prisoners’ rights
- NGOs and charities working in the area of prison reform
300 word abstracts, proposals and other forms of contribution should be submitted. All submissions be minimally double reviewed, under anonymous (blind) conditions, by a global panel drawn from members of the Project Team and the Advisory Board. In practice our procedures usually entail that by the time a proposal is accepted, it will have been triple and quadruple reviewed.
Abstracts may be in Word, RTF or Notepad formats with the following information and in this order: a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.
E-mails should be entitled: Experiencing Prison Abstract Submission. Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs:
- Diana Medlicott: diana[at]inter-disciplinary.net
- Rob Fisher: prison8[at]inter-disciplinary.net
Conference Outcomes and Outputs1
- 1. The conferences we organise form a continual stream of conversations, activities and projects which grow and evolve in different directions. The outcomes and ‘outputs’ which can productively flow from these is a dynamic response to the gatherings themselves. And as our meetings are attended by people from different backgrounds, professions and vocations, the range of desirable outcomes are potentially diverse, fluid and appropriate to what took place.
For detailed information on possible outcomes and outputs, please click here. (This will open a new window).
All accepted papers presented at the conference are eligible to be selected for publication in a hard copy paperback volume (the structure of which is to be determined post conference and subject to certain criteria). The selection and review process is outlined in the conference materials. Other publishing options may also become available. Potential editors will be chosen from interested conference delegates.
Additional possible outputs include: paperback volumes; journals; open volume on-line annuals; social media outputs (Facebook pages, blogs, wikis, Twitter and so on); collaboration platforms; reviews; reports; policy statements; position papers; declarations of principles; proposals for future meetings, workshops, courses and schools; proposals for personal and professional development opportunities (cultural cruises, summer schools, personal enrichment programmes, faculty development, mentoring programmes, consultancies); and other options you would like us to consider.
Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.
Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence