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‘Crafting time’: constructions of the staff-prisoner relationship

Gredecki, Neil (2016) ‘Crafting time’: constructions of the staff-prisoner relationship. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

Restricted to Repository staff only until 15 November 2021.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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The broad aim of this research was to understand how prisoners and prison officers construct the staff-relationship, using positioning theory to explore these relationships within the prison context. Taking a more dramaturgical notion of prisons and the prison environment, this study was one of positioning and discourse, with particular consideration being given to the relationships that this discourse was either enabling or disenabling. Engaging with both prisoners and prison officers provided a sound understanding of the ways in which both parties were constructing the one relationship. The findings of this research suggest that prisoners and prison officers seek to find ways of ‘crafting’ time within prison in order to enable this time to be ‘easy’. As such, this research leads us to a point of thinking whereby prisoners and prison officers are constructed as interdependent groups whereby one cannot exist without the other. Although the staff-prisoner relationship represents an imbalance of power, this research suggests that it is nonetheless an intimate relationship due to their collective and collaborative performances. According to this research, prisoners and prison officers have moved towards a process of collusion in their performance of ‘easy time’. This seemingly undermines the aims of the Prison Service, with ‘formal compliance’ being favoured over ‘substantive compliance’ and rehabilitation. However, this is problematic in terms of criminal justice policy and practice. The research informs us that in order to address the shortcomings of the staff-prisoner relationship; as outlined through the participants’ talk; more needs to be done to better articulate and understand the remit of the ‘modern’ Prison Service and the roles of the prison officer and the prisoner within this system. This involves challenging the notion of ‘easy time’, and supporting prisoners and prison officers to ‘craft’ prison in a productive way.

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