The Prisoner Society: Power, Adaptation and Social Life in an English Prison

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While the use of imprisonment continues to rise in developed nations, we have little sociological knowledge of the prison's inner world. Based on extensive fieldwork in a medium-security prison in the UK, HMP Wellingborough, The Prisoner Society: Power, Adaptation and Social Life in an English Prison provides an in-depth analysis of the prison's social anatomy. It explains how power is exercised by the institution, individualizing the prisoner community and demanding particular forms of compliance and engagement. Drawing on prisoners' life stories, it shows how different prisoners experience and respond to the new range of penal practices and frustrations. It then explains how the prisoner society - its norms, hierarchy and social relationships - is shaped both by these conditions of confinement and by the different backgrounds, values and identities that prisoners bring into the prison environment.

Individual chapters in the book examine the flow of power, social order and governance, social relations and hierarchy, everyday prison culture, politics and economics, and the effects of imprisonment on prisoners. The book also looks at the recent accounts of transformations in penal management and changes in prison policy, and offers comparative content on the quality of prison life by drawing upon quantitative evaluations based on standard UK prison surveys and visits to three other category C prisons.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I have no doubt that The Prisoner Society will come to be seen as a classic text in the international canon of prison studies. Meanwhile, it should be read by everyone concerned with penal justice" —Pat Carlen, British Journal of Criminology

"An engaging and beautifully-drawn account of the prison's social and cultural 'innards' which are normally hidden from view. The book is rich in texture and detail, theoretically sophisticated and - perhaps unusually for such a lenghthy book - never dull"
—Gwen Robinson, Howard Journal of Criminal Justice

"The Prisoner Society is a triumph of prisons sociology. In this thoroughly researched, elegantly written, immensely rewarding book, Ben Crewe achieves his stated ambition of revisiting and renewing the tradition of prison ethnography, It will surely swiftly attain the status of a modern classic, and confirm Crewe's reputation as an outstanding prisons scholar." —Alisa Stevens, The Sociological Review

"This book is highly recommended and deserves to be read widely by prison professionals and will also undoubtedly be a source of reference for academics for years to come."
—Jamie Bennett, Govenor of HMP Morton Hall, Prison Service Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199577965
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/13/2009
  • Series: Clarendon Studies in Criminology Series
  • Pages: 528
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Ben Crewe is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Criminology, Cambridge, and is a Nuffield Foundation New Career Development Fellow in social sciences. He is also a Research Fellow at Robinson College, Cambridge. He has published widely on prison life and media culture.

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Table of Contents

1: Introduction
2: The Penal Context and History
3: Institutional Culture and Power in HMP Wellingborough
4: Power
5: Adaptation, Compliance and Resistance
6: The Prisoner Hierarchy
7: Friendship and Social Relations
8: Everyday Social Life and Culture
9: Concluding Comments
Notes on the Research Process
1. Introduction
2. The Penal Context and History
3. Institutional Culture and Power in HMP Wellingborough
4. Power
5. Adaptation, Compliance and Resistance
6. The Prisoner Hierarchy
7. Friendship and Social Relations
8. Everyday Social Life and Culture
9. Concluding Comments
Notes on the Research Process

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