Little is known about the effects of repeated imprisonment. Very few research studies have examined how those who are punished by the criminal justice system experience and interpret their sentences. Research that does exist, like my PhD, has largely focused on one single sentence. But people who have served many sentences (in other words, who have long punishment careers), are likely not to experience criminal punishments in isolation, but in the context of their wider lives and previous sentences.
The aim of the Lives Sentenced project is to address this gap in the knowledge base by examining the life stories of 35 people with long punishment careers. Hopefully this will help me to:
- Understand the significance of individual and cumulating experiences of punishment within and across the life course; examine when punishment is experienced as just, as having different purposes, as being meaningful and life changing
- Examine the experience of first convictions and sentences, and impacts for the punished
- Analyse how ex-offenders’ manage to break the cycle of offending and punishment, their understandings of this process, and their view on whether and how their experiences of punishment helped and hindered them to do so
- Explore how perspectives on justice and punishment change depending on whether people are in prison and across possible ‘turning points’ (such as getting married, becoming a parent, finding a job)
- Explore if it is possible to identify patterns of ‘progression’ through punishment careers and the meanings people give to their sentence
In early 2014 I will be recruiting participants: men and women who have been punished over a period of at least 15 years. I am focusing on those who most recently have served (or are serving) a short-term prison sentence, so that I can compare the results of this research to my PhD interviews with long-term prisoners. Recruitment will hopefully happen both in the community and within prisons, so that I can get both the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside’ view of repeated punishment. I will try to interview the participants again around a year after the first interview, to see how their views have changed over this time. If I manage to get funding to continue the research past 2016, further interviews will also take place, so I can follow people through a portion (and hopefully the end) of their punishment career.