Re-‘homing’ the ex-offender: constructing a ‘prisoner dyspora’

My latest article, available to download in Early View in Area is available here.


Recent work within and beyond the geography discipline has come to understand that where might be imagined a sharp boundary between the ‘hidden’ inside and outside of prisons, there is in fact a myriad of materials that cleave and bind penal geographies that mark the prison wall as a site of transaction and exchange. Recidivism in the UK is of serious concern, rendering the ‘prisoner’ a participant of a very unique and dynamic type of border exchange. In light of this, this paper questions how this impacts prisoners’ identities and attachments to ‘home’. Although ex-offenders may idealise a return to the communities where they lived prior to incarceration, the ability to re-integrate is often limited. This may be attributed to the transformations that individuals undergo while spending time in prison, such as the possession of a criminal record. In grounding this discussion in the case of a company that employs ‘ex-offenders’, I examine the implications of belonging to such a group of ‘conventional employees’ and ‘those with criminal records’; revealing tensions that complicate matters of belonging. This paper therefore posits the prison as a kind of ‘homeland’ that continues to significantly shape one’s identity following their out-migration. Those leaving prison find themselves unable to display conventional attachments to the outside society, while performing a dystopian relationship with the prison homeland, allowing for a consideration of what I have termed the ‘prisoner dyspora’.


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