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

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

Abstract:

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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