Towards capabilities and desistance? Scottish prisoners’ experiences of education

MacKenzie, Anna (2020) Towards capabilities and desistance? Scottish prisoners’ experiences of education. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Previous research has considered the role of education in the development of capabilities separately from the desistance process and there is a limited evidential base that has combined these theoretical areas. This thesis focuses on the biographical accounts of a group of Scottish prisoners in order to consider the factors that create a fluctuating state of capabilities throughout a life-time. The study utilised qualitative interpretivist research design in the form of semi-structured interviews to gain rich and detailed accounts of lives spent both within and outside of the modern criminal justice system. Participants were recruited from two adult prisons in central Scotland. They discussed their life experiences of disadvantage, marginalisation and socio-economic restrictions and so provided insights into the ways in which capability constraints can contribute to offending behaviours. The ebb and flow of education within their lives was also examined to ascertain the role this plays in upholding or improving these states of being. Experiences of imprisonment were discussed so the realities of what is lost and gained through incarceration could be determined. The position that learning can have within prison in supporting capability development and desistance was a particular focus. An interpretive paradigm was applied so that participants and I could extract significance from their life experiences, social worlds and beliefs that were discussed during interview. By using capabilities and desistance theory from the outset, this research paradigm allowed for other theoretical links to emerge from the data. This thesis found that disadvantage and restricted capabilities are complex, intergenerational and often compounded over a life-course. This makes engaging with support that could improve these conditions extremely challenging, thus potentially extending the ill-effects on wellbeing. The impoverished nature of choice and agency stunts flourishing, forcing individuals to select from ever-limiting options. For most participants, this became a direct catalyst to their offending behaviour and time in custody. While descriptions highlight the damage caused by imprisonment, this thesis also presents positive accounts of support and personal development within this environment. It demonstrates how learning and skills development can be utilised to affect capability improvement and take early steps towards desistance. This thesis establishes a link between the imagining of a crime-free future during custody with the formation of the hope and agency that is indicative of improved capabilities and central to robust and sustained desistance.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Prison education, capabilities, desistance.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: McNeil, Professor Fergus and Hedge, Professor Nicki
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Dr Anna M J MacKenzie
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81672
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2020 10:07
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2020 10:37

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