Prison, power, and people with learning disabilities: the complexities of curtailed lives

Gormley, Jenette Caitlin (2017) Prison, power, and people with learning disabilities: the complexities of curtailed lives. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Very little is known about how people with learning disabilities symbolically engage with imprisonment and discursively account for it within their wider self-narratives. Although there are no cohesive incarceration figures for people with a learning disability, prevalence studies suggest that they are over-represented among prison populations worldwide. This research addresses a major gap in literature as people with learning disabilities’ accounts are largely absent from prison sociologies, and offending and imprisonment experiences are missing from learning disability studies literature. By bringing together empirical, theoretical, and methodological knowledge from criminology and disability studies, the research fills this void and heralds the value of drawing on two distinct fields of study.

This thesis provides a platform for the experiences of 25 men and women with learning disabilities who were serving a custodial sentence or who had been recently liberated from custody at the time of research. Through a critical realist lens, the study used innovative qualitative research methods - multiple and semi-structured interviews - in order to preserve the ethical and moral integrity of researching inclusively with people with learning disabilities while being sensitive to the challenges of researching within prison.

The research found that people with learning disabilities are disadvantaged and marginalised in unique ways as a result of the increasing psychological demands associated with late modern imprisonment. In prison, they negotiate distinct barriers to their full social participation with and through their punishment, sentence, and the demands of daily prison life. As a result, they face intersectional forms of oppression and are further socially disenfranchised through institutional process which render them vulnerable and dependent on the structures, supports, and regime of prison which are often absent from their lives in the community. Participants internalised their exclusion, and characterised their lives through experiences of labelling, governance, and curtailment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Prison, learning disability, prison life, exclusion, capacity.
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
Funder's Name: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Supervisor's Name: Burman, Professor Michele and Watson, Professor Nicholas
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Dr Jenette Caitlin Gormley
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-8439
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2017 15:43
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2017 07:50

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