What do the punished think of punishment?. Qualitative research on the experience of short prison and community-based sentences in Scotland DR SARAH ARMSTRONG (Glasgow University) & BETH WEAVER (Strathclyde University) Howard League ECAN Seminar, 7 June 2011
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Qualitative research on the experience of short prison and community-based sentences in Scotland
DR SARAH ARMSTRONG (Glasgow University) & BETH WEAVER (Strathclyde University)
Howard League ECAN Seminar, 7 June 2011
*ESRC Grant RES-000-22-2881 supported this research.
--prior experience of short prison and community sentences
--current experience: what's it like, what are you getting up to, how does it feel
--purpose of punishment: of one's current sentence, of these kinds of sentences generally
--comparative experiences: how does prison compare to community sentences
--negative and positive impacts of penal experience
70% those release from a short sentence are re-convicted within two years
It is the cumulative effect of doing many short sentences, more than the experience of any single sentence, which carries the largely negative impacts of short-term imprisonment.
In and out 'for 16, no 17 [years], since I was 19; I'll be 36 in three weeks.'
35 year old man, theft, 180 days
Maybe 2 or 3 times a year I think, I done 3 sentences, 3 six month sentences and a 4 week remand, last year.
36 year old man, theft, 60 days
'Yeah, [I've done] 4 months, 6 months, 7 months, 8 months all that kind of [sentence]'
29 year old woman, 180 days, assault and breach
it’s a long weekend [locked up at a] quarter to 5 on a Saturday then your back in your room and that’s you til the next morning again...then it's the same Sunday … see the boredom in the rooms it would absolutely knock ye off yer head. Just locked in a room. … You get outside for like half an hour everyday but it's frozen, yer just outside standing.
39 year old woman, 190 days, 'domestic'
Then, work, then you get your dinner, then work again in the afternoon ... cleanin ... Then ye get yer dinner then ye get locked up, then ye get oot again about half 6 and yer locked up at say, quarter past 8. And that’s you, til next day.
55 year old woman, 120 days, breach of order
That’s the last 10 years I’ve been in and out of prison. That was the biggest I was nearly out of it, I was doin so well with my nice house, I was startin to take drivin lessons, I was startin to feel things, goin right for me, and the sentence I got I just felt pure, pure heartbroken y’know… I hit one aeyer officers and I get sent tae prison …He wis an off duty officer, that’s whit it wis. I was arguing wi my mate outside Morrisons and he was an off duty copper.
35 year old man, breach of the peace, 180 days
Estimated eight times in prison over 20 years
First time in prison
People felt guilt, shame and remorse for their actions, but prison was experienced as pointless, vindictive and unable to connect to their sense of accountability.
Given the choice almost all would have chosen a community sentence over a prison sentence. Community sentences were experienced as a more meaningful punishment than prison.
[I]t was gardens I was doing [for community service]. It was great, it was a right good laugh and you felt a lot better doing something. Especially gardens cause you knew you were doing it for people who couldnae do it for themselves so you knew you were making a difference instead of being fucking stuck in a stupid wee 12 by 8 and doing nothing for naebody.
You’ve took from society the money it costs to keep you [in prison]. If you’re on community service, you can honestly turn round and say you have worked in an old folks home, or delivered a bed to young mum for her wean. Or you do work in the parks and when you go by you can say, I done that. It makes a difference to you when you can see you’ve done something whereas if you get 6 month you’ve done nothing. Vegetated and got bitter and tried to work out how not to get caught next time.
35 year old man, breaking & entering, 180 days
44 year old man, community service