Exploring the benefits of the material and the virtual in the narratives of those working towards release into the community after punishment
Julie Parsons, University of Plymouth
this paper I draw on qualitative data gathered from two consecutive research
projects at a part community funded resettlement scheme (RS) that works with
prisoners released on temporary licence and those at risk of going to prison
(referred to as trainees). From 2016 to date, I have conducted over 85
interviews with 36 trainees, (19 prisoners and 17 people referred through
probation), some of whom have been interviewed up to six times during their
placement at the RS. The first funded research project explored the benefits of
commensality (eating together) for those sharing a lunchtime meal at the RS,
from trainee, staff and visitor perspectives. Following this I received funding
to develop a Photographic electronic-Narrative (PeN) project to create a
virtual social space for trainees to engage in dialogue with the wider
community. In terms of desistance (cessation from criminal activity), both
generativity (doing for others) and social capital(s) have proved relevant. For
the former, helping to create a meal for others from scratch is significant, in
the latter the creation of a virtual social space that gives trainees access to
a means of expressing how they are ‘doing good’ (Maruna 2001) is beneficial. In
both examples both material and virtual social spaces work in creating
opportunities for dialogue between criminalised individuals and the community
they have hurt.
the website at https://penprojectlandworks.org/
S (2001) Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild their Lives.
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Books.
Julie Parsons is an Associate Professor in Sociology. She received an Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF) mid-career fellowship (2016-17), to develop a Photographic electronic Narrative (PeN) project with men released on temporary licence from the local prison and others serving community sentences on placement at a local resettlement scheme (RS), which is ongoing. This followed a Sociology of Health and Illness (SHI) Foundation Mildred Blaxter fellowship (2015-16), exploring commensality (eating together) as a tool for health, wellbeing, social inclusion and community resilience at the same RS. Her book Gender, Class and Food, Families, Bodies and Health
(Palgrave MacMillan 2015), was shortlisted for the Foundation of Health and Illness (FHI) book prize in 2016. She was programme lead for MSc Social Research from 2010-14 and is currently programme lead for BSc (Hons) Sociology. She is convener of the British Sociological Association (BSA) Food Study Group, a member of the BSA Auto/Biography study group, the BSA Medical Sociology study group and the British Society of Criminology.