Despite broad scholarship documenting the compounding effects and self-reproducing character of incarceration, ways of conceptualising imprisonment and the post-prison experience have scarcely changed in over a century. Contemporary correctional thinking has congealed around notions of risk and management. This book aims to cast new light on men’s experience of release from prison.
Drawing on research conducted in Australia, it speaks to the challenges facing people leaving prison and seeking acceptance amongst the non-imprisoned around the world. Johns reveals the complexity of the post-prison experience, which is frequently masked by constructions of risk that individualise responsibility for reoffending and reimprisonment. This book highlights the important role of community in ex-prisoner integration, in providing opportunities for participation and acceptance. Johns shows that the process of becoming an ‘ex’-prisoner is not simply one of individual choice or larger structural forces, but occurs in the spaces in between.
Being and Becoming an Ex-Prisoner reveals the complex interplay between internal and external meanings and practices that causes men to feel neither locked up, nor wholly free. It will appeal to scholars and students interested in desistance, criminology, criminological or penological theory, sociology and qualitative research methods.
‘Driven by a collection of gripping self-narratives, Johns tells an old story in a powerful, original way, tracking the bleak journey from the existential isolation of the prison to the existential isolation of release, always from the perspective of ex-prisoners themselves. The reader is left wondering where does ‘risk’ reside? In the people released from prison or in the communities that sent them there to begin with?’
–Shadd Maruna, Professor of Criminology, University of Manchester, UK, and author of Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild Their Lives
‘"Liminality is experienced as not quite fitting in, not belonging, no longer a prisoner but not entirely free either." So writes Diana Johns in the final chapter of her brilliant book. Through in-depth interviews with ex-prisoners and post-release workers (some of whom are themselves ex-prisoners), Johns deftly and empathetically brings to light the personal struggles to emerge from the stigma of imprisonment. More than this, she shows how such struggles are always already social – that ‘moving on’ after serving single or multiple periods in prison requires not only individual effort but transformation in the ways that communities ‘receive’ and conceive ex-prisoners. The book is filled with just the right mix of hard-hitting narrative excerpts and theoretically sophisticated analyses. In short, Being and Becoming an Ex-Prisoner makes a major contribution to criminological thought.’
–Mark Halsey, Professor of Criminology, Flinders University, Australia
‘Taking a phenomenological perspective on the experience of prisoner reentry, Diana Johns challenges popular notions of the 'post-release' experience by offering detailed narratives that capture the intense personal confusion, fear and isolation of released former prisoners. Johns reveals a subaltern mix of challenges facing stigmatized citizens never fully integrated into society prior to prison – but then expected to adapt while facing challenges of mental illness, institutionalization, addiction, and poverty. The unsuitability of prisons and their progeny for truly helping people comes to the fore. Johns' professional experience in the field prior to becoming an academic sets the stage. Required reading.’
–Michael Hallett, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of North Florida, USA
1. What’s the post-release problem?
2. A catalogue of post-prison disadvantage
3. The post-release problem
4. Assemblage, culture, liminality
6. Lived experience of release
7. Post-release support perspectives
8. Home, identity, connection
9. Being and becoming
In recent years there has been a dramatic growth in the attention given to the end of the criminal career. Prior to the 1980s, research on why people stopped offending and the processes associated with ‘leaving crime behind’ was a small and embryonic field of research. The literature on reform following a period of offending was patchy and did not constitute in any way, shape or form a body of knowledge which could be considered as ‘key’ to the criminological enterprise. This situation has now changed. The study of desistance in particular has now become an important aspect of the criminological enterprise with several UK and European research studies now focussing on this topic. Further afield (in the US and Australia for example, but certainly not limited to these
countries) there are also a number of scholars who are exploring desistance (and by association rehabilitation and reform) and the processes by which these occur amongst particular communities and for key groups of offenders. This is domain of research is therefore fertile ground for the production of a series of monographs.