1st Edition

Inmates’ Narratives and Discursive Discipline in Prison Rewriting personal histories through cognitive behavioral programs

By Jennifer Schlosser Copyright 2015
    164 Pages
    by Routledge

    164 Pages
    by Routledge

    The question of ‘what works’ in offender treatment has dominated the field of prisoner re-entry and recidivism research for the last thirty years. One of the primary ways the criminal justice system tries to reduce the rates of recidivism among offenders is through the use of cognitive behavioural programs (CBP) as in-prison intervention strategies. The emphasis for these programs is on the idea that inmates are in prison because they made poor choices and bad decisions. Inmates’ thinking is characterized as flawed and the purpose of the program is to teach them to think and act in socially appropriate ways so they will be less inclined to return to prison after their release.

    This book delves into the heart of one such cognitive behavioural programme, examines its inner workings, its effects on inmates’ narrated experience and considers what happens when a CBP of substandard quality and integrity is used as a gateway for inmates’ release.

    Based on original empirical research, this book provides realistic suggestions for improving policy, for reforming current in-prison programs engaging in problematic practices and for instituting alternatives that take the needs of the inmates into greater account. This book is essential reading for students and academics engaged in the study of sociology, criminal justice, prisons, social policy, sentencing and punishment.

    1. Introduction  2. The Engineers  3. Planning  4. The Architects  5. The Site  6. The Gap  7. The Divide 8. Crossing Over  9.Demolition  10. Rebuilding.


    Jennifer A. Schlosser is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Tennessee Tech University, USA. Dr. Schlosser specializes in critical criminology, sociological theory and qualitative methods. Her research examines the narrated experiences of prison inmates as a way to help improve current prison programs and policies through individual and institutional collaboration.

    ‘Foucault famously traced the focus of discipline from the body to the soul, but in this remarkable new book Jennifer Schlosser clearly demonstrates that the real focus is now squarely on the prisoner’s self-narrative. Through what she terms "discursive discipline" the prisoner must repeat the pathetic mantra that imprisonment is the result of "bad choices" and cognitive mistakes, thereby disrupting the human need to make our lives understandable and bearable. Anyone who works with prisoners will instantly recognize the truth and deep insight in Schlosser’s masterful argument. It is, to my mind, the final word on "responsibilization" in the name of treatment.’ - Shadd Maruna, Dean, School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University Newark, USA

    ‘Schlosser talks to inmates about their lives, crimes and needs for successful re-entry. This simple act sets up an eye-opening critique of an inexpensive, widely used and superficially appealing rehabilitative program that sets up inmates to fail. With its theory of discursive discipline and practical suggestions for better programs, Schlosser delivers an important book for those interested in prison studies as well as "what works" for rehabilitation and re-entry.' - Paul S. Leighton, Professor, Eastern Michigan University, USA        

    ‘With Inmates’ Narratives and Discursive Discipline in Prison, Jennifer Schlosser demonstrates that the contemporary prison system not only locks away inmates’ bodies – it locks away their sense of self within enforced linguistic regimes of individual choice and responsibility. Significantly, Schlosser in turn proposes alternative approaches grounded in attentive social research and progressive justice policy, and so offers us a fine work of narrative criminology that interweaves critical analysis and practical application.’ - Jeff Ferrell, Visiting Professor of Criminology, University of Kent, UK