1st Edition

Peer Support in Prison How Incarcerated People make Meaning through Active Citizenship

By Christian Perrin Copyright 2025
    176 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book explores the profound impact of peer support within the bleak landscape of incarceration. In a system bereft of opportunities for personal growth, the narratives within these pages reveal how individuals who have committed offences rebuild their lives by ‘giving back’ and establishing meaningful connections with their fellow inmates.


    Peer Support in Prison draws on rich phenomenological interviews conducted with prisoners who assumed altruistic social roles while serving time. In doing so, it highlights the value of peer support in fostering hope, making meaning, and cultivating prosocial identities. By adopting empathic and mutually supportive roles within the prison community, individuals forge a pathway to a more meaningful future, defying unfavourable odds. The text unfolds to demonstrate that, even for those denigrated and rejected as ‘evil’, change is possible when motivated by principles of compassion, reciprocity, and connectedness.


    This book attests to the adaptability of humans, offering a unique perspective on how incarcerated individuals can find redemption, build trust, and reconstruct their lives through the transformative power of generativity and active citizenship. This has great implications for a stagnant carceral system which does not work as a restorative mechanism. Within the frame of ‘generative justice’, the findings from this book offer hopeful alternatives to the cruel hegemony of prison.



    Foreword by Dr William McGowan


    Introduction – Sisyphus Behind Bars


    Part 1: Humanity and Interdependency in the Bleakness of Prison

    Chapter 1 – “It’s nice to be nice”. A History of and Theoretical Basis for Peer Support

    Chapter 2 – Peer Support in Prisons: A Magnified Effect?


    Part 2: Narrativising Redemption and Recovery from Offending Behaviour

    Chapter 3 – Cultivating an Internal Narrative of Desistance, “Drip-by-Drip”

    Chapter 4 – The Irredeemable? How Incarcerated Peer Supporters Negotiate the ‘Sex Offender’ Label


    Part 3: Obstacles and Implications for Life After Prison

    Chapter 5 – Peer Support in Carceral Settings: Roadblocks in the Journey Ahead

    Chapter 6 – “There’s No Promised Land, Just Hope”: Future Selves in Punitive Landscapes


    Conclusion – Towards a Generative Justice






    Christian Perrin is an Assistant Professor in Forensic Psychology at the University of Birmingham. He maintains active research interests spanning the UK, US, and UAE. He primarily teaches forensic and social psychology modules and conducts research in the areas of incarceration, restorative justice, social work, and community reintegration. He has worked in several prisons internationally and has cultivated a wealth of experience in forensic and clinical settings. He holds other interests in individual and organisational wellbeing and enjoys collaborating with organisations to make meaningful improvements in "psychological flexibility" - a construct he connects with closely as an Acceptance and Commitment Therapist.

    “In this careful, insider-perspective book, Christian Perrin shows that the core principles of peer support - reciprocity, empathy, and connectedness - generate meaning and purpose in the abyss of prison life. Hope becomes a form of a revolt. This is an important addition to the desistance literature.”

    Alison Liebling, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Cambridge


    “Perrin opens his powerful study with a brilliant, seldom-asked question: How do human beings find meaning in the devastating bleakness of incarceration? He finds that many people in despair find meaning by devoting themselves to helping their fellow humans cope with their own darkness. We could learn a lot from this wisdom.”

    Shadd Maruna, Professor of Justice and Human Development, Queen’s University Belfast


    “Christian Perrin’s book offers a nuanced view of what peer programs mean during imprisonment and how social bonds and caring practices between people who are serving time can facilitate desistance. This is the type of scholarship that is needed to better understand what it means to shift the carceral system toward one that affirms humanity and care for all.”

    Laura S. Abrams, Chair and Professor of Social Welfare, University of California, Los Angeles