An Introduction to the Book
Men dominate crime, criminal justice, and imprisonment. More men commit crime, and more men work in the criminal justice system, than women. Whichever side of the law men find themselves upon, they can be sure to accrue some masculine credentials by virtue of being part of a system that is suffused with institutional masculinity (see Ellis et al. 2013). Yet, the very nature of being a man and the masculine identities of prisoners are often taken for granted in analyses of prison and imprisonment, rather than being key variables in the experience (Wykes and Welsh 2009).
This book directly engages with this knowledge gap, addressing a number of issues regarding the adult male prison experience in terms of how the process of imprisonment shapes the individual’s masculine identity, and vice versa. It gives particular consideration to the masculinities of male prisoners, both as individuals, and as situated within a prisoner collective. In this book, the main interest is with the general and everyday experiences of male inmates and the relationships they have with themselves and others in terms of their masculine subjective identities. It is about the ways in which men can be and act as men in an environment devoid of many of the accoutrements of masculine living, which
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016 1
J.A. Sloan, Masculinities and the Adult Male Prison Experience,
in many ways acts to shift men from the dominant gendered position of ‘man’ to the dominated, submissive, and controlled feminine. It is curious that male prisons appear to be such hypermasculine spaces, when in reality they often impose highly feminising processes and positions upon the men inside. This goes some way to explaining why men in prison often undertake such highly masculinised behaviours—as Ricciardelli et al. note with regard to the Canadian prison context, ‘prisoners try to respond to uncertainty and perceived risk in ways that present their masculinity as empowered rather than submissive’ (2015: 492).
Gender—masculinity in particular—is the central notion of this book. As such, whereas much research on male prisoners focuses upon identity roles and relationships other than gender, this work is original in that it is simply about men and how they adapt to prison, and how prison impacts upon them as men, both negatively and, a notion that is rarely engaged with, positively. It is about how they, as men, see themselves and others— so about relationships and collectivities—but also about what they value and what they find painful—so also about their individual selves. It is about how men constitute and perform their masculine identities when isolated from many of the usual mechanisms and props that, so often in criminological research, divert attention away from the men at the centre of offending and imprisonment. It highlights the importance of control, performance, and visibility, and brings to the fore the role of the audience in men’s decisions as to how to be men. In addition, another often hidden element within the criminological research process—the researcher—is brought back into the picture through the use of researcher gender as an extra dimension through which to examine participants’ identities and responses to others and their situations.