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Home arrow Psychology arrow Masculinities and the Adult Male Prison Experience


This chapter brings the notion of masculinity to considerations of time in a manner that is lacking in academic discourse—the gendered implications of time as punishment for men are severe and distinct in terms of the impact upon masculine identity signifiers and the resultant implications. Whilst consideration has obviously been given to the negative ramifications for male identities—these being at the very heart of the nature and purpose of incarceration—consideration has also been given to the positive implications of prison time, such as personal development opportunities, which often go unrecognised within academic discussion. Men saw time often in terms of who they were or who they could become as men—‘potential masculinities’—and the control and ownership of time was crucial in processes of differentiation from the prisoner identity and the negotiation and application of masculine signifiers of work, fatherhood, (hetero)sexual relationships, and independent living to both their past, present, and future lives.

Time is highly significant in the prison experience and masculine identity management, whether that be in terms of prisoners’ aspirations for the future use of their time, their return to a sense of the norm and their personal development, or how the prisoner interprets his time in the context of his ageing body, sense of autonomy, or expectations of self (relative to his actual position, or the positions of others both in and out of prison). The ownership and control of such time by prisoners is, therefore, extremely influential upon interpretations of the prison experience, as prisoners will evaluate their prison careers according to the positivity and negativity of time they endure, and the length of time they have to suffer or enjoy such time markers (and the values of marking time at all).

Where time is not owned or controlled, individuals are made very aware of the reduced control they have over their own masculine potential in terms of self-improvement and development in readiness for their future non-prison lives and identities. The prison experience, by its very nature, attempts to reduce the individuality of an offender by subsuming them into the prison community, where the rules, routines, and surroundings are generically enforced upon all prisoners; however, the experience itself is also individual, according to the values prisoners place upon their time in and out of the prison. The gendered experience of time and its conflicts has huge implications for this process of experience. I have tried to demonstrate this in this chapter by considering both the wider-scale notions of time and its imposition upon the prison, as well as more individualised understandings emanating from men’s testimonies.

Time, therefore, can have major implications: the ways in which an individual spends their time can impact upon the value of that time, and in turn, the value of such time spent in prison can impact upon the ways in which prisoners choose to spend their time—making use of it, being violent, or claiming ownership of it.

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