Prisoners beyond the walls: prisoner rights, release, and continuity of care

Dr Oisín Wall introduces his research project which explores the relationship between prisoners and the outside world as it was mediated by different organisations, from prisoner rights associations to the healthcare system.

The relationship between prisons and prisoners in the lead up to, and after, their release offers an insight not only into the lives of prisoners, but into society more broadly. This theme examines the organisations and structures that have attempted to manage the welfare of released inmates and promote health related prison reform in England and Ireland. The narratives and social networks that are formed through these systems are central to the provision of welfare for released prisoners while also constructing broader discourses about released prisoners.

This research will focus on three examples of welfare provision and reform. The first will compare the activism of paternalistic organisations, like the Central Committee of Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Societies (1880-1918), to that of more grass-roots self-organised groups, like Radical Alternatives to Prison (1972-1987). The second example will focus on the release of prisoners with infectious or notifiable diseases and the continuity of care provided. It will use this as a lens to look at how prisons have been represented in discourses about public health – often either as reservoirs of infection or as opportunities for improving the health of the working class. The final example will examine the role of industrial psychology in the prison system and how intelligence and psychological testing have been used to stigmatise ex-prisoners, to place them in employment, or to bolster cases for prison reform.