A Study of In-cell Television in a Closed Adult Male Prison: Governing Souls with In-cell Television
In-cell television is now a permanent feature of prisons in England and Wales, and a key part of the experience of modern incarceration. In-cell television was formally introduced in 1998 and its introduction took twelve years to complete across the prison estate. Its introduction was not informed by research and no formal evaluation of in-cell television in prisons has taken place. This thesis, therefore extends the small body of prisoner audience research with an exclusive focus on capturing the experience of the use of in-cell television. The research aimed to examine the impact of in-cell television on social relations in prison life in one closed male adult prison. An ethnographic research strategy was adopted and was directly informed by Layder’s (2005) theory of ‘domains’ and his ‘adaptive’ approach was used to interrogate the data from interviews and from diaries. Data collection was carried out using two methods: semi-structured interviews with nineteen prisoners and nine staff, and nine structured diaries completed by prisoners. The thesis concluded that in-cell television provides a key therapeutic resource in prisons. The study suggests that this resource is widely adopted and utilised by prisoners, staff and the institution to ‘care’ for prisoners in line with self-governance techniques and strategies. Television is exploited by prisoners and staff to enable forms of personal and inter-personal control. The thesis extends what current prison policies state about the provision of in-cell television with regard to formal policies on the incentives and privileges system for prisoners and also the interventions to promote and secure safer custody. The placement of television inside prison cells has resulted in significant shifts in the social, temporal and spatial characteristics of prison life and the types of encounters prisoners experience. Social relations within the prison setting are now routinely extended and stretched beyond the confines of the prison space as a consequence of in-cell television. Television normalises the prison cell and thus legitimates this space to hold prisoners for long periods of time, typically without structured activity. As a consequence, television’s place in the modern prison has also come to represent an unanticipated resource in the package of care for prisoners. The thesis offers a revised perspective on the role of television in prison and significantly contributes to an understanding of emotional responses to incarceration and social relations both inside and outside the prison setting. Principles of governmentality and dimensions of personal and interpersonal control emerge as fundamental to the understanding of in-cell television and the thesis offers new and significant insights into prisoners’ emotionality and their experience of what have been referred to as the ‘pains’ of incarceration (Sykes 1958/1999). This understanding and theorising about prison life was achieved through a theoretical synthesis of Layder’s (2005) domains within concepts such as governance and self-regulation, rationalization of emotions, uses and gratifications of media use, domestication of television and reach.
Research Institute : Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice
- PhD