3122  From the Outside In: Prisons dynamics beyond the States

Room: C4.08


Chair: António Pedro Dores

Annette Olesen | Department of Sociology and Social Work

Structural and financial tensions met by Voluntary Sector Organisations offering rehabilitative debt advice to prisoners and ex-prisoners in Denmark and Norway




Recent research shows that many prisoners and ex-prisoners are heavily indebted and that debt has a significant impact on criminal recidivism. In spite of this, researchers have rarely addressed effects of debt advice to prisoners and ex-prisoners, and neither focused particularly on the Voluntary Sector Organisations (VSOs) offering rehabilitative debt advice. In this paper, Danish and Norwegian VSOs offering rehabilitative debt advice make up the case that form the knowledge of structural and financial tensions met by VSOs approaching a disadvantaged and hard-to-reach group with complex problems. While the Danish and Norwegian welfare states renounce the responsibility for rehabilitative debt advice, new rehabilitation trends have emerged and VSOs have launched in-prison and post-prison debt projects. This paper uses original interviews, observations and document analysis to examine the structural and financial tensions met by the VSOs in their everyday work. To understand the administrative, political, juridical and economic layers that frame the rehabilitation work of VSOs, this paper identifies power struggles; work ethics; bureaucracy; funding strategies; and documentation and impact measurement standards within the field of the VSOs offering rehabilitative debt advice. Findings argue that the VSOs are taking on important social responsibilies but struggle with instability and long-term outlook difficulties due to the structual and financial tentions characterising the field. Furthermore, findings suggest that these user-oriented VSOs have developed a formal as well as an informal side to their rehabilitative work to minimise the influence of conflicting expectations of voluntarism vs professionalism; flexibility vs regulation; critical voicing vs administrative demands; and holistic user-approaching vs measuring impacts.

Giovanni Torrente | University of Torino

The role of NGOs in resisting prison expansion: the Italian case




In this paper I would present a reflection about the role of some Italian Ngos in the complaint of the prison conditions. As known, Italy has been sentenced in 2013 by the ECHR for its prison overcrowding and, more in general, for the conditions of detention. After this sentence Italy has been forced to reduce the prison population. The result has been that, in two years, Italian prison population decreased more than 15.000 units. What is important to underline is the role of some Italian Ngos, and in particular of Antigone association, in the construction of the problem in the public discourse and in the collection of the appeals to the ECHR. These activities has been done when the Italian government tried to minimize the problem, refusing to intervene. From this point of view, the Italian one is a significant case where the role of the activism plays beyond the State, but also against the State's immobility, conflicting the penal populism. In the paper I will focus on the potentiality of the case but also on its limits.

Ana Ballesteros-Pena | Ph.D. Independent researcher

The role of the third sector in the Spanish penitentiary system in the 21st Century




The involvement of NGOs and associations in the prison system is not a new phenomenon. Since the origin of the prison, it is documented the presence of individuals and groups that, from different approaches and ideologies, have supported prisoners as well as provided services and implemented programs for penal institutions. In Spain, prison regulations (General Organic Penitentiary Law, 1979, and Prison Rules, 1996) mention the importance of the participation of citizens in the prison field, although the manner in which this collaboration has to be implemented is unclear. This uncertain situation begins to evolve at the beginning of the 21st Century. During the two governments between 2004 and 2011 (2004-2008 and 2008-2011), prison authorities of the left-wing government at the time (PSOE) introduced a new set of measures in the Spanish prison system. Within the framework of these measures, the work done by third sector entities was both made visible and fostered in the prison context, and the Social Penitentiary Council (“Consejo Social Penitenciario”) was created (alongside the Local Councils –“Consejos Locales”- in each prison): an advisory body connecting the associations and NGOs with the correctional facilities. Additionally, new internal instructions were also passed in order to better organize the implementation of programs by the third sector and the coordination between the correctional facilities and the NGOs. This paper aims to analyze the evolution of the role of the third sector in the Spanish penitentiary system. Specifically, the goal is to identify and describe the impact of the measures introduced since the beginning of the 21st Century. I would also like to explore in what extent these changes can be connected with common trends in the evolution of penal systems under the neoliberal penality and understood within this conceptual framework.

Cláudia Resende | Independent researcher / DGRSP

Meeting the religious needs: Firsthand experiences of Muslim inmates in a Portuguese prison




This paper will address the relevance of the Muslim faith on the interactions between male foreigners from Morocco and Guinea-Bissau within a Portuguese closed management prison.
This research has applied in-depth data collection techniques specifically through an ethnographic approach, intensive interviewing and an original participative methodology within the wings of a custodial facility.
On the one hand, it will be demonstrated to which extent the religious affiliation shapes the daily experiences of convicted Muslim inmates. On the other hand, it will be analyzed how do they deal with the restraints and the provisions while pursuing their cultural background and Islamic religious practices.


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