Long Term Prisoners

Long Term Prisoners in Europe

Possible Future Identities of Belgian Long Term Prisoners

Rudy Machiels, from the Free University Brussels, made a contribution to the 2012 Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology, in the category “Punishment and its alternatives,” under the title “Possible Future Identities of Belgian Long Term Prisoners”. Here is the abstract: Drawing on the social psychological concept of possible selves, this paper explores the future identities concept of long term Belgian prisoners. In considering life after release from prison, qualitative data relating to hoped-for, feared and expected possible identities was generated by 40 long term prisoners, who all are theoretically admissible for release. The most common categories of hoped-for and expected identities related to employment and relationships, whereas feared identities related predominantly to stigma, a concern about family members and reoffending. The prevalence of relationship issues suggests that social bonds and belonging are a key component of the representations of future identity of many prisoners. Methodological issues of gathering possible identities data in prison are discussed and findings are explored in relation to several variables and to the positive illusions thesis, the identity theory of criminal desistance and the lost possible self thesis.

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Further Reading

  • “Possible Future Identities of Belgian Long Term Prisoners”, by Rudy Machiels (Proceedings)

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