‘Tactics’, Agency and Power in Women’s Prisons

Rowe, Abigail (2016). ‘Tactics’, Agency and Power in Women’s Prisons. British Journal of Criminology, 56(2) pp. 332–349.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azv058


Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, sociological research into women’s experiences of imprisonment has remained relatively sparse and under-developed, focusing primarily on women prisoners’ peer relationships, with relatively little attention given to their interaction with penal regimes. This paper draws on ethnographic data from two women’s prisons in England to explore the agency and creativity represented by the ‘tactics’ brought to bear by prisoners—and sometimes staff—on the everyday challenges of managing prison life. It is suggested that exploring how individuals sought to ‘achieve outcomes’ in their face-to-face encounters and personal relationships offers a way of mapping the feel and flow of power in prisons at the level of lived

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