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'It was like an animal in pain': Institutional thoughtlessness and bereavement in prison

Wilson, Marion; Johnston, Helen; Walker, Liz


Marion Wilson


Using the concept of institutional thoughtlessness, this article examines a range of issues embedded within daily prison life which have a detrimental effect upon the lives of those bereaved during a prison sentence. Drawing on in-depth qualitative research undertaken with bereaved prisoners, staff members and volunteers at a male prison in the North of England, the article explores how individual and institutional goals compete, compounding bereavement experiences and the management of grief. Findings demonstrate the tension between the policies and protocols prisons are tasked to follow, and unintended consequences for the individually bereaved. This article illuminates the need for far greater understanding of bereavement in the prison population and explores how a universal life experience can be particularly debilitating within the prison setting with the potential to exacerbate what is often cumulative loss among prisoners.


Wilson, M., Johnston, H., & Walker, L. (in press). 'It was like an animal in pain': Institutional thoughtlessness and bereavement in prison. Criminology & criminal Justice,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 11, 2020
Online Publication Date Jun 24, 2020
Deposit Date Mar 19, 2020
Publicly Available Date Mar 25, 2020
Journal Criminology & criminal justice
Print ISSN 1748-8958
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Bereavement; Excessive grief;Prisoner; Prison regime; Prison staff
Public URL
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