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Uncomfortably Numb: an exploration of affective carceral strains through the lens of the depersonalising young male prisoner

Powrie, Marc Alan




The aim of this study was to examine depersonalisation as a dissociative coping response among male prisoners(aged 18-24).Its central focus explored how young adult males might employ depersonalisation, as a coping mechanism, when they feel unable to negotiate the negative emotionality of carceral strains through conventional coping strategies. As a learned coping response, that is rooted in pre-prison vulnerabilities, depersonalisation raises challenges to carceral well-being and adjustment to prison life. Narratives of depersonalisation experiences, before, during and after imprisonment, were gathered over an eight-month period using an Interpretative Phenomenological Approach (IPA). Due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, it was not possible to carry out interviews face-to-face, so a research methodology comprising on-line semi-structured interviews, personal drawings and a story-board narrative of script-driven imagery was employed. Twelve former prisoners, currently on licence in the community, along with two prison officers and two prison healthcare workers were selected using a volunteer sampling framework. This was supplemented by email and telephone correspondence with organisations linked to the Criminal Justice System and the charity Unreal. The resulting data was initially coded into broad themes before being analysed using NVivo12 software. This study was motivated by the current paucity of literature into prison dissociation, particularly in how depersonalisation as an avoidant coping strategy, among young adults, is impacted by imported vulnerabilities,and the emotionality of the carceral environment(Viková & Bejgarová, 2021).Analysis of the results demonstrated that the former prisoners, believed negative emotionality around carceral strains, had led to wide-ranging depersonalising experiences, impacting both their well-being and adjustment to the prisoner society. Although not exclusive, the most common emotional carceral strains that were identified by the interviewees, included the loss of social support, prison boredom, the lack of security and the uncertainty of self-governance.


Powrie, M. A. (2023). Uncomfortably Numb: an exploration of affective carceral strains through the lens of the depersonalising young male prisoner. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Nov 28, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 4, 2024
Keywords Criminology
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Criminology
University of Hull
Award Date Oct 20, 2023


Thesis (2.9 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2023 Mark Powrie. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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