Finding comfort in community : an exploration of the community formed by imprisoned sex offenders at HMP Glenochil

  • Mhairi Gavin

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the experience of imprisonment for those convicted of sexual offences. It is primarily based on interviews conducted with twenty-five imprisoned sex offenders at HMP Glenochil. These interviews uncovered the existence of a community among this population. This research explores the nature of this community, how it is formed, and its implications. The community was found to exist on the basis of shared identity and shared norms. The shared identity in question is that of "sex offender". This pervasive label is reinforced throughout imprisonment in a number of ways (in particular through segregation from mainstream and from the stigmatisation that still seeps in despite this segregation) and results in a wealth of shared experiences as a result. This develops a sense of solidarity among this population - a central concept in community formation. The shared norms of this community all relate to one central idea: avoiding conflict. This is a key idea in creating the sort of prison experience desired by this population, one of peace where they are granted the safety and acceptance that is denied to them elsewhere. The peaceful community formed in prison can therefore be a source of comfort for these individuals. Being based on these concepts of safety and acceptance, the sex offender prisoner community provides a sharp contrast with the hostile community this population are faced with outside of prison on their release. This can have the unintended consequence of this group coming to prefer their lives in prison to their lives outside. This can lead to giving up on seeking parole or getting intentionally recalled after release. For some within this community, the challenges of release can seem too daunting when juxtaposed with a peaceful existence in prison.
Date of Award22 Nov 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsAHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) & University of Strathclyde
SupervisorLaura Piacentini (Supervisor) & Claire McDiarmid (Supervisor)

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