Surviving Prison: Exploring prison social life as a determinant of health

Nick De Viggiani (Faculty of Health and Social Care, University of the West of England, Stapleton, Bristol)

International Journal of Prisoner Health

ISSN: 1744-9200

Publication date: 1 February 2006


Prison social environments play an important role in the health of prisoners. How they respond to imprisonment is partially dependent upon how effectively they integrate into an institution’s social structure, learn to fit in with others and adapt to and cope with becoming detached from society, community and family ‐ hence, how they personally manage the transition from free society to a closed carceral community. This paper reports on findings of an ethnography conducted in an adult male training prison in England, which used participant observation, group interviewing, and one‐to‐one semi‐structured interviews with prisoners and prison officers. The research explored participants’ perceptions of imprisonment, particularly with regard to how they learned to adapt to and ‘survive’ in prison and their perceptions of how prison affected their mental, social and physical well‐being. It revealed that the social world of prison and a prisoner’s dislocation from society constitute two key areas of ‘deprivation’ that can have important health impacts.



De Viggiani, N. (2006), "Surviving Prison: Exploring prison social life as a determinant of health", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 71-89.

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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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