The purpose of this paper is to provide an insight into the lived realities of d/Deaf prisoners in England and Wales, and to explore previous claims that they suffer disproportionately during their time in custody.
For the purposes of this study, a qualitative approach was taken. As part of this, 28 semi-structured interviews were carried out at seven adult male prisons in England with a sample of male hard of hearing/d/Deaf prisoners, and staff members who had worked with them. The interviews were recorded using a Dictaphone, and then transcribed as close to verbatim as possible. From this, the transcriptions were analysed using thematic analysis. In addition to interviews, observations were made at each establishment, and later recorded in a fieldwork journal.
Findings from the study showed that the way a d/Deaf person experiences prison depends strongly on the way in which they identify with their d/Deafness. However, it was also shown that there is little room for either deafness or Deafness in prison, with severely deaf and culturally and linguistically Deaf prisoners commonly experiencing the pains of imprisonment more severely than their hearing peers as a result of the Prison Service’s inability to accommodate such difference.
This study fused together the fields of Deaf Studies and Prison Studies in a way that had not been done before, considering d/Deafness in prison on both an audiological and cultural level. Moreover, excluding small-scale unpublished undergraduate dissertations, it was the first empirical study about d/Deaf prisoners in England and Wales to carry out face-to-face interviews with these prisoners. Finally, as the most in-depth research is yet to be carried out about these particular prisoners in England and Wales, a greater level of insight was provided than previously available.
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