The pains of custody: how young men cope through the criminal justice system

Jones, Helen Louise

Criminology; Social sciences
July 2007

Thesis or dissertation

© 2007 Helen Louise Jones. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The aim of this study was to examine the hypothesis that ‘the different support needs of young males are not being adequately addressed as they proceed through the criminal justice system, with serious consequences in terms of personal harm’. In order to explore suicide and self-harm, a holistic approach was taken, reflecting on young males’ experiences of police cells, court cells, escort vehicles and prison. Interviews were completed with 27 young men held at Glen Parva YOI and 10 young men held at three court custody suites. Alongside these, an activity analysis of the custody process was completed at four police custody suites. Interviewees’ narratives demonstrated that the five pains of imprisonment identified by Sykes (1958) are applicable to today’s young male sentenced and remanded prisoners. Moreover, some extend to the wider criminal justice system and a further thirteen pains of custody can now be identified. These pains can have devastating consequences, being associated with suicide and self-harm. Nevertheless, individuals do survive the pains of custody through a number of coping strategies; some of these are imported from outside, whilst some have to be modified or developed because of the particular custodial regime experienced. Paradoxically, selfharm can represent a coping strategy, a way of dealing with the pains of custody. A number of formal support services exist within the criminal justice system to help young men, yet their support needs are not being adequately addressed, particularly in the earlier stages. This may have an impact on suicide and self-harm both within the earlier stages of the criminal justice system and later in prison.

Department of Social Sciences, University of Hull
Sponsor (Organisation)
Economic and Social Research Council (Great Britain)
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