Prison Visitation as Accessible Engagement: Encounters, Bystanders, Performance, and Inattention

  • Dominique MoranEmail author
  • Tom Disney
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology book series (PSIPP)


It has long been recognised within communications and linguistic studies that human interactions cannot be reduced to merely exchanges between two participants. Beyond the dyadic model of communication (involving speaker and listener) are participation frameworks of different kinds, involving multiple actors in diverse contexts. Our focus in this chapter is on prison visitation, and rather than simply seeing it as an exchange between two or more people, we bring to it a concern for the diversified participatory roles which characterise this social interaction. In so doing, we extend extant scholarship of prisoners’ family contact which, although concerned with the visit as a significant aspect of that contact, rarely focuses in close detail on its specificities. We explore the dynamics of prison visits by deploying, for the first time in this field of scholarship, a reading of Goffman’s theorisations of the nature of social interaction. This approach enables us to identify factors which inhibit positive feelings of ‘closeness’ during visits and to make policy recommendations intended to enhance the experience of visitation for prisoners and visitors and the effectiveness of prison systems in enabling beneficial visitation.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geography, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  2. 2.Department of Social Work, Education & Community WellbeingUniversity of NorthumbriaNewcastle upon TyneUK

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