The Scream: Insider Access and Outsider Legitimacy in Danish Prisons

  • Jennifer SumnerEmail author
  • Lori Sexton
  • Keramet Reiter


Joining a long-standing tradition of reflexive analysis in qualitative research, particularly in closed institutions, this chapter examines our role as researchers from the United States in our in-depth study of punishment in Denmark. In this study we conducted ethnographic field research and in-depth interviews with prisoners, staff, and experts in the Danish prison system. Here, we critically examine the ways in which we were simultaneously perceived and treated as outsiders and insiders and the effects of these roles on the research study and, potentially, on the prison system more broadly. We found that our insider status as researchers and our outsider identities as US-based prison researchers facilitated enhanced access to the prison system. Furthermore, our perceived and adopted outsider identities as representatives of a failing US prison system may have also shored up the legitimacy of Danish prison policies and practices.


Scandinavia Prisons Punishment Reflexivity Insider Outsider Access Comparative penology 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California State University, Dominguez HillsCarsonUSA
  2. 2.University of Missouri, Kansas CityKansas CityUSA
  3. 3.University of California, IrvineIrvineUSA

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