Categorisation and Self-definition Among Muslim Prisoners
The main themes of Chapter 5 underlined the fact that discrimination based on notions of ‘race’, ethnicity and religion is common in British and French prisons. Forms of discrimination are also inter-related in complex ways that reflect each country’s history, legal provisions and religious composition. The effect in both cases is similar, however, in the sense that prison officers and Muslim prisoners alike perceive that considerations of ‘race’, ethnicity and religion shape the way in which prisoners are treated. Nevertheless, there are major contrasts between the officers and the prisoners in terms of the reasons that they give for this differential treatment. The contrast between France and England and Wales is also sharp in respect of the extent to which differential treatment is officially encouraged or discouraged. Respect for ‘diversity’ is a value that guides both the principles and the practice that prisons in England and Wales are supposed to follow in their treatment of minorities. In French prisons, by contrast, principles and practice are expected to be guided more by the value of ‘equality’ in the sense of uniform treatment of all prisoners regardless of ethnic or religious differences.
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