It’s a strange thing watching someone ‘known’ to us for over a decade get a hefty term of imprisonment. Chris was in his mid-twenties and had just received 14 years for a series of violent crimes committed shortly after his last release. It took the State over four years to resolve his matters — an exceedingly long time on remand by anyone’s estimation. The sentence brought Chris a degree of closure but also new opportunities to sink deeper into the mire of prison life. He’ll be well into his thirties before having any chance of making parole. It’s strange also, when, as researchers, we were able to see the train wreck coming but powerless to avert the impending damage. Perhaps, in the tradition of positivist detachment from the field, one has no quarter to try and influence the trajectories of those we study. Still, there can be no denying the substantive emotional investment tied to prison and post-release research (see Liebling 1999; Bosworth et al. 2005; but also Campbell 2002). The ‘field’ — be it policing, courts, prisons, the street more generally — is populated by countless affective moments. Courtrooms, in particular, are a haven for extreme emotional turbulence (Freiberg 2001). There, even the prosecution team agreed Chris had one of the most troubled and deprived early life-courses they had encountered. Still, he had to pay for what he’d done. He had to pay even though it was broadly acknowledged that his was a life bereft of the building blocks necessary for carving out any semblance of a conventional existence.
KeywordsTorres Strait Islander Young Offender Criminal Justice Policy Motor Vehicle Theft Conventional Existence
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