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Accepted Paper:

Care as a strategy of confinement: personality disorder, recovery and risk in UK prisons  
Becka Hudson (Birkbeck College University College London)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic work with prisoners and mental health practitioners, the paper argues that concerns around expanding care and ‘inclusion’ for mental health disorders in target populations has driven a rapid expansion of carceral infrastructure in the UK.

Paper long abstract:

People subject to imprisonment in the UK are routinely invited and/ or coerced into mental health based interventions as part of their sentence. From ‘trauma-informed’ prisons, to behaviour-change programmes, to criminal justice pathways aimed at managing people with particular mental disorders or elemental ‘traits’, the UK prison system has within it an elaborate mental health infrastructure.

This paper is grounded in the concerns of prisoners and mental health workers caught in this situation, and based on ethnographic research about personality disorder (PD), the most overrepresented mental disorder in UK prisons. It begins with testimonies of ambivalence: when your therapist is assessing your need for captivity, what trust is produced? What kind of caring intervention continually returns to the worst thing you have ever done? How can an institution so notoriously traumatic be ‘trauma informed’?

From here, it is argued that these increasingly merged systems of care and punishment are emblematic of a broader historical pattern, in which appeals to care for mental ill health drive carceral development. The ambivalence experienced by research participants is correlated with UK justice and health strategy, wherein appeals to include and care for troubling disorders like PD have driven the expansion of penal infrastructure, and the recruitment of mental health workers into the assessment of criminal risk. Concurrently, comparable mental health support outside prison walls has been emaciated. This imperative of care, then, ultimately folds ever greater numbers of prisoners and mental health workers into prisons: engines of social harm and exclusion.

Panel P083a
Care and Abandonment in Contexts of Confinement and Incarceration [Anthropology of Confinement Network] I
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -