Time, Punishment, and Gender

In modern penality, the concept of time has been incorporated into the day-to-day policies involved in prisons—the Prison Rules guiding the functioning of prisons state the purpose of prison training and treatment (of convicted prisoners) to be to ‘encourage and assist them to lead a good and useful life’ (The Prison Rules 1999: Rule 3), thereby highlighting the importance of the positive use of an individual’s time and its implications for their future. This is echoed in the HMI Prisons ‘Healthy Prison’ assessment, which includes the notion of purposeful activity, whereby ‘prisoners are able, and expected, to engage in activity that is likely to benefit them’ (HM Inspectorate of Prisons 2012: 83). With this in mind, the process of punishment is perceived in policy to be both linear—in terms of the progression of an individual through time and development— and cyclical—with respect to the consistency in day-to-day functioning across the prison system through routines and shift patterns (see Wahidin 2006: 6.19; Medlicott 2008: 293; Matthews 2009; Moran 2012).

The implications of the combination of cyclicality and linearity for prisoners has been recognised to be a central aspect of punishment with reference to the ‘fracture of their psychological time consciousness’ (Medlicott 2008: 293), in that the true linear nature of their outside lives, of which they are in direct control, is both unavailable and continuously attempted to be adhered to through emotions and connections to the outside world: a ‘horrible mismatch of one’s internal time-consciousness and the reality of prison time’ (Medlicott 1999: 225). Wahidin refers to the process of disconnection with outside time systems and events as a form of ‘social death’ (2006: 6.11), which female prisoners would find ways to mitigate where possible. When one looks at such propositions regarding men, it is clear that there are serious implications regarding masculine identity and the lack of control over time: as this book contends, control is a key dimension of the masculine self.

The implications of the combinations of linear and cyclical time take on even greater significance when one looks closer at the gendered nature of time. As Maines and Hardesty note, ‘men and women live in different temporal worlds’ (1987: 102). Daly states that there is a phenomenological difference in men and women’s experiences of time (1996: 145); biologically and psychologically, women tend to experience their lives in terms of cycles and rhythms, whereas men experience time in a more linear fashion, not least due to patriarchal power and status:

societal linear time [...] is shaped by culture, technology and industrial production. Linear time is the essence of masculine experience. Work and career continue to be the most salient aspects of identity for men, which is expressed in time as progression and achievement. (Daly 1996: 145)

Odih also notes the connection between masculinity and ‘linear time’, in that ‘linear time’s continual transcendence from the present resonates with masculinity’s compulsive hyperactivity’ (1999: 16). In prison, such a ‘future orientation’ and ‘compulsive hyperactivity’ is difficult for men to achieve, and not supported by the institution. In actuality, men in prison tend to be subjected to more cyclical (and thus feminine) forms of time. Whereas femininity is linked to relational time, ‘the hyperactivity of masculinity involves a transgression of the present which is swept aside in the frenetic pursuit of new challenges’ (Odih 1999: 18). Yet in prison, there can be no transgression of the present—the now is interminably visible and confronted at all times; and there is little ‘newness’ in prison—such ‘new challenges’ tend not to exist. Thus men in prison who have cyclical time enforced upon them find themselves having—through the repetition of daily events and interactions—to face up to the temporally dislocating context that they find themselves within: an emotionally hard task.

The combination of the two forms of time may have particular implications in terms of incarcerated men’s genders, being asked to interpret time in ways that are different to how their gender actually ‘works’ with time, ultimately making the prison experience harder on an existential level. In fact, linked to men in prison being feminised through limited spatial access (see Chapter 5), prison time has a similar feminising effect, with men sharing similar experiences to women in that ‘a condition and consequence of women’s subordinate position in the public sphere, and their ascribed domestic responsibilities in the private sphere, is that of significantly inhibiting their power to make decisions about their own time’ (Odih 1999: 11). Men’s lack of control over their own time therefore has a feminising effect upon them, by situating them in the realm of the subordinate and controlled, unable to structure their own lives, and subject to the temporal whims of masculinised staff, security, and institutional signifiers imposing controlling and cyclical routines that work against masculine temporal standards. Whereas they are used to being in the powerful position of being able to structure time themselves, their position as prisoners places them at the mercy of others’ power, control, and dominance of even the most internalised and integral states of self—the passing of time.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >