During the last two decades, the USA has embarked upon an unprecedented policy of mass imprisonment. By any measure, the scope of this policy is astonishing. In 2008, the Pew Center on the States found that, "for the first time, more than one in every 100 adults is now confined in an American jail or prison."
There is a large social science research literature on prisons, but very little of it concerns time and temporal experience. There is a smaller, but rapidly growing, social science literature on time and temporal experience, but very little of it concerns incarceration and other forms of confinement. My project integrates these lines of inquiry by looking at how prison inmates experience and deal with time.
My co-author and primary informant (K. C. Carceral, a pseudonym) was paroled two years ago after serving more than thirty years in various prisons. Our data consist of (1) my co-author's personal experiences, (2) his responses to questions I posed while he was still in prison, (3) his observations of, and interviews with, fellow prisoners, and (4) our readings of thirty-five prison autobiographies. Our analysis is inductive. From these data, we are formulating a grounded theory of time and temporal experience in prison and other forms of confinement (e.g., POWs and hostages).
Michael G. Flaherty is professor of sociology at Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, Florida. He is the author of The Textures of Time: Agency and Temporal Experience (Temple University Press, 2011) and A Watched Pot: How We Experience Time (New York University Press, 1999). He is a deputy editor of Social Psychology Quarterly, and he serves on the editorial board of the international journal Time & Society.
The Cage of Days: Time and Temporal Experience in Prison
Area of research:
01 Oct 2016 – 30 Sep 2017