Anita Wilson is a prison ethnographer who has worked with prisoners over the last 20 years.
Through sustained engagement with the field she seeks to investigate how people who live and work in prison ‘get through their time’ and the constraints and affordances offered by the prison environment in operationalising these survival strategies.
Looking at prison through the lens of long-term ethnography, offers an opportunity to turn the spotlight onto the more nuanced aspects of everyday prison life, and demands that attention be paid to events and practices that in the outside world might be considered mundane, ordinary, and unremarkable.
Most recently she has turned her attention to issues around prison education, including an ESRC funded project on how the system interrupts the lives of young prisoner together with a project funded by Prisoners Education Trust on access to higher education and distance learning in local jails.
To this end, her publications have covered the significance of prison footwear, the emphasis on visual and social markers such as graffiti, the need to remain a human being through the creative use of language, the importance of time and space to everyday prison life, and the mindfulness of prison officers in the diagnosis of self-harm.
She has also undertaken work for government agencies, policy makers, and outside agencies including a study of young people’s experiences of the criminal justice system Hyperlink to http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs/hors201.pdf and a rapid evidence assessment of interventions that promote employment for offenders hyperlink to http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/RR747.pdf.
Equally, she believes that research should be of practical use, and has produced training materials for staff working with specialist prison populations, and a deep ethnography on the efficacy of the creative arts in engaging people in personal change and development http://www.thepoint.org.uk/PDFs/Engaging_People_in_Change.pdf.
© prisonethnographer 2009
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