PURPOSE: This paper aims to report findings about how prisoners experience and cope with COVID-19 restrictions, which can contribute to an understanding of how pandemic responses, and specifically the COVID-19 response, affect prisoners.
DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH: Data was collected through ethnographic fieldwork involving days of observations ( N = 24) and the conduction of semi-structured interviews with prisoners ( N = 30) in closed prisons and detentions in Denmark between May and December 2021. The transcribed interviews and field notes were processed and coded by using the software programme NVivo.
FINDINGS: The data analysis reveals that the pains of imprisonment have been exacerbated to people incarcerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. To relieve pains of imprisonment, prisoners turn to censoriousness as an informal coping strategy, where they complain about inconsistency and injustice in the prison's COVID-19 prevention strategy to reveal the prison system itself as a rule-breaking institution. The prisoners criticise the prison management for using COVID-19 as an excuse, treating prisoners unjustly or not upholding the COVID-19 rules and human rights. Furthermore, principles of justice and equality are also alleged by some prisoners who contemplate the difficulty in treating all prisoners the same.
RESEARCH LIMITATIONS/IMPLICATIONS: More research will be needed to create a full picture of how prisoners cope with pandemic responses. Further research could include interviews with people working inside prisons.
ORIGINALITY/VALUE: In a Scandinavian context, to the best of the author's knowledge, this study is the first of its kind to apply an ethnographic approach in exploring prison life during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Infectious disease
- Prison ethnography
- Qualitative prison research
- The pains of imprisonment
- Adaptation, Psychological