Mhairi Gavin

PhD student

University of Strathclyde


Working Title of PhD: The experience of imprisonment for those convicted of sexual offences
Year commenced PhD study: 2014
Institution/Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Funding Source (if any): Arts and Humanities Research Council
Full or part-time: Full-time
PhD Supervisors: Professor Laura Piacentini, Dr Claire McDiarmid 

Synopsis: This PhD explores the lives of sex offenders in prison. It is about the environment they find themselves in, how they adapt to this, and what concerns them while in prison. The overarching concept running through the PhD is that, against a challenging backdrop, sex offenders in prison are trying to build a safe prison community and develop better lives for themselves.

Twenty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants serving custodial sentences for sexual offences in order to answer one central research question: how do those convicted of sexual offences experience imprisonment? This was framed as one very general research question to avoid the researcher influencing the focus of the interviews. This kept conversations with participants non-specific, exploring all aspects of prison life, to see what emerged from participants as the most significant parts of this experience.

The main goals of their time in prison that came through from participants in this research were: trying to make their immediate environment as comfortable as possible; and trying to put their offending behind them and move on with more positive lives. These goals are difficult to achieve in the challenging setting of a prison. There are eight themes which emerge strongly from the fieldwork that will be considered in this thesis: judgement; lack of trust; perceived limitations of the prison system; accepting prison; getting on with others; desire for a better life; changing in prison; and fear of the community.

Keywords: Sex offenders, prison



University of Strathclyde

HASS Graduate School
Lord Hope Building
University of Strathclyde
141 St James Road
G1 0LT

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