Tia Simanovic

PhD Student

University of Strathclyde


Working Title of PhD: Bereavement and imprisonment: an exploration of the experience of grief and loss prior to and/or during custody

Year commenced PhD study: 2017 Institution/Organisation: University of Strathclyde

Funding Source (if any): REA Scholarship Full or part-time: Full-time

PhD Supervisors: Sally Paul, PhD, and Beth Weaver, PhD

Synopsis of PhD (including main research question(s) and methodological approach):
This qualitative study will examine prisoners’ experiences with grief prior to and/or during custody, as well as the coping mechanisms employed when dealing with bereavement in the institutional setting. Research has identified an association between unresolved grief, offending, and imprisonment; however, that link remains ill-understood and under-researched (Schetky, 1998; Vaswani, 2014). Processing of grief in settings, in which one is detached from natural support systems and bereavement rituals, such as in prisons, might be additionally hindered by the cultural, social, and institutional norms of acceptable behaviour. According to Vaswani (2014), imprisonment can interrupt grieving processes, which could manifest through problematic behaviour in prison, as well as post-release. However, despite a burgeoning research interest in this area, little is known about prisoners’ experiences of death and bereavement, the effects of the institutional setting, and the efforts and impacts of institutional responses to those situations (Hendry, 2009; Wilson, 2011).

Research Question(s):
1. What are prisoners’ experiences of bereavement prior to and/or during incarceration?
2. What effect does prison setting have on prisoners’ experiences and processing of grief?
3. What, if any, bereavement supports exist within the prison setting, and how are they experienced?
4. What are the challenges and opportunities, identified by staff, for providing bereavement support?
5. How might bereavement support services be developed?
This study is a qualitative study. After conducting a review of the international theoretical, empirical, policy and practice evidence related to prisoners’ experiences of bereavement, this study will conduct in-depth, semi-structured interviews with prisoners and focus groups with prison staff, to explore their experiences with, and impact of , bereavement and death-related grief prior to and/or during custody. This study will work with prisoners and prison staff on possible practice innovations, and develop policy implications to better respond to bereavement experiences in prison.

Keywords: Bereavement, imprisonment, deprivation


Hodur, Bangsund, Olson, Ndembe, and Simanovic (2016). 2016 North Dakota Statewide Housing Needs Assessment. Fargo: North Dakota Housing Finance Agency and North Dakota State University



University of Strathclyde

University of Strathclyde
Richmond Street
G1 1XQ

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