The Stains of Imprisonment: What do prisons morally communicate to men convicted of sex offences?

Dr Alice levins, University of Liverpool


Recent decades have seen a widespread effort to imprison more people for sexual violence. In this talk, which is based on her recent book, The Stains of Imprisonment, Alice Ievins offers an ethnographic account of one of the worlds that this push has created: an English prison for men convicted of sex offenses. She will examine the ways in which prisons are morally communicative institutions, instilling in prisoners particular ideas about the offences they have committed—ideas that carry implications for prisoners’ moral character.

Investigating the moral messages contained in the prosaic yet power-imbued processes that make up daily life in custody, Ievins will argue that the prison she studied communicated a pervasive sense of disgust and shame, marking the men it held as permanently stained.

Rather than promoting accountability, this message discouraged prisoners from engaging in serious moral reflection on the harms they had caused. Analyzing these effects, Ievins will explore the role that imprisonment plays as a response to sexual harm, and the extent to which it takes us closer to and further from justice.