Former solicitor and now PhD student Deborah Russo intended her research into segregation in Scottish prisons to begin with a series of in-person interviews, but as Covid hit in 2020 she quickly had to devise an alternative plan.
Over the last year she has been working on a written correspondence project which has seen her amass more than 150 letters from people in prison, detailing personal accounts of their experiences of isolation, the physical and psychological toll it has taken on them, and the ways in which they seek to cope with life inside.
Deborah found that as these letters left the prison cell and went beyond the gates they acted as a bridge between the prisoner and the researcher, leading to a much more powerful, personal, and often cathartic exchange.
“In the mind of the participant it must mean something; that [the letter] moves away from the carceral space and perhaps it’s a way for the mind to become freer,” Deborah tells our host Rachelle Cobain.
Deborah gives listeners an incredibly moving insight into the minds of those isolated in prison, left without connection or meaningful human contact.
*Advisory: Please be aware that at around the 17-minute mark the conversation contains some adult sexual references.
Hosted/Produced/Edited by Rachelle Cobain, Communications Officer at SCCJR
Music: ‘Rewind’ by Donna Maciocia and Sean H available to download from the Distant Voices EP ‘Looking at Colours Again’.
Visit the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research website: www.sccjr.ac.uk and follow @TheSCCJR on Twitter & Instagram
Photo: Calum Macaulay, Unsplash
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