Letters from Prison: An Exploration of Isolation

Episode 3


Season 3

29th November 2022 | Deborah Russo | 32:18

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

Follow us on Twitter @RachelleCobain @russo_dea

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

Other Season 3 episodes

13th December 2022

Punishment & Protection: The Paradox of Sex Work in Scotland

Dr Anastacia Elle Ryan talks to Rachelle Cobain about the social and legal position of sex work, how decriminalisation may have a positive impact on workers in Scotland and why she decided to turn her academic studies into activism and advocacy.

6th December 2022

Teejay & Mary: Two Tales of Supervision

In this episode we talk about how two very different encounters Fergus McNeill has had during his career – one with a man we’re calling Teejay and another with Mary – had a profound and enduring impact on his research and his perception of supervision.

21st November 2022

Are you Listening? Shining a Light on Domestic Abuse in Scotland

Dr Emma Forbes joins us in this episode to describe her extraordinary project GlassWalls which uses the medium of stained glass to shine a light on domestic abuse in Scotland.