Researching Inclusively With People With Learning Disabilities in Prisons

Published: June 2018

Very little is known about how people with learning disabilities symbolically engage with imprisonment and discursively account for it within their wider self-narratives. Although there is little published research on this, literature shows that this group are over-represented among prison populations worldwide and that their needs are simply not being met during their incarceration.

My doctoral research set out to address this gap in literature by exploring how people with learning disabilities make sense of and adapt to imprisonment. Informed by prison sociology and learning disability studies, I used qualitative methods to research inclusively with people with learning disabilities while being appreciative of the challenges of researching within
prison. This case study draws from my PhD fieldwork experiences to highlight some of the key methodological challenges of carrying out work of this kind. It comprises three sections: the first outlines the research design—the research background, methods, access negotiations, and ethics; the second section provides a reflection of the fieldwork process in action; and the final section offers some practical methodological tips to inform future research practice in this area.

Authors / Editors

Dr Caitlin Gormley

University of Glasgow

Research Themes

Punishment, Citizenship and Communities

Criminal Justice Process and Institutions