The cell and the corridor: Imprisonment as waiting, and waiting as mobile

Published: June 2015

Abstract: Imprisonment is the exemplary symbol of waiting, of being stuck in a space and for a time not of our choosing. This concept of waiting is perfectly represented by the image of the prison cell. In this paper, I contrast the cell with the less familiar imagery of the corridor, a space of prison that evokes and involves mobility. Through this juxtaposition, I aim to show that prisons are as much places of movement as stillness with associated implications for penal power and purpose. I argue that the incomplete imaginary of prison as a cell (and waiting as still) may operate as a necessary fiction that both sustains and undermines its legitimacy. By incorporating the corridor into the penal imaginary, key premises about how prisons do and should work, specifically by keeping prisoners busy, and how prison time flows and is experienced, are disrupted.

Authors / Editors

Prof Sarah Armstrong

University of Glasgow

Research Themes

Criminal Justice Process and Institutions