1.ii. Ex-prisoner Interviews 20 interviews were conducted with women at varying lengths of time after they had come out of prison. Two had already been interviewed in prison (one of them, twice) and each was subsequently interviewed for several hours altogether. It had been mooted by some of the MIP Project research partners that follow-up interviews should be undertaken with the prisoners who had been interviewed in prison. The hope was that it would thereby be possible to comment on changes in the women’s post-prison careers over a nine-month time-span. However, from the beginning the English team were aware that this would not be feasible because: (a) England’s centralised prison system means that many prisoners are imprisoned miles away from their homes; (b) many ex-prisoners move around frequently and it would therefore have been costly to try to track them as they move from place to place; and (c) the research timescale was such that we just did not have the time that, from experience, we knew we needed if we were to get a snowball of ex-prisoner contacts on the go. The in-prison researcher did try to arrange follow-up interviews with several interviewees but, apart from getting two women to agree to do some life-history interviews after their release, had little success with the majority of those interviewed. As for the ex-prisoner group, even when interviews were arranged at short notice, several interviewees did not keep the appointment. We were given much help by a number of agencies and ex-prisoner aid organisations (see Annex 2) but, in the end, we had to interview whoever was willing to be interviewed, and, as we had foreseen, could not pick and choose. For that reason we only use quotations from these interviews to illustrate more general theoretical points. The length of time the interviewees had been out of prison at time of interview was
as follows: 3 weeks: 2 5 weeks: 1 2 months: 3 3 months: 5 4 months: 3 6 months: 1
7 months: 1 8 months: 1 10 months: 1 18 months: 1 20 years: 1*
It was only towards the end of her interview that it became apparent that this 40
year old ex-prisoner had actually been released from prison 20 years before! We included her for several reasons: first, because she still thought of herself as an ex- prisoner, attending an NGO for female ex-prisoners, and feeling more at ease with others who were unemployed and homeless; secondly because she had never been able to get a job; thirdly, because she had only got her own accommodation 19 years after coming out of prison; fourthly, because she was of mixed race, had no family contacts and had always felt ‘excluded’, not just by prison but by a range of adverse social circumstances which she felt to be beyond her control; fifthly because, overall, we think her story suggests that maybe imprisonment is but one exclusionary factor in the management of poverty; and that, therefore, post-prison measures of ‘reintegration’ are unlikely to be of relevance to those ex-prisoners for whom the ‘moment of prison’ may have been the most inclusionary (rather than exclusionary) occurrence of their lives; and sixthly, because we thought that, as the foregoing suggests that some prisoners are (or become) ‘ex-prisoners’ for life, the arbitrary temporal cut-off point for interviews could be justifiably waived on this one occasion and in this one case which had provided us with an insight and illustration of significant theoretical relevance to the whole issue of ‘reintegration’.