Release from prison is typically disorienting, disruptive, uncertain, risky. Supporting people’s post-prison transitions towards (re)integration requires skill, understanding and persistence. It often involves a gradual process of building hope and confidence, recognising – and capitalising on – opportunities for participation and acceptance. In this paper, I consider post-release support through the lens of liminality – the state of in-betweenness that characterises the experience of getting out, but not quite fitting in – of being neither here nor there.
From this ‘rites-of-passage’ perspective, the transition from prison to the community is a liminal phase that requires some form of symbolic ritual to bring it to a close and mark the beginning of the post-liminal phase of reintegration. Without reintegrative ritual, the liminal phase can become a state of sustained exclusion. So, what are these rituals? What do they look like? How are they experienced? And how might this understanding be used to more effectively support ex-prisoners in their efforts towards (re)integration? I draw on research into men’s experience of release from prison in Victoria to explore answers to these questions.
Dr Diana Johns
University of Melbourne
Lecturer in Criminology
Biography: Diana Johns has over fifteen years’ experience teaching and researching in the criminal justice field. Diana’s research interests include post-prison reintegration and how people experience criminal justice involvement – particularly those described as ‘hard-to-reach’ or ‘vulnerable’ – including young people, ex-prisoners, and people with cognitive impairments. As well as her academic work, Diana has worked in support roles with long-term unemployed and young people with disabilities.
After completing her PhD in 2014, Diana spent 2015 in Wales, in the UK, doing postdoctoral research on young people’s prolific offending. In 2016 she was involved in the evaluation of the Youth Diversion Pilot Program (YDPP) for the Children’s Court of Victoria, and in research for Corrections Victoria related to serious sexual and violent offending. She is currently undertaking research, with colleagues at Monash and the Centre for Multicultural Youth, about the experience and effects of media representations of South Sudanese young people in Victoria.
In 2016 Diana joined the University of Melbourne as Lecturer in Criminology. Her book, Being and Becoming an Ex-Prisoner, was published by Routledge in 2017. Based on her PhD research, the book explores men’s experience of release from prison from the perspective of ex-prisoners themselves and post-release support workers. It highlights the critical role of community in post-prison reintegration, in providing opportunities for participation and acceptance.