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(B)Locked sites: cases of Internet use in three British prisons

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Based on a qualitative scoping exercise in three British prisons, this article discusses digital inequalities experienced by prisoners and the potential opportunities that digital media in prisons offers for offender rehabilitation and resettlement. As they are currently denied access to online and social media that most of us take for granted, physically cut off from their communities, and unable to communicate with family and friends in ways that have become normal in society, we argue that prisoners experience profound social isolation and constitute one of the most impoverished groups in the digital age. Our results show that prisoners display high levels of both curiosity and enthusiasm as well as fear and reservation toward Internet-enabled technologies, depending on age and gender as well as the length of their sentence. On release from prison, they are not only faced with prejudice and poorer job prospects than the average citizen due to their criminal record, but their digital exclusion during incarceration may have compound effects and lead to supercharged digital and social exclusion. We argue that secure access would be highly beneficial to prisoners who pose a low risk to society, especially during the rehabilitation and release phases.
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Keywords: Digital inequality; Internet non-use; digital exclusion; prisoners; prisons

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Quello Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA 2: School of Applied Social Science, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK

Publication date: June 2, 2016

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