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‘Doing the Wait’: An exploration into the waiting experiences of prisoners’ families

Foster, Rebecca



Waiting is a universal experience and a ‘taken for granted’ form of time. However, it is given a social specificity when embodied by particular agents in particular settings. This paper reflects on the universal experience of waiting in the very particular setting of the prison, specifically a prison visitors’ centre; this is the space where families wait prior to visiting their incarcerated relatives. I draw on the literature of waiting and prisoners’ families, as well as my own empirical work and ethnographic observations of waiting families. In this work, I explore issues of power and agency, and explore the social relations which are orchestrated within and beyond this organisation of space and time. This paper aims to bring together two distinct areas of literature: one which explores how prisoners ‘do time’, and the other which explores the impact of imprisonment on the families outside. In marrying the two, this paper explores the temporal impact of the imprisonment on the family members of those incarcerated.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 2, 2015
Online Publication Date Feb 21, 2016
Publication Date 2019-05
Deposit Date Sep 28, 2022
Print ISSN 0961-463X
Electronic ISSN 1461-7463
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 2
Pages 459-477
Keywords Waiting, prisoners’ families, social relations, power, agency, doing time
Public URL