Managing a murderous identity: How men who murder experience life imprisonment and the concept of release

  • Jenny Clifford

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


In 1965 capital punishment for murder was abolished in the UK. The Mandatory Life Sentence (MLS) replaced it. The MLS is to this day a political sentence. This thesis examines the MLS in terms of law, policy, practice and management, and, considers through the discourse of prisoners and staff how men who murder experience life imprisonment and the concept of release. My research draws on in depth interviews with 18 prisoners who had experience of life in open conditions and 10 professionals. This thesis contributes to our understanding of the impact of long-term imprisonment, indeterminacy and the management of a murderous identity within open conditions and the community. Analysis of the data indicates that prisoners ascription of identities is based on their perceptions of the nature of the offence, risk, guilt and the appropriateness of the MLS. The prisoners through the implementation of spoiled, co-existing and intersecting identities mediated the impact of the MLS. The research also indicates that prisoner experience of life in closed prison did little to prepare them for the reality of open prison and life in the community. As they near the end of the sentence identities produced to cope with imprisonment become redundant. On or near release the challenge for them became how to implement and/or manage co-existing identities. My study considers how the MLS can be perceived as differentiating the prisoner from other indeterminate prisoners historically in terms of policy, in staff and prisoner’s perceptions of practice and the MLS prisoner’s reflections on their own identities. The findings also bring into question current policy and practice within open conditions and the opportunities available for MLS prisoners nearing release.
Date of Award1 Aug 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorTina Skinner (Supervisor)

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