‘Helping Not Hurting’: Horizontal Care and Learning to Peer Care in Prison

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Over the past two decades, the proportion of older prisoners has increased dramatically from 7 to 17 per cent of the total prison population in England and Wales. This is problematic as their needs are holistically different to their younger counterparts and prisons are not designed for issues associated with older adulthood. Increases in human frailty, disability and dependency raise numerous financial and managerial issues for prison administrators. These issues are set against a backdrop of reduced funding, overcrowding, increasing violence, increasing self-harm and suicide. The study investigates existing low-level, preventative peer caregiving practices, examining the factors that constrain or promote care giver/receiver relations in a prison setting. The aim of the study is to contribute to new understandings that can mitigate the effects of an increasingly ageing and infirm population, by developing the amount and quality of peer caregiving. Data were collected using mixed qualitative methods, namely, participant observation and interview. Prisoner peer caregiving is identified as a relatively new discourse and practice that is in tension with better established discourses and practices of security, control, and managerialism. Developing models of horizontal care, supported by social forms of learning are recommended as contributing to improving peer care practice in prisons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-105
Number of pages16
JournalEthics and Social Welfare
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2021


  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • prison research
  • peer care
  • Older and disabled prisoners
  • ethnography


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