A Discourse Community jail inmates and those who visit them

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The discourse community of a jail is made up of several groups: the inmates, those who work within the facility as correctional officers and those, such as myself, who visit the inmates.


As John Wideman put it in his seminal book, a person visiting a prison "is forced to become an inmate . . . subject to the same sorts of humiliation and depersonalization . . . made to feel powerless, intimidated by the power of the state" (p.52). Yet this process of making visitors feel like prisoners paradoxically brings about a sense of community between visitor and inmate that might not otherwise exist.I visited my mother's boyfriend in prison for three years. He had been wrongly convicted and was in a state jail that seemed to attempt to make it very difficult for people to visit the prisoners in comfort. First of all, the criminal background of the person visiting needed to be checked before you could be put on the prisoner's visitor list. In an ironic reversal from the normal of role of prisons, to enter on e as a visitor one could not have a criminal record. Yet at the same time, once you had been passed as non-criminal (or at least never having been convicted of a criminal offense) you were then searched quite extensively before being allowed in.The visitors were forced to wait for more than an hour in a quite depressing and dirty waiting-room. The "discourse" that they took part in was one of silence at this point. ...
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