‘Reconstructing gender roles in a total institution: Incarcerated primary carer fathers’ expressions of masculinity in Victoria’

T.Bartlett, Monash Universitytess.bartlett@monash.edu

This paper draws from data gathered for an Australian Research Council funded study conducted in Victoria and NSW between 2011-2015 that examined how dependent children are responded to when their primary carer is imprisoned, with a specific focus on how care is managed at the key points of arrest, incarceration and release. In particular, it aims to address a gap in research and theory by providing new insights into masculinity and the experiences and challenges facing primary carer fathers in prison in Victoria.

The paper explores the differing expressions of self presented by primary carer fathers in prison, as a ‘total institution.’  In particular, it focuses on primary carer fathers’ experiences of visitation (and visit space) and the opportunities fathers have to ‘do’ fathering within the prison context. To do so, the views of 39 primary carer fathers incarcerated in Victoria are analysed. The paper will argue that there exist a range of models and malleable expressions of masculinity within the prison environment and primary carer fathers use strategies to change who they are in each moment. By clearly highlighting primary carer fathers’ expressions of masculinity from inside the prison environment, gaps will be highlighted and solutions offered as to: how best facilitate the connection between the inside and outside world; and how to allow for the expression of a fathering identity within the prison context.

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