Paper Sample on How Prisoners Negotiate

Published: 2023-12-25
Paper Sample on How Prisoners Negotiate
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Penal system Social issue
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1457 words
13 min read


Time is one of the important elements in the human society. It is duration in which certain events occur. Most sociologists treat time as a constituent element of their research (Hassard, 1990). According to Hassard (1990), sociology can almost be said to be time free. The field of sociology perceives time as a social construct. As a result, various societies perceive time differently. While the industrialised societies place great emphasis on clock time, other cultures prioritize other types such as natural time. In such cultures, time is referenced in terms of seasons, or time of great flood. Therefore, the sociological field posits that people perceive time differently. The different perception of time between people in different societies and groups could be used to explain how prisoners negotiate their time in prison because they exist on a different social reality. Therefore, based on the sociological theory, prisoners negotiate their time in prison using prison activities and events.

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Events and Activities

Sleep is one of the events and activities that prisoners use to negotiate their time. According to Flaherty (1999), human capacity to will-fully modify subjective experience. Prison life can prove to be a unpleasant experience for most people where the only time that matters is when they will get out. For others, they don’t expect to ever get out of prison and therefore have to view it as their new home. Therefore, sleep is one of the activities within the capacity of prioners to modify their experiences in prison. Based on the prison’s schedule, prisoners are allowed some time to sleep or rest after taking part in other activities. As a result, prisoners have other activities in which they use to negotiate their time.

Work is another means through which prisoners can negotiate their time in prion. Individuals engage in time work so as to promote or suppress a particular kind of temporal experience (Flaherty, 1999). The feeling of being trapped is one of the temporal experiences that prisoners are trying to suppress. For some of them, they are well aware that they will only be incarcerated for a limited time. Taking part in work activities is one of the ways for them to forget the their periodic incarceration. For those in permanent incaraceration, they use work as a means of negotiating through time so that they can reach their favorite prison activity; whether it is sleeping or entertainment. Work is also a means of control and source of power, where the prison officers use it to maintain order amon the prison population (McKenzie & Davies, 2002).


Prisoners can also negotiate time through interactions. That follows the constructivist theorists who see time as constituted by interactions of human beings with their environment (McKenzie & Davies, 2002). The constructivists theorists are different from the Marxist traditions of social theory that focus on clocktime (McKenzie & Davies, 2002). Therefore, based on constructivist theory, interaction with another is one of the ways through which prisoners negotiate their time in prison. According to McKenzie and Davies (2002), the constructivist view allows for several timeworld’s in people’s lives. That means that the prisoners can implement interaction along with other time negotiating methods such as work. Furthermore, the social constructionist view holds that interaction with each other is responsible for the realities in which people live. That means that the prisoner’s social reality where they are less affected by clock time is largely influenced by their personal interactions.

Prison meals such as supper is another activity that prisoners use a symbol of the end of day. In that regard, the time of the meal is not as important as the reason for taking the mean. Therefore, whether the meal is served at 5:00 or 6:00 pm wouldn’t matter much because the prison environment social reality isn’t significantly affected by clock time as compared to acivities and events. According to Burnett (2013), a social space such as the prison plays a role on how people think about time. Prison, is a spatial environment capable of shaping the trajectory and form of what may otherwise be characterized as a universal social fact (Burnett, 2013). Therefore, when the supper is usually served at the of the day, it will become a social fact around the prison environment that the supper marks the completion of a 12 hr period.

Specialized Programs

Specialized programs such as religious services, anger management, entertainemt, guidance and counselling provide additional means for prisoners to negotiate their time in prison. Flaherty et al., (2020)indicates that it is possible to have a distortion in temporal experience where time is perceived to either move fast or slowly. Such can be achieved through exercising a measure of willfullness. The phenomena is conceptualized timework or temporal agency (Flaherty et al., 2020). It is the concept that sensitizes the prisoners to intentional alteration of their own experience. Speicalized activities such as entertainment, guidance and counselling changes the perceptions of the prisoners from assuming that time simply happens to them and instead turn it into a case of them making time happen. The become the creators of their own temporal experiences through pertaking in such activities. However, according to Flaherty et al., (2020), people in social settings such as the prison environment would follow for reasons which have little or nothing to do with temporal agency. Therefore, while an outside observer would easily see how such events influence their temporal experience, the prisoners would most likely be oblivious to the relationship between their special programs and time negotiation.

Prisoner incarceration and release dates makes for one of the most important events that prisoners use to negotiate their time in prison. According to Souza and Dhami (2010), prisoners keep forecasts of their post-release success, which means they monitor the time leading upto their eventual release. The focus on their release enables them schedule their prison activities based on how much time is left. Humans experience time both as a physical and social procession (Lewis & Weigert, 1981). The association between physical and social time is evidenced by the way humans make use of the calender. Prisoners too use their incarceration and release dates serve as termporal markers for defining time units. For example, saying that something happened three weeks after incarceration shows social meaning than saying something happened on a certain year of month.

Efforts of self determination such as reading is one of the ways through which prisoners can efficiently negotiate their time in prison. As a voluntary acitivty, reading is likely to create a distortion of experience where the prisoner will perceive time as either having moved fast or slowly. Efforts of self-determination are agentic practices that involve attempt to control, manipulate and customize one’s own temporality (Flaherty, 2002). According to Flaherty (2002) individuals may choose to contruct their own circumstance and do so with the intention of manipulate the perceived passage of time. Prisoners, like most other societies, are at the mercies of forces beyond their control. However, the other societies or people also have a lot of control over issues relating to their lives. The prisoners don’t enjoy that luxury and most of their activities are dictated by the prion officials. Voluntary activities such as reading gives them to regain some of the control and enhance their temporal experience.


Prisoners exists in a different social reality from the one experienced by those outside the prison environment. As a result, their perception of time is different from the rest of the society. As a result, prisoners have different ways of negotiating time within the prison. Sleeping, work, interactions, meals, specialized programs, and events such as incarceration and release dates. In addition, the prisoners can also distort their experience through self determination such as reading. As a result, they end up experiencing the passage of time differently from the other people that are outside the prison environment.


Burnett, P. J. (2013). The Dynamics of Time and Space in Sociological Theory.

Flaherty, M. G. (1999). A watched pot: How we experience time. NYU Press.

Flaherty, M. G. (2002). Making time: Agency and the construction of temporal experience. Symbolic Interaction, 25(3), 379-388.

Flaherty, M. G., Meinert, L., & DalsgĂĄrd, A. L. (Eds.). (2020). Time Work: Studies of Temporal Agency. Berghahn Books.

Hassard, J. (1990). Introduction: The sociological study of time. In The sociology of time (pp. 1-18). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Lewis, J. D., & Weigert, A. J. (1981). The structures and meanings of social time. Social forces, 60(2), 432-462.

McKenzie, P. J., & Davies, E. (2002). Time is of the essence: Social theory of time and its implications for LIS research. CAIS/ASCI 2002, 1-13.

Souza, K. A., & Dhami, M. K. (2010). First-time and recurrent inmates’ experiences of imprisonment. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 37(12), 1330-1342. 10.1177/0093854810379969.

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