An appreciative inquiry into foreign national prisoners’ participation in prison activities: The role of language

Flore Croux, Stijn Vandevelde, Bart Claes, Dorien Brosens, Liesbeth De Donder

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This article presents the findings of 51 interviews with foreign national prisoners in Flanders (Belgium). Following an appreciative inquiry stance, the aim is to understand how foreign nationals experience (accessibility to) prison activities (for example, education, work, sports activities and worship) and to investigate if and how this differs between foreign-speaking and Dutch-speaking foreign nationals. A thematic analysis of the interviews revealed several components of the activities offered that were perceived by the foreign nationals to be ‘working well’ and revealed several dreams concerning the activities for foreign nationals. Within each theme considered, similarities and dissimilarities among foreign-speaking and Dutch-speaking foreign nationals are described. This article argues that foreign nationals are confronted with a new pain of imprisonment, namely ‘the pain of (non-)participation’. The findings could enable a shift from supply-driven to tailor-made activities for foreign national prisoners.
Original languageEnglish
Article number269
Pages (from-to)251-269
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Criminology
Issue number1
Early online date19 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the participants and the prison staff for making this research possible. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The research was supported by the Flemish Research Foundation (FWO; grant number: G.0269.17N).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.

Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Appreciative inquiry
  • Foreign national prisoners
  • Language proficiency
  • Prison activities
  • Qualitative interviews


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