Prisoners’ financial distress in a (digital) prison context

Jana Robberechts, Anouk Mertens, Kristel Beyens

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished abstract


Background: Digital technologies have the potential to change the nature of imprisonment and can therefore possibly affect prisoner experiences. This paper discusses the impact of digitalisation, and in particular the use of a digital (in-cell) platform, on the experience of imprisonment.

Method: Interviews with prisoners (n=54) in four Belgian prisons with a different extent of digitalisation, were used to determine factors that can explain the variability in prisoner experiences. This qualitative data informed a broader survey about digitalisation and its impact on the quality of prison life experienced by prisoners, which was conducted in 10 Belgian prisons.

Results: The digitalisation impacts upon various dimensions of prison life. This presentation focuses on the effect on prisoners’ financial autonomy and distress in prison. Prisoners have a limited degree of choice and possibilities of how to manage their own budget. This study shows that the use of a digital platform removes certain barriers and has the potential to empower prisoners. Through digitalisation, and in particular the use of a digital in-cell platform, prisoners gain autonomy. This also increases prisoners’ responsibilisation, which can create financial distress. These findings raise questions about the financial literacy of prisoners, and the support needed to improve that literacy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sep 2021
EventESC Conference: Criminology in a time of pandemic - Online Event
Duration: 8 Sep 202110 Sep 2021


ConferenceESC Conference
Internet address

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