• Images of Incarceration by David Wilson and Sean O'Sullivan - book cover

Images of Incarceration

Representations of Prison in Film and Television Drama

by David Wilson and Sean O'Sullivan


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Images of Incarceration focuses on fictional portrayals of prison and prisoners to demonstrate how they are depicted in the cinema and on TV, featuring films such as The Shawshank Redemption, The Birdman of Alcatraz, Scum, McVicar, Brubaker, Cool Hand Luke, Made in Britain and Greenfingers as well as TV dramas like Porridge , Bad Girls , Buried and Oz.

The book is part of the Prison Film Project sponsored by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation under its Rethinking Crime and Punishment initiative. It compares fictional representations with ‘actual existing reality’ to provide insights into how screen images affect understanding of complex social and penal issues: ‘Is prison really as represented on screen, harsher, softer or different?’; ‘Do viewers separate fact from fiction?’; and ‘What might films tell us about the experiences of prisoners and whether prison reduces crime and protects victims?’

As authors David Wilson and Sean O’Sullivan explain, prison may be violent and de-humanising but it makes for gripping drama and human interest. Most people know little about what really happens inside prison, so that as prison numbers in the UK and USA escalate as never before, the ‘prison film’ and ‘TV prison drama’ can have a significant influence on popular culture and attitudes towards penal reform. Informative, educational and illuminating, Images of Incarceration will be of value to anyone interested in the effect of screen representations on the democratic process, and in particular to people concerned with criminal justice, penal affairs, penal reform, sociology and the media.


‘Fascinating for anyone who has even a passing interest in penal matters or film’: Howard Journal of Criminal Justice


David Wilson is professor of criminology at the Centre for Criminal Justice Policy and Research at the University of Central England in Birmingham. A former prison governor, he is editor of the Howard Journal and a well-known author, broadcaster and presenter for TV and radio, including for the BBC, C4 and Sky Television. He has written three other books for Waterside Press: The Longest Injustice: The Strange Story of Alex Alexandrowicz (with the latter), Prison(er) Education : Stories of Change and Transformation (with Ann Reuss) (2000), and Serial Killers: Hunting Britons and Their Victims 1960-2006 (2007).

Additional information

Weight282 g
Dimensions234 × 156 × 11 mm


Waterside Press




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United Kingdom

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