Luca Sterchele

The «less eligibility» assumption through the lens of ethnographic research. Some considerations from a research on the Healthcare Service in prison

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Prison, Ethnography, Less Eligibility, Prison Cultures, Healthcare in Prison.

The article aims to critically investigate some aspects concerning the «less eligibility» criterion originally proposed by Rusche and Kirchheimer. The author reread this theoretical assumption in the light of an ethnographic observation of the daily activities of healthcare professionals in three prisons in northern Italy. Participant observation has allowed to notice a paradoxical effect, which would undermine the linearity of the principle of deterrence assumed by the two German authors: for some prisoners in conditions of extreme social marginality, the detention experience seems to become an «opportunity» to access a number of services which were not available to them outside (addiction treatment, preventive exams and screenings, psychological treatment, etc.). However, the principle of deterrence underlying the «less eligibility» assumption, though being partially de-powered by this paradox, seems to be reflected in the narratives and practices of some prison workers. In particular, the omnipervasiveness of the moral horizon of the penitentiary takes hold on medical cultures, being reproduced in various forms in the daily activities of some healthcare professionals.

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