Policing and Incarceration

Peripheral recovery: ‘Keeping safe’ and ‘keep progressing’ as contradictory modes of ordering in a forensic psychiatric unit

Sitting between the psychiatric and criminal justice systems, and yet fully located in neither, forensic psychiatric units are complex spaces. Both a therapeutic landscape and a carceral space, forensic services must try to balance the demands of therapy and security, or recovery and risk, within the confines of a strictly controlled institutional space. This article draws on qualitative material collected in a large forensic psychiatric unit in the UK, comprising 20 staff interviews and 20 photo production interviews with patients. We use John Law’s ‘modes of ordering’ to explore how the materials, relations and spaces are mobilised in everyday processes of living and working on the unit. We identify two ‘modes of ordering’: ‘keeping safe’, which we argue tends towards empty, stultified and static spaces; and ‘keep progressing’ which instead requires filling, enriching and ingraining spaces. We discuss ways in which tensions between these modes of ordering are resolved in the unit, noting a spatial hierarchy which prioritises ‘keeping safe’, thus limiting the institutional capacity for engendering progress and change. The empirical material is discussed in relation to the institutional and carceral geography literatures with a particular focus on mobilities.

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Volume 39 Issue 4

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