The experiences of a young Gypsy-Traveller in the transition from custody to community: An interpretative phenomenological analysis

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Purpose. This paper presents a case study of a young male Gypsy-Traveller from the south-west of England. The study explores the participant's experiences of serving a sentence in a Young Offender Institute, and of the transition from custody back into the community.

Methods. The study is idiographic and grounded in the detailed case study of a 20-year-old Gypsy-Traveller. An initial semi-structured interview was conducted while the participant was serving a 2-year custodial sentence and subsequent contact was made after release from prison. Transcripts were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Results. The case study reveals that issues of culture and identity are of particular relevance when seeking to understand the experience of a young Gypsy-Traveller serving a custodial sentence. This is partially demonstrated with the tension between perceived autonomy and the role of social factors. These themes are also of importance in exploring desistance from crime after release from prison. Issues surrounding negative attitudes from within the community, the police and the prison are also explored, with findings discussed in the context of prison, policing and probation practice with young Gypsy-Travellers.

Conclusions. The study suggests that practical and social psychological issues need to be taken into account when considering the particular needs of young Gypsy-Travellers in custody and after release from prison. Given that young Gypsy-Traveller men are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, attention to these issues is especially relevant for those who work in the prison and probation services, with important implications for rehabilitation.

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