Detainees enact a “self” that is faced with the prejudices and stereotypes of the crime for which that detainee was convicted. Of all inmates, sex offenders face the greatest risk of receiving social condemnation alongside their prison sentence. This empirical study worked with 32 male sex offenders over 18 years old that were housed in the “protected” unit of the Due Palazzi. The following analysis explores how these men are required to manage their “self,” hetero-narrations, perception of everyday interactions in the protected unit, and conceptions about the rehabilitation path. Moreover, the detainees’ view on the prison’s strategic opportunities for promoting effective change in their condition and identity are also examined.
Discourse analysis applied to an open answer questionnaire showed that, rather than facing the stigma assigned to them, the detainees tend to minimize the importance of storytelling and construct alternative biographies to share with other inmates. Managing narratives allows the sex offenders to distance themselves from the perceived threats of living with other detainees; however, it also prevents the re-signification of their offenses. As such, the rules of “secrecy” must be considered by both qualitative researchers who conduct studies in prisons and prison administrators who plan the housing and treatment of sex offenders.