Discursive Chains: How Prison Becomes Real and Chains Identity Movements For a Sex Offender


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.

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Published: 2020-03-30
Pages:118 to 134
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How to Cite
Faccio, E., Mazzucato, M. and Iudici, A. (2020) “Discursive Chains: How Prison Becomes Real and Chains Identity Movements For a Sex Offender”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 9(4), pp. 118-134. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v9i2.1434.

Author Biographies

University of Padua

Elena Faccio is Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology at the Department of Philosophy, Sociology, Pedagogy and Applied Psychology (FISPPA) of the University of Padua. She is interested in investigating the issues of identity and change, both from a theoretical and a clinical point of view. She’s also interested in investigating the relevance of language in the construction of diversity and deviance.

University of Padua

Matteo Mazzucato is a psychologist, he works in schools promoting health thorough projects about themes such as cyberbullying, revenge porn and digital citizenship. As major in psychotherapy and clinical researcher he is also interested in the theme of identity and the process of deviant career, specifically in the contexts of prison and communities for drug addicts.


University of Padua

Antonio Iudici is Adjunct professor of University of Padova and tutor professor for Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milano. Technical Consultant for the Juvenile Court of Brescia and the Ordinary Tribunal of Milan. Lecturer of Institute of Psychology and Psychotherapy of Padova (Interactionist School). He is in charge of health promotion and the most in-depth issues concern the inclusion of people with disabilities, children, students and victims of violence.