he principle objective of this dissertation is to study the living conditions of prison inmates from a resource perspective. The empirical section builds on a level-of-living survey of prison inmates in Sweden. A representative sample of inmates (n=411) were interviewed about their living conditions, with the focus placed primarily on their situation prior to imprisonment. Most of the questions are taken from the national level-of-living surveys of the general population, thus allowing for comparisons with the living conditions of the population at large.

The findings are organised into three main areas: childhood, living conditions and recidivism. They reveal large differences by comparison with the rest of the population regarding the areas examined in the level-of-living surveys, i.e. childhood conditions, education, employment, financial situation, housing, health, social relations, political resources and criminal victimisation. These differences are particularly marked when different resource deficiencies/welfare problems are viewed in combination. Low levels of participation in and poor links to the labour market, as well as various welfare problems, mean that as a group the inmates can be described as marginalised and/or socially excluded.

Their situation is further affected by aspects of their living conditions not included in the level-of-living surveys of the general population, such as the abuse of alcohol and/or drugs, being sentenced to prison and recidivism.

When particular groups of prison inmates are examined separately, the situation of female inmates appears to be particularly problematic. They are more likely to be substance abusers, and have accumulated a larger number of resource deficiencies. Between an individual’s debut in crime and recidivism leading to a new prison or probationary sentence, a selection process takes place on several levels.

As a group, inmates differ from the general population inter alia in their experience of worse childhood and living conditions. Further, those inmates who re-offend tend to live under worse conditions than those who desist from crime. This process is interpreted from a perspective which regards an individual’s access to resources as having a vital impact on their chances in life. The conditioning influence of society at large has a profound effect on the level of opportunities available to an individual.

The final section of the dissertation therefore focuses on the link between structural factors and a lack of resources at the individual level. Economic trends in Sweden during the 1990s have made this a factor of highly topical interest; already vulnerable groups were hit much harder than others by the economic crisis and rising unemployment. Against the background of this trend and an increasing individualisation in the way social problems are viewed, the distance between prison inmates and the remainder of the population is deemed likely to have increased. This conjecture is given support by the few indicators available.

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