Prison on screen in 1970s Britain

Harmes, Marcus ORCID: and Harmes, Meredith and Harmes, Barbara ORCID: (2020) Prison on screen in 1970s Britain. In: The Palgrave handbook of incarceration in popular culture. Palgrave Macmillan Ltd., Cham, Switzerland, pp. 165-176. ISBN 978-3-030-36058-0


HMP Slade, which housed Fletch and Godber in Porridge, may be the best-known fictional prison of the decade, but visions of incarceration permeated 1970s film and television in Britain. Porridge’s sanitized portrayal of prison life has been rightly described (Wilson and O’Sullivan) as at odds with the unsettled real prisons of the 1970s. In actuality, the 1970s was an important but also a challenging decade for prisons, as practices changed, faith rehabilitation was lost, the supermax appeared as a possible solution and seemed to change the face of incarceration, and in Britain, prison governors struggled with problem prisoners such as members of the IRA. This chapter examines where the flights of fancy in British telefantasy and drama channeled actual anxieties about the carceral. The concerning innovations of the “new broom” in the Home Office in A Clockwork Orange, the experiments on prisoners’ brains in Doctor Who, and the dystopian prisons in 1990 are mediated visions of a decade which may have been the most defining for carceral theory and practice in the twentieth century.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to Published chapter and Front Matter in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Open Access College (1 Jul 2013 - 7 Jun 2020)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Open Access College (1 Jul 2013 - 7 Jun 2020)
Date Deposited: 02 Apr 2020 05:19
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2022 01:10
Uncontrolled Keywords: prisons; television; popular culture; Porridge (television series); Scum (television drama); supermax prisons
Fields of Research (2008): 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2001 Communication and Media Studies > 200101 Communication Studies
19 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing > 1902 Film, Television and Digital Media > 190204 Film and Television
16 Studies in Human Society > 1602 Criminology > 160203 Courts and Sentencing
Fields of Research (2020): 47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4701 Communication and media studies > 470101 Communication studies
36 CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 3605 Screen and digital media > 360505 Screen media
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4402 Criminology > 440203 Courts and sentencing
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
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