Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Captive in cycles of invisibility? Prisoners’ work for the private sector

Pandeli, Jenna; Marinetto, Michael; Jenkins, Jean

Captive in cycles of invisibility? Prisoners’ work for the private sector Thumbnail


Jenna Pandeli
Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies

Michael Marinetto

Jean Jenkins


© The Author(s) 2018. This article critiques a case of modern prison-labour by exploring prisoners’ attitudes towards the prison-work they undertake while incarcerated. The study is based at a privatised male prison in the UK, assigned the pseudonym ‘Bridgeville’. Bridgeville contracts with private-sector firms in providing market-focused prison-work – so-called real work – for inmates in some of its workshops. In exploring prisoners’ perceptions of this privatised prison-work, it is found that it mainly comprises mundane, low-skilled activities typical of informalised, poor-quality jobs that are socially, legally and economically devalued and categorised as forms of ‘invisible work’. At Bridgeville, such privatised prison-work largely fails in engaging or upskilling inmates, leaving them pessimistic about its value as preparation for employment post-release. Its rehabilitative credentials are therefore questioned. The article contributes to the debate around invisible work more generally by problematising this example of excluded work and the cycle of disadvantage that underpins it.


Pandeli, J., Marinetto, M., & Jenkins, J. (2019). Captive in cycles of invisibility? Prisoners’ work for the private sector. Work, Employment and Society, 33(4), 596-612.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 24, 2018
Online Publication Date Jun 21, 2018
Publication Date Aug 1, 2019
Deposit Date Jul 12, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jul 12, 2018
Journal Work, Employment and Society
Print ISSN 0950-0170
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 4
Pages 596-612
Keywords ethnography, invisible work, prison, prison-work, rehabilitation
Public URL
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs
Additional Information Additional Information : © 2018. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications


You might also like

Downloadable Citations