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Hopkins, B. (2005). Winnicott and Imprisonment. Am. Imago, 62(3):269-283.

(2005). American Imago, 62(3):269-283

Winnicott and Imprisonment

Brooke Hopkins


I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting—

—Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale

At first glance, Winnicott appears to have very little to say on the topic of imprisonment. There are only a few references to prisons in his writing, and most of those are confined to one unpublished paper, “Comments on the Report of the Committee on Punishment in Prisons and Borstals,” written in 1961 and not published until 1984. He has a great deal to say, however, about the ways in which individuals, mainly adolescent males, can end up within the confines of a prison cell if the antisocial behavior they exhibit isn't transformed into constructive or reparative activity by some form of therapeutic intervention1 It is possible to hypothesize, therefore, what Winnicott might have written had he written more about imprisonment, especially in terms of some of the spatial metaphors that saturate his writing.

The Antisocial Tendency

Most of what Winnicott knew about the antisocial tendency that might lead someone to end up in a jail he learned from his work with children evacuated from the cities during World War II.

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