This chapter explores the temporal experience of life in an extended lockdown within Scottish prisons during the Covid-19 pandemic. Drawing on data from a wider research project, the Scotland in Lockdown study, the chapter focuses on qualitative survey data, letters, and reflective accounts from people living in Scottish prisons between March and October 2020. We discuss how uncertainty about the future and the loss of daily routine led to temporal disorientation as people felt trapped in an extended ‘now’, blurring temporal boundaries and traditional markers of prison time. Next, we consider the changing value of time as a commodity within the context of limited time out of cells and time lost outside or with loved ones. Lastly, we introduce the notion of ‘hollow’ time to conceptualise the complexities of time in prison during a pandemic. We argue that hollow time was a crushing burden that made people feel that their time did not matter, and, in turn, that they did not matter. The monotony of hollow time amplified the ways in which prison is already harmful and damaging, and the temporality of this extended lockdown regime removed the resources people needed to survive, while enhancing the precarity of their situations.


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Gormley, C., Reilly, J. & Casey, R. 2022, 'Unmarking prison time during the Covid-19 pandemic', Time and Punishment, pp. 89-116. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12108-1_4

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Last updated: 10 October 2023
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