Narratives of normality: Finnish prisoners envisioning their future

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The ambition of living ‘a normal life’ appears to be common among prisoners prior to release. Besides portraying for the life desired upon release, the notion of a normal life can say something about what the persons aspiring to it thinks of their present life, what they want their life to be like in future, and what they consider attainable. This article explores the subjective and social considerations of prisoners’ desires for normality. Qualitative interviews with prisoners at low-security open prisons in Finland (N = 45) revealed three narratives of normality: (1) nostalgic normality, balancing the disruption caused by imprisonment; (2) imagined normality, envisioning a future life script; (3) challenging views of normality, which is still desired, but whose legal and conventional norms are contested. While prison authorities and prisoners generally idealize normality in terms of conduct, prisoners’ stories reveal that they utilize the notion for a number of reasons. The personal narratives of normality can function as genuine and strategic expressions of conformity or resistance. In their narratives, the prisoners disclose the obstacles to normality that they anticipate, showing the uncertainty behind their simple wish to “just live a normal life.”
Original languageEnglish
Article number14624745211007192
JournalPunishment & Society
Number of pages19
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Apr 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • imprisonment
  • narrative criminology
  • normality
  • normalization
  • open prison
  • prison

Cite this