The surveillance of ‘prolific’ offenders: Beyond ‘docile bodies’

Michael McCahill and Rachel L Finn


This article uses ethnographic research to explore how a sample of state-defined ‘prolific’ offenders living in Northern City (a small city in the North of England) experience and respond to a surveillance regime which includes ‘appointments’, ‘tracking’, ‘interviews’, ‘drug testing’, ‘electronic monitoring’, ‘home visits’ and ‘intelligence-led policing’. While some writers have argued that the experience of ‘house arrest’ and electronic monitoring is consistent with ‘disciplinary power’ and the ‘self-governing capabilities’ identified by Foucault, our article interweaves surveillance theory with the work of Pierre Bourdieu to argue that the ‘surveilled’ are a group of creative ‘social actors’ who may negotiate, modify, evade or contest surveillance practices.