What can Ruby do with a camera? Ex-prisoners use Photovoice to reverse the rules of surveillance

Michele Jarldorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This article provides an account of the possibilities of using Photovoice as a research method that can empower participants by foregrounding the data produced by Ruby (a pseudonym) to highlight women’s unique experiences of imprisonment and release. Designed using an anti-oppressive, critical social work perspective, this project aims to gain a greater understanding of the post-release experiences of ex-prisoners in South Australia. Participants were posed with the research question ‘if you were able to spend 15 minutes with a politician or policy maker, what would you want to tell them about your experiences?’ Through her lens, Ruby returns the gaze of surveillance, commenting on the disempowerment women experience in prison and their attempts at reclaiming their rights and dignity. Ruby’s data discredit some of the pervasive myths surrounding criminalised women, while calling for fair medical treatment and equal opportunities for women to prepare for their release. This article concludes that the solidarity built between women in prison helps them to tolerate undignified spaces and that their freedom is tempered with an enduring concern for those left behind.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-230
Number of pages22
JournalQualitative Social Work
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • anti-oppressive social work
  • critical social work
  • human rights
  • participatory research
  • Photovoice
  • women exprisoners


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