The value of dignity in prison: A qualitative study with life convicts

Ines Testoni, Francesca Marrella, Gianmarco Biancalani, Paolo Cottone, Francesca Alemanno, David Mamo, Luigi Grassi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: This research is based on the perspective of dignity according to Chochinov; thus, the life imprisonment of detainees is assimilated to a severe disease. Methods: Ten male prisoners were interviewed trough Chochinov's Dignity Therapy, and the results were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Two areas of thematic prevalence emerged, namely, value of freedom, self-consciousness and education and their failure in jail, and life sentence as annihilation of life meaning and of the values of generativity and family. Conclusions: Life imprisonment has been described in its negativity by several respondents as a punishment worse than the death penalty. It has been compared to death itself, to a terminal illness, to torture and to a pain that grows over the years, with the awareness that despite the passing of time, you will not have the opportunity to return to your loved one and to a free life. In fact, prisoners live out their condition within a space in which any value that gives meaning to life risks being destroyed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbs10060095
JournalBehavioral Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors.


  • Dignity
  • Life sentence
  • Personal values
  • Prisoners; men

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Development
  • Genetics
  • General Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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