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Unlike the criminal courts of this country, disciplinary hearings in prisons are not open to the public, nor are they the subject of media accounts. While the courtroom scene is a familiar and sometime central feature of movies (the riveting court-martial clash between Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men [1992] springs to mind), even prison movies focus on events that have more dramatic potential than disciplinary hearings. While sex, drugs, and rock and roll do feature in some hearings, the great majority of cases are routine, and many invove behavior -- for example, a charge of being disrespectful -- which is not the subject of state intervention when it occurs outside of prison. Over the six years of my research, from 1993 to 1999, I observed more than 500 disciplinary hearings. In the next two chapters I endeavour to give readers a sense of what takes place in prison courtrooms not by highlighting exceptional cases but by presenting the everyday reality of the practice of discipline. In this way, I hope to create a foundation upon which readers can form judgements about the experience of justice.

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