Whilst prisons and prison life are never far from the attention of the popular media, many dimensions of prison life and the incarceration process itself remain poorly understood. The concept of occupational deprivation, recently developed in the occupational science literature, is one that has been applied to understanding the phenomenon of inmates’ restricted occupational engagement in traditional penal settings. This article explores occupational deprivation as a feature of prison life and considers how penal policies create or inadvertently reinforce this situation. In contrast, occupational enrichment is posited as an approach that could be adopted in penal environments to better meet the needs of inmates and society at large. © 1999, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.