Imprisonment: Current & recent projects

Current Projects

2002-2022, The Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service, Preventive detention, Chief Investigator: B. Johnsen, University College of Norwegian Correctional Service. Preventive detention is the most severe punishment in Norway. With a point of departure in keeping an overview of the statistics, the project has developed into a discourse analysis of this type of punishment and includes several studies. The latest study concerns those serving this kind of sentence in an especially high security department, as is the case for the perpetrator of the terrorist attacks in Norway on 22 July, 2011.


2012-2022, The Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service, The prison officer profession: Recruitment, education and work experience, Chief Investigators: B. Johnsen and Per Kristian Granheim, University College of Norwegian Correctional Service. The project is a part of a larger project in Norway of the study of professions. As the education of prison officers in Norway is a two year education at a university college level (120 credits), and hopefully will become an education at bachelor level in a few years, we are interested in the connection between education and work experience. The project is a survey study where we follow the students/prison officers for eight years. The students/prison officers answers the questionnaires when they 1) start the education, 2) finish they education, 3) after three years in working life and 4) after six years in working life.


2006-2019, Ministry of Justice & The Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service, Measuring the quality of prison life in Norway, Chief Investigators: B. Johnsen and P. K. Granheim, University College of Norwegian Correctional Service. The study is based on Alison Liebling and her colleagues at the Prison Research Centre at University of Cambridge development of studying prisons and their moral performance. The project in Norway consist of three studies. In the first study of closed prisons we found that smaller prisons have a better quality of life than larger ones. The same seems to be the case in the open prisons (second study). The third study will measure the quality of life in Norgerhaven prison, the prison Norway rents in Netherlands


2015-2016, Industry Partnership Grant, Prison Privatisation in Australia: The State of the Nation. Chief Investigators: A/Prof Jane Andrew and Dr Max Baker. The first phase of the project examining the costs, performance and accountability of private prisons across Australia has been finalised. The second phase of the project is ongoing, and involves interviews with senior policy makers, regulators and other stakeholders regarding the findings of our report.


2013-2016, ARC Discovery Project Grant, A Comparative Analysis of Youth Punishment in Australia and the UK, Chief Investigators: C. Cunneen, E. Baldry, M. Schwartz, D Brown and B, Goldson. Since the 1980s, prison expansionism has defined criminal justice policy in many western jurisdictions, particularly Australia and England and Wales. Research into this phenomenon has primarily been directed at adults rather than juveniles, with limited attention paid to comparative analysis. The Comparative Youth Penality Project (CYPP) aims to fill a substantial gap in our knowledge about youth penal culture and practice. The CYPP will produce a comprehensive documentation and overview of changes in penal policy and practice across selected Australian states and England and Wales over the past 30 years.

The project will provide the first in-depth analysis of Australian youth penality, and the first comparative study of youth punishment between Australia, England and Wales.


2016-2018 – Marsden Fund grant award, Intolerable Risks.  The search for security in an age of anxietyChief Investigator: Prof John Pratt, Victoria University of Wellington. How we punish offenders has become one of the distinguishing features of democratic society itself. However, current changes in penal law and practice in most of the main English speaking societies reverse some of the most fundamental principles that have come to be associated with this social institution. These can include post-prison detention on completion of sentence instead of release: and the use of penal measures to control movement in public space before a crime has been committed. This project provides a sociological explanation of these profound changes to the penal frameworks of New Zealand and similar societies.


2011-2015, European Research Council, The Crime Control at the Borderlands of Europe project, Chief Investigators: Franko, K. University of Oslo. This sub-project run by Associate Professor T. Ugelvik, University of Oslo was an ethnography of crimmigration prisons, meaning, briefly put, prisons that have immigration control as a purpose added to or in replace of the traditional purposes of prisons. I did fieldwork in Norway’s single high-security immigration detention centre, and its only prison designed to hold a foreign national population only.


2014-2015 – commissioned by the Harris Review,  An Independent Review of self-inflicted deaths in (National Officer Management Services’ (NOMS’) custodyChief Investigators: A. Ludlow, B. Schmidt, T. Akoensi, A. Liebling, C. Giacomantonio and A. Sutherland, Cambridge University. This study will review cases of self-inflicted deaths in NOMS’ custody amongst 18-24 year olds, including staff experience, knowledge and views. The purpose of the review is to make recommendations to reduce the risk of future self-inflicted deaths in custody. The review will focus on issues including vulnerability, information sharing, safety, staff prisoner relationships, family contact, and staff training and will explore these through this call for submissions alongside existing and commissioned research and meetings with stakeholders and people affected and interested more broadly.


2013 – 2016: Sarah Turnbull is responsible for the project ‘Home and Away: Gender, Nation, Deportation,’ which is part of a broader European Research Council funded research endeavour entitled ‘Subjectivity, Identity and Penal Power: Incarceration in a Global Age,’ led by Professor Mary Bosworth. The ‘Home and Away’ project examines immigration detention and deportation in the United Kingdom, with specific focus on the experiences of confinement and removal in relation to affective issues of home, belonging, and identity in contemporary Britain.


2012-2017 – European Research Council Subjectivity, Identity and Penal Power: Incarceration in a Global AgeChief Investigator: Prof Mary Bosworth, Oxford University. Taking the prison and the immigration detention centre as sites where local/national and global power intersect, this project will examine theoretically and empirically the ways in which people experience and negotiate such places, paying particular attention to how matters of identity, especially race, gender, national identification and their intersections, shape the experience, meaning and effects of incarceration.


2012-2017- European Research Council Incarceration in a Global Age Chief Investigator: Prof Mary Bosworth, Oxford University. This sub-project to “Subjectivity, Identity and Penal Power: Incarceration in a Global Age” will explore what happens to our understanding of punishment when we place matters of identity and subjectivity at the centre of analysis. It will provide the theoretical framework for the whole project that will be constituted in part by empirical research. Revisiting the canon of texts in punishment and society, theoretical and applied, through the question of identity, it will develop a new, gendered, postcolonial approach to penal power.


2012- 2017 Immigration Removal Centres: Quality of Life and Procedural Justice Chief Investigators, Mary Bosworth, Oxford University and Ben Bradford, Oxford University. In the context of IRCs and immigration-case work, issues of quality of life, fairness and cooperation seem to be particularly relevant.  However, we know very little from the perspective of the authorities about their decision-making processes nor about their modes of communication with detainees.  In order to understand how decisions are made and communicated to detainees, we have commenced a pilot study with case-owners into decision-making and procedural fairness in Immigration.


2013-2016, European Research Council, ‘The Postcolonial Prison: Citizenship, Punishment and Mobility’ Chief Investigator: Ines Hasselberg Statistical accounts tell us that there is a growing number of foreign national and black and ethnic minority prisoners incarcerated throughout the penal systems of Europe. Indeed, foreign populations are so disproportionately incarcerated in some European states that their treatment has invited parallels to the notorious over-incarceration of African Americans in the USA. Notwithstanding Loic Wacquant’s confronting characteristation of foreign national prisoners as the ‘blacks’ of Europe, prison sociologists have paid little attention to this population, nor to its implications for accounts of penal power and legitimacy. The objective of this project is both to help fill this gap, but also, and more dramatically, to recast our understanding of prison as a postcolonial enterprise. Taking Portugal and England & Wales as case studies, “the postcolonial prison” will examine what the increasing number of foreign-national prisoners in Europe may tell us of the role of the prison in carving out national identity, explore whether this bears any relationship to the longer-standing issues of empire and colonialism, as well as map the position of prison within migrants’ trajectories and broader global phenomena. 


2012-2016 ARC Future Fellowship Generations through prison: A critical exploration of the causes, experiences and consequences of intergenerational incarceration. Chief Investigator: Prof Mark Halsey, Flinders University Law School. Around one third of the 30,000 prisoners in Australia are children or relatives of former prisoners, but very little is known about the causes, experiences and impacts of intergenerational incarceration. This project will redress this research deficit and help prevent the disproportionate recurrence of incarceration in particular familial lineages.

Completed Projects

2012-2014  ARC DECRA,  Othering’ in penal policy and practice: A cross-national study of imprisonment between Australia and Sweden. Chief Investigator: Dr Anna Eriksson, Criminology, Monash University. This is a comparative project between Australia and Scandinavia, focusing on prisons and practices of punishment. Based on innovative normative theory, it will propose a model of practice than can reduce violence and disorder in prisons, lead to a safer work environment for staff, and more humane treatment of prisoners.


2011-2014  ARC Linkage Grant, The impact of incarceration on children’s care: A strategic framework for good care planning. Co-Chief Investigators: A/Prof Christopher J Trotter (Monash, Social Work), Dr Catherine Flynn (Monash, Social Work), Dr Bronwyn Naylor (Monash, Law), Prof Paul Collier (Monash, Economics), Dr Anna Eriksson (Monash, Criminology) Dr David Baker (Criminal Justice), Dr Kay McCauley-Elsom (Monash, Nursing). Partner Organisations: Department of Human Services, Vic; Department of Human Service Victoria-Child Safety Commissioner; Department of Justice, Victoria; Prison Fellowship Australia-Victoria; SHINE for Kids Co-operative Ltd; VACRO-Victorian Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders. This project will study best practice for care planning of children whose primary carers are incarcerated within the Australian criminal justice system. It will develop a strategic framework for future policy and practice in Australian care planning with the aim of improving outcomes for both parents and children.


2011-2014 ARC Discovery, Exporting Risk: The Australian Deportation Project. Co-Chief Investigators: Prof Sharon Pickering (Monash), Dr Leanne Weber, (Monash), Dr Marie Segrave (Monash), Dr Mike Grewcock (UNSW) This  project is focused on practices of Immigration Detention as well as patterns and processes of deporting those deemed to be illegal non-citizens (by way of national security, community safety, workforce protection or market retention). Of relevance to ImO readers and subscribers is the research examining the conditions of and processes for arriving in Immigration Detention, and the specific practices pertaining to those who are deemed a risk to the community under s501 of the Migration Act 1958 as a consequence of a serious criminal conviction, for which individuals have most often received and served a sentence of imprisonment.


June 2012 – 2014  ESRC, and The Newton Trust, Experiencing very long term imprisonment from young adulthood: identity, adaptation and penal legitimacy, Chief Investigators: Dr Ben Crewe and Dr Susie Hulley, Cambridge University. This study has involved interviews with 125 male prisoners and 25 female prisoners serving life sentences with tariffs of fifteen years or more, sentenced when aged 25 or under, and the collection of 315 surveys from a wider group of male and female prisoners who meet these criteria, in over twenty establishments, including young offender institutions, high-security prisons, category B and C prisons, and open prisons. In the coming months, our aim is to begin writing up the study while also developing a research proposal in the hope of securing access to interviewing both men and women serving these sentences who have been transferred to secure psychiatric hospitals.


2009-2013,  ARC Discovery,  Generativity in young male (ex)prisoners: Caring for self, other, and future within prison and beyond. Chief Investigator: Prof Mark Halsey, Flinders University Law School.

As strategic basic research, the project will provide practitioners and academics with much needed qualitative data on the social, cultural and emotional dimensions of incarceration and how these impact life within and beyond custody. Such knowledge is critical for developing policies and practices capable of meaningfully reducing the high rates of reincarceration in all Australian states and territories. Importantly, the focus on generativity offers a new conceptual lens through which to reconsider the philosophy and practice of imprisonment, and, more specifically, to prisoner management or ‘through‑care’ with regard to those who constitute the majority of the prison population nationally and internationally (young males).


2009-2012 – Nuffield Foundation, Oxford University John Fell Fund and British Academy, Understanding Immigration Detention Chief Investigator: Mary Bosworth University of Oxford.

This multi-site, mixed method project examined life in 6 UK Immigration detention centres. The first study of its kind, it explored daily life inside, from the perspective of staff and detainees. It also lead to the creation of a survey tool, The Measure of the Quality of Life in Detention (MQLD). Findings from the project formed the basis of the 2014 book Inside Immigration Detention (OUP).


2007-2010, ESRC, Values, Practices and outcomes in public and private corrections, Chief Investigators: Dr Ben Crewe and Professor Alison Liebling, Cambridge University. This study of values, practices and outcomes in public and private corrections had two main components: (1) a comparative evaluation of quality of life, culture and practices in five private sector and two public sector prisons, in England and Wales; and (2) around 90 interviews with senior managers working in the public and private sectors, focussing in particular on professional values and motivations.


2005-2008, ARC, Understanding recidivism and repeat incarceration among young male offenders: A biographical and longitudinal approach. Chief Investigator: Prof Mark Halsey, Flinders University Law School. This project aims to explore factors contributing to juvenile repeat incarceration and more particularly the high rates of progression of young men from secure care to prison in South Australia. The research will be conducted over a four year period and will be based around in-depth single and follow-up interviews with young men in juvenile and adult correctional facilities. This would be the first study of its kind to be undertaken in Australia. The project is expected to provide a unique and qualitative account of the factors which impede or assist individual attempts to desist from crime at various stages of select criminal careers.


2001-2004, Nuffield Foundation The Prisoner Society, Chief Investigator: Dr Ben Crewe, Cambridge University. For this research, Ben conducted a semi-ethnographic study of the everyday social world of an English Prison, based on a ten-month fieldwork period in HMP Wellingborough, a medium-security men’s training establishment. The study was published as a research monograph by Oxford University Press (2009), titled: The Prisoner Society: Power, Adaptation and Social Life in an English Prison.