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Strands: Prisons and Punishment

Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion

Explore Prisons and Punishment research

Our research is divided into three main strands: Deaths in custody, community punishment, radical alternatives to custody.

Deaths in Custody

Professor Joe Sim’s research explores the issue of deaths in custody and the harms generated by prisons which set the context for deaths in custody particularly self-inflicted deaths and so-called ‘natural’ deaths. This research also encompasses the impact on families of a death in custody. This research raises significant issues around prison safety and how safety is defined. Professor Sim’s research is based on his work as a Trustee of the charity Inquest which is the only charity in the country which provides expertise to a range of groups including the bereaved, Parliamentarians, the media and lawyers. Central to this research is the experiences of families and the question of democratic accountability. Finally, the research is also concerned with suggesting radical, alternative policy responses designed to prevent deaths in custody.

Publications:

  • Sim, J. (2019) ‘Challenging the Desecration of the Human Spirit: An Alternative Criminological Perspective on Safety and Self-Inflicted Deaths in Prison’ in Carlen. P. and Franca, L. A. (eds) Justice Alternatives London: Routledge
  • Sim, J. (2019) ‘Aching desolation: Liverpool prison and the regressive limits of penal reform in England and Wales’ in Critical and Radical Social Work 7, 1 pp 41-58
  • Sim J. (2018) ‘We Are All (Neo) Liberals Now: Reform and the Prison Crisis in England and Wales’ in Justice, Power and Resistance 2, 1 pp 165-188
  • Sim, J. (2018) ‘Deaths in Sites of State Confinement:  A Continuum of Routine Violence and Terror’ in Read, S., Sotirios, S. and Wright, A. (eds) Loss, Bereavement and the Criminal Justice System: Issues, Possibilities and Compassionate Potential London: Routledge (with Carlton, B.)
  • Sim, J. (2018) ‘Malignant Reality: Mental Ill-Health and Self-Inflicted Deaths in England and Wales’ in Kendall, K. and Mills A. (eds) Mental Health in Prisons: Critical Perspectives on Treatment and Confinement Basingstoke PalgraveMacmillan
  • Sim, J. (2018)  ‘Liverpool: A Broken Prison in a Broken System
  • Sim, J. (2017)'Abolitionism' in Brisman, A., Carrabine, E. and South, N. (eds) The Routledge Companion to Criminological Theory and Concepts London: Routledge
  • Sim, J. and Monk, H. (eds) (2017) Women, Crime and Criminology: A Celebration 
  • Liverpool: The Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion and EG Press
  • Sim, J. (2009) Punishment and Prisons: Power and the Carceral State London: Sage
  • Sim, J. (1990) Medical Power in Prisons Stony Stratford: Open University Press
Community Punishment

The research conducted by Dr. Una Barr raises a range of issues regarding community punishment and critical analyses the impact of community punishment, particularly with regard to women. The research is built on a feminist approach to desistance which recognises that the majority of women in the criminal justice system come from backgrounds of abuse, economic disadvantage and have alcohol, drug and mental health issues and is concerned with challenging the dichotomy of narratives of victimisation and survival while recognising that women have agency. This research, in turn, raises significant policy issues around how restorative justice currently operates in practice not to empower women but to further control them and what policies should be developed to respond to this situation to develop a system based on social justice. 

Publications:

  • Barr UM. 2019. Desisting Sisters: Gender, Power and Desistance in the Criminal (In)Justice System Palgrave Macmillan
  • Barr U. 2018. Gendered Assisted Desistance: A Decade from Corston Safer Communities, 17: 81-93
  • Barr UM. 2017. Are Neoliberal, Patriarchal Societies Compatible with Desistance? A consideration of the experiences of a group of English women caught up in the criminal justice system Emerging Voices EG Press. Bristol
  • Barr UM. 2017. Motherhood and Desistance: A gateway to social bonds and identity transformation? Voices of Resistance: Subjugated Knowledge and the Challenge to the Criminal Justice System EG Press. Bristol
Structures of Democratic Accountability and Radical Alternatives to Custody

The research in this group is linked to working with activist groups, community organisations and charities. In that sense, it less concerned with reforming the current state policies around prisons and punishment and suggesting a range of radical alternatives to custody, and wider social change, in order to reduce conventional crime, develop public protection and safety and reduce victimisation. Developing structures of democratic accountability are also central to the work of this research group to ensure that state servants are accountable for their actions and that cultures of immunity and impunity that currently operate within the state are challenged and removed.

Publications:

  • Sim, J. (2019) ‘Challenging the Desecration of the Human Spirit: An Alternative Criminological Perspective on Safety and Self-Inflicted Deaths in Prison’ in Carlen. P. and Franca, L. A. (eds) Justice Alternatives London: Routledge
  • Sim, J. (2019) ‘Aching desolation: Liverpool prison and the regressive limits of penal reform in England and Wales’ in Critical and Radical Social Work 7, 1 pp 41-58
  • Sim J. (2018) ‘We Are All (Neo) Liberals Now: Reform and the Prison Crisis in England and Wales’ in Justice, Power and Resistance 2, 1 pp 165-188
  • Sim, J. (2018) ‘Deaths in Sites of State Confinement:  A Continuum of Routine Violence and Terror’ in Read, S., Sotirios, S. and Wright, A. (eds) Loss, Bereavement and the Criminal Justice System: Issues, Possibilities and Compassionate Potential London: Routledge (with Carlton, B.)
  • Sim, J. (2018) ‘Malignant Reality: Mental Ill-Health and Self-Inflicted Deaths in England and Wales’ in Kendall, K. and Mills A. (eds) Mental Health in Prisons: Critical Perspectives on Treatment and Confinement Basingstoke PalgraveMacmillan
  • Sim, J. (2018)  ‘Liverpool: A Broken Prison in a Broken System
  • Sim, J. (2017)'Abolitionism' in Brisman, A., Carrabine, E. and South, N. (eds) The Routledge Companion to Criminological Theory and Concepts London: Routledge
  • Sim, J. and Monk, H. (eds) (2017) Women, Crime and Criminology: A Celebration 
  • Liverpool: The Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion and EG Press
  • Sim, J. (2009) Punishment and Prisons: Power and the Carceral State London: Sage
  • Sim, J. (1990) Medical Power in Prisons Stony Stratford: Open University Press