ESRC Postdoctoral position in Prison Design and Carceral Geography

As part of a new ESRC research project, Yvonne Jewkes and I are recruiting a full-time Postdoctoral Researcher to work at the Department of Criminology, University of Leicester. The position is a fixed term contract for 34 months from March 2014.

For full details and information on how to apply, please see the ad on Leicester’s website here.

The study aims to investigate developments in the design of prisons, exploring the propositions that punishment is manifested architecturally, that ‘good’ prison design need not cost any more than ‘bad’ design, that architecture, design and technology (ADT) may impact on prisoners’ emotional and psychological reactions to incarceration, including their behaviour, their willingness to engage with regimes and their capacity to build positive relations with other prisoners and staff, and that ADT may significantly influence prisoners’ prospects of rehabilitation and reintegration into society on release. The study is guided by two overarching research questions:

(1) What are the predominant considerations and penal philosophies underpinning the design of the internal and external spaces of recently commissioned and built prisons in England and Wales?

(2) What impact does the architecture, design, and technology (ADT) of prisons have on the experience of imprisonment, on the behaviour of those who occupy and move through carceral spaces, and on staff-prisoner and staff-management relationships?

In order to investigate (2) the study will explore the experience of stakeholders, including prisoners, prison staff, visitors and local residents, in comparative contexts (the UK and north-west Europe). The project involves collaboration with a range of academics and other experts in the UK, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Iceland.

The project will take a mixed methods approach and the successful applicant will undertake approximately 50% of the data generation, conducting face-to-face interviews with prisoners and prison personnel, transcribing interviews, NVivo coding of transcriptions, data inputting and interpretation. The PDRA will also carry out other related research, administrative and writing functions under the guidance and supervision of the PI and CI. She or he will be expected to work with the PI and CI on the production of journal articles and a monograph, while participating in other parts of the research project, such as organising a symposium and producing reports and other publications.


The person appointed to this post will be expected to play a major role in the conducting and successful completion of ESRC funded study

“Fear-suffused environments” or potential to rehabilitate? Prison architecture, design and technology and the lived experience of carceral spaces. She or he will:

  • Conduct fieldwork in two prisons in the UK and in two prisons in Europe
  • Gather statistical data
  • Conduct interviews with prisoners and staff
  • Be in charge of data storage, coding and preliminary analysis
  • Have some administrative responsibilities, including arranging fieldwork, identifying and reviewing relevant literature, contributing to some research outputs.

In addition he or she will:

  • Be encouraged to present and publish research findings independently as well as in collaboration with the principal and co-investigator
  • Co-organize a symposium to be held at the end of the study
  • Be capable of working independently and contributing ideas to the development of the project
  • Present papers on their research at academic and policy-maker/practitioner conferences
  • Make specific contributions to written reports and grant applications
  • Help develop and manage the project website
  • Attend team meetings and other relevant meetings


  • A doctorate which has been successfully examined or has been submitted for examination by end of January 2014. The doctorate will be in Criminology, Sociology, Carceral Geography or a related Social Science discipline
  • Experience of conducting ethnographic research in prisons (including applying for access through the usual channels)
  • An academic publication record, commensurate with stage of career
  • The ability or potential to produce published work which will make a significant contribution to criminological knowledge or debate
  • The ability or potential to produce published work for policy and/or practitioner audiences
  • Excellent research skills
  • Willingness to learn new skills and techniques
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Excellent organization and planning skills, including personal time/task management
  • Strong IT skills and familiarity with qualitative software including NVivo and EndNote
  • The ability to work to tight deadlines
  • The ability to use initiative and to be proactive in solving problems, and to work collaboratively with others
  • Valid passport and driving licence.


  • Evidence of coherent research activity (such as involvement in successful grant applications and publications)
  • Experience of conducting research abroad
  • Familiarity with geographical spatial and temporal mapping software
  • Familiarity with quantitative software and analysis such as SPSS
  • Familiarity with academic literature on prison architecture, design and carceral space.

(* Criteria to be used in shortlisting candidates for interview)