PhD opportunity in Carceral Geography

PhD opportunity in Carceral Geography at the University of Birmingham, UK, to start October 2016; deadline for applications February 2016.

Architectural Geographies of the UK Custodial Estate

Supervisors: Dr Dominique Moran and Professor Peter Kraftl

This PhD engages with the UK’s Government Soft Landings (GSL) scheme, and the utilisation of Building Information Modelling (BIM), within the UK Ministry of Justice (MoJ), for the construction of new justice buildings (police stations, courts, prisons). It builds on research at GEES in carceral and architectural geographies; extending inquiry into geographies of incarceration, and drawing attention to ‘banal’ rather than ‘signature’ buildings, whilst emphasising a need to understand how policies, procedures and procurement practices affect how buildings are designed and delivered. GSL seeks to ensure that new public buildings deliver to their brief, and that lessons learned from their construction are effectively captured. It seeks better outcomes for built assets, smoothing transition from construction into use. UK public sector procurers are mandated to adopt BIM, a form of Computer Aided Design, in all public sector construction projects by March 2016. BIM is intended to streamline project management, interaction between supply chain members, and enable leaner project delivery. Planned for a particular ‘moment’ in the evolution of public sector construction, the project will examine the implementation of GSL and the adoption of BIM within the MoJ, an early adopter of GSL.

The PhD will speak to notions of ‘future geographies’, anticipation and preparedness; the ‘future-proofing’ element of GSL/BIM. It will also explore the links between design, construction, maintenance and use, and the relational, processual nature of building work, as well as interrogating the role of architects in introducing design, innovation, and creativity into the technical processes of GSL/BIM. The PhD also has the potential to advance theory, considering the spatiotemporal terms which might be deployed to understand buildings as ‘more-than events’, building on a recent anti-Deleuzian turn against events and relationality in some recent philosophies of materiality, and perhaps, therefore, constitute a challenge to and development of geographies of architecture and carceral geographies.

This PhD project is founded on close contact with the external partner, with a professional placement augmented by regular contact with MoJ, supply chain partners and other relevant parties with a focus on custodial construction programme and delivery of GSL tasks.

UK and EU applicants may be able to enter the competition for ESRC scholarships at the University of Birmingham. A separate application is required for the funding competition, deadline in February. Applicants interested in applying for such funding must contact the named supervisor – – and apply for PhD study at Birmingham well ahead of this deadline. Link.



New book – Historical Geographies of Prisons: Unlocking the Usable Carceral Past

HGPUUCPKaren Morin and I are delighted to announce that the new edited collection Historical Geographies of Prisons: Unlocking the Usable Carceral Past will shortly be published by Routledge.

Conceived of following Karen’s Distinguished Historical Geography lecture at the 2013 Los Angeles meeting of the Association of American Geographers, the book draws in part on papers presented in the subsequent sessions on carceral historical geographies at the Tampa AAG in 2014.

This is the first book to provide a comprehensive historical-geographical lens to the development and evolution of correctional institutions as a specific subset of carceral geographies. It analyzes and critiques global practices of incarceration, regimes of punishment, and their corresponding spaces of “corrections” from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries. It examines individuals’ experiences within various regulatory regimes and spaces of punishment, and offers an interpretation of spaces of incarceration as cultural-historical artifacts. The book also analyzes the spatial-distributional geographies of incarceration, particularly with respect to their historical impact on community political-economic development and local geographies. Contributions examine a range of prison sites and the practices that take place within them to help us understand how regimes of punishment are experienced, and are constructed in different kinds of ways across space and time for very different ends. The overall aim is to help understand the legacies of carceral geographies in the present. The resonances across space and time tell a profound story of social and spatial legacies and, as such, offer important insights into the prison crisis we see in many parts of the world today.

The book will be officially launched at the 16th International Conference of Historical Geographers which will take place in London, at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) from Sunday 5th July to Friday 10th July 2015. A special panel has been convened for Thursday 9th July 2015, 14:15 – 16:00. Chapter contributors Rashad Shabazz, Kimberley Peters and Katherine Roscoe will join the book’s editors, and also Simon Naylor and Laura Cameron, the editors of the Routledge Research Series in Historical Geography, for which this is the first publication.

The book’s contents are as follows:

1 Introduction: historical geographies of prisons: unlocking the usable carceral past (Karen M. Morin and Dominique Moran)

PART I On the inside: carceral techniques in historical context

2 Carceral acoustemologies: historical geographies of sound in a Canadian prison (Katie Hemsworth)

3 The prison inside: a genealogy of solitary confinement as counter-resistance (Brett Story)

4 ‘Sores in the city’: a genealogy of the Almighty Black P. Stone Rangers (Rashad Shabazz)

PART II Prisons as artifacts in historical-cultural transition

5 Doing time-travel: performing past and present at the prison museum (Jennifer Turner and Kimberley Peters)

6 Carceral retasking and the work of historical societies at decommissioned lock-ups, jails, and prisons in Ontario (Kevin Walby and Justin Piché)

7 Prisoners in Zion: Shaker sites as foundations for later communities of incarceration (Carol Medlicott)

8 Cartographies of affects: undoing the prison in collective art by women prisoners (Susana Draper)

PART III Carceral topographies: the political economy of prison industrial growth and change

9 Locating penal transportation: punishment, space, and place c.1750 to 1900 (Clare Anderson, Carrie M. Crockett, Christian G. De Vito, Takashi Miyamoto, Kellie Moss, Katherine Roscoe, Minako Sakata)

10 Little Siberia, star of the North: the political economy of prison dreams in the Adirondacks (Jack Norton)

11 From prisons to hyperpolicing: neoliberalism, carcerality, and regulative geographies (Brian Jordan Jefferson)

12 From private to public: examining the political economy of Wisconsin’s private prison experiment (Anne Bonds)

13 Afterword (Dominique Moran)

New ‘research matchmaker’ website from asylum-network

Asylum Network have recently announced the launch of a new website, the research matchmaker, that gives organisations that work with migrants the chance to let researchers know what research projects they would find most useful. The principle is simple: organisations go online and enter a description of the research they want completed. And then students, researchers and academics go online and offer their services for those projects. Go to this link to get started:

The website offers a fast, easy, intuitive and free way to share research needs with researchers who are often keen to make an impact. It  also offers guidance on making a match and building a collaboration. To get started just register, create an advert and post it into our searchable website. You can provide lots of detail or just a basic outline, it is up to you.

Students, researchers and academics can also go online and create a profile, which lists their key areas of interest and expertise. Organisations that work with migrants can then search these profiles and contact the individuals quickly and securely.

The research matchmaker website offers a way to ensure that students, researchers and academics do work that matters to migrants and the organisations that work with them. But it will only work if it gets used! So please consider spending a few minutes to register and enter an advert.


How do U.S. states’ use of the prison compare globally? New infographic from ‘Prison Policy Initiative’

Many thanks to Leah Sakala from Prison Policy Initiative for alerting me to their newest report. This report is the first to directly situate individual U.S. states’ incarceration practices in the global context.

The press release asks ‘how does your state compare to the international community when it comes to the use of incarceration?’ Not very well, says the new infographic and report by the Prison Policy Initiative and data artist Josh Begley.

This report, “States of Incarceration: The Global Context” recognizes that while there are important differences between how US states handle incarceration, incarceration policy in every region of the country is out of step with the rest of the world. The report and infographic draws international figures on incarceration from the International Centre for Prison Studies and state-level data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“It is essential to focus on the incarceration practices of individual states,” said Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative.  “Most criminal justice policy decisions are made at the state level and the vast majority of the people locked up are locked up for violating state laws,”

“Compared to Louisiana, most U.S. states appear to have reasonable rates of incarceration, but it is disturbing to see where these ‘reasonable’ states stack up in the broader carceral landscape,” said data-artist and co-author Josh Begley.

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)

Distance matters, no matter what the context : distance and punishment

Regular readers of this blog (I’m told there are some…. thank you) will recognise the themes that appeal to me most when picking up stories from the press. As a geographer, anything to do with space and distance immediately leaps out, and today’s coverage in the UK press of intentions to imprison female inmates in England and Wales closer to their homes and families (part of a suite of policies which includes local resettlement prisons), is exactly one of those stories.

According to the BBC, Lord McNally, the coalition government Justice Minister, has said that female prisoners in England and Wales will serve their sentences nearer to where they live in a bid to cut reoffending: “When a female offender walks out of the prison gates, I want to make sure she never returns,” he said. “Keeping female prisoners as close as possible to their homes, and importantly their children, is vital if we are to help them break the pernicious cycle of re-offending. And providing at least a year of support in the community – alongside the means to find employment on release – will give them the best possible chance to live productive, law abiding lives”. The Ministry of Justice’s intention that female inmates will maintain family relationships and improve their job prospects before leaving jail is laudable, but was immediately critiqued by the opposition Labour party, with Sadiq Khan claiming that “With only a small number of scattered women’s prisons, the concept of local resettlement is almost meaningless”.

The issue of distance and punishment has been a recurring theme in my own work. Although I looked at this initially in relation to women in prison in the Russian Federation (with colleagues – details here), a context in which the distances from home at which some women can be incarcerated are staggering – it’s clear from the UK example that distance really matters, regardless of scale. In Russia, the small number of colonies for women, and the fact that women with infants can, theoretically for their own benefit, be sent to distant prison colonies that have ‘mother and baby’ facilities for them to spend time together, means that distance is a very significant factor in the production of the carceral experience. Through a series of papers on Russia’s carceral geography and its experience, my colleagues and I have thought about the ways in which distance manifests itself in the dislocation and isolation of imprisonment for women. However, what’s clear from today’s new story in the UK is that, even though the actual distances which separate women from their children and families in the UK are significantly smaller than they are in Russia, the same problems are experienced.

One key aspect of the policy statement today, though, is the presumed link between proximity to home and family, (which is assumed to equate to the receipt of visits) and reduced reoffending. This relationship between visits and reoffending does exist empirically – longstanding empirical evidence suggests that prison visiting has a positive influence on inmates; improving their likelihood of successful reintegration on release, and thereby reducing their rates of recidivism. In criminology, the cornerstone work by Holt and Miller (1972) showed, using a series of cross-tabulations following 412 men paroled in California for a year or more, that parole outcomes were much more positive for men who had been visited while in prison. Only 2% of men who had had three or more different visitors during the year prior to parole were re-imprisoned within a year, compared to 12% of those who had had no contact with friends or family. Only half of those who had no visitors had ‘no difficulties’ on parole, compared with 70% of those with three or more visitors. Holt and Miller’s work followed decades after Ohlin’s (1954) and Glaser’s (1964) publications of research in 1920s and 1940s Illinois, showing that prisoners who ‘maintained an active family interest’ were more successful on parole than those who did not. Writing in the 1970s, Homer was at pains to point out the remarkable convergence of studies on parole and prison visiting; “…the consensus of findings should be emphasised. The strong positive relationship between strength of family-social bonds and parole success has held up for more than fifty years, across very diverse offender populations and in different locales. It is doubtful if there is any other research finding in the field of corrections which can come close to this record” (1979, 49).
However, although this effect is widely observed, the causality is poorly understood; it is presumed that the maintenance of personal relationships and the feeling of connectedness to home and community which may arise through visitation serve to smooth the passage of the released inmate through the process of reintegration after release, but this process has never been fully explored. In a current research project, Louise Dixon (U. Birmingham) and I, with our new postdoctoral researcher Marie Hutton, are exploring just what it is about visitation that leds to these positive effects, and specifically, the significance of the socio-spatial context of visiting spaces. Although we are looking at men’s imprisonment, we hope that the findings of this work will illuminate the relationship between visitation and recidivism in useful and positive ways.


Research Fellow position on ESRC project

University of Birmingham

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences 8-2754esrc-logo

Research Fellow in Prison Visitation and Reoffending

Salary from £27,578 to £38,140 a year

We are looking to recruit a post-doctoral researcher to work on a cutting-edge ESRC-funded Project, Breaking the Cycle? Prison Visitation and Recidivism in the UK. This project seeks to enhance understanding of the relationship between prison visitation and reoffending in the UK, to explore the experience of prison visitation for prisoners, visitors and prison personnel, providing a new perspective on visitation, and paying particular attention to its socio-spatial context. The 2.5 year post facilitates work across the academic disciplines of geography, psychology and criminology, and the post holder will work closely with key stakeholders to integrate findings into policy development, with a view to increasing the effectiveness of visitation in assisting positive post-release outcomes. HMP Hewell will be the primary case study and the researcher will be based at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, at the University of Birmingham, also working closely with the School of Psychology.

We are looking for a person with excellent qualitative research skills; preference will be given to candidates with experience of qualitative or ethnographic research within prisons, with prisoners, their friends and families, and with prison personnel. The successful candidate will also be required to undertake some quantitative research, with guidance from the investigators and project partners, and will have the opportunity to undertake training in psychological research methods as appropriate. A PhD or equivalent is essential, with candidates from criminology, geography, psychology, and social science backgrounds being considered. In addition to collecting data, the post holder will be expected to play a substantial role in determining the priorities for research, data analysis, writing and presenting findings.

For more information, please contact Dominique Moran

Fully funded ESRC PhD studentship in Carceral Geography

Fully funded ESRC PhD Studentship8-2754esrc-logo

The role of prison architecture and aesthetics in the relationship between prisons and host communities.

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES), University of Birmingham, UK

Supervisors: Dr Dominique Moran, Senior Lecturer in Human and Carceral Geography (GEES) and (externally) Prof. Yvonne Jewkes (Department of Criminology, University of Leicester).

Applications are invited for the above studentship commencing 1st January 2014. This is an ESRC-funded grant-linked studentship which provides a stipend of £13,726 p.a. plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for up to three years (full-time only). Due to funding restrictions, this studentship is open to UK and EU applicants only.

About the main project and grant-linked studentship:

The UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) have made an award for a research project entitled “‘Fear-suffused environments’ or potential to rehabilitate? Prison architecture, design and technology and the lived experience of carceral spaces”. The project investigators, Professor Yvonne Jewkes (University of Leicester, UK) and Dr Dominique Moran (University of Birmingham, UK), will be addressing two over-arching questions – how are penal aims and philosophies (that is, what prison is ‘for’) expressed in prison architecture and design, and how effective is prison architecture, design and technology (ADT) in conveying and delivering that penal purpose? The study seeks to meet its objectives by (a) studying the process of designing new prison buildings in order to understand what it is that architects are asked to deliver and how they achieve this, and (b) studying ADT’s impacts and effects on a range of end users, focusing on the experience of occupying and moving in and around prison spaces, in relation to prisoners’ quality of life and wellbeing, perceptions of penal legitimacy, compliance with the regime, prisoner-staff relations, staff work satisfaction and so on. The project will focus on two newly built UK prisons, and contrast these with two prisons in Norway and Denmark, where penal philosophies differ greatly from those in the UK.

The grant-linked studentship

The main research project asks what impact the architecture, design, and spatial organization of prisons has 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. The PhD studentship extends the reach of this question to a new and different group – members of local communities which surround prisons. It is premised on a understanding that, despite the wealth of research on local responses to proposed prison building projects, the impact of prisons on local economic development, and the “NIMBY” response, the specific impact of prison architecture and aesthetics on those who live within the immediate vicinity of prisons is not known.

Context and Research Design

The studentship will draw upon existing research within both criminology and carceral geography on prison siting and the relationships between prisons and local communities. Although this literature has tended to focus on the traditional opposition of communities to location of prisons close by, (based on local residents’ concerns that a prison may lower property values, increase levels of crime, endanger their safety through escapes, attract ‘undesirable’ elements and damage the reputation of the area), there is increasingly an alternative perspective, of the generation of ‘profit through punishment’. In more recent work, demand for the building of prisons to stimulate local economic development and employment has been identified, especially on the part of small rural towns in the United States, with a shift towards policymakers actively locating prisons in ‘lagging’ communities. This recent work has drawn attention to the lack of structural economic change in persistently poor rural places, and prison facilities’ inability to foster economy-wide change in terms of serving as an economic development initiative. However, in focusing on structural economic change associated with prison siting, it has been unable to tackle questions about the response of local communities to the aesthetic appearance of the prisons themselves, and the importance of prison architecture in the ‘acceptance’ of prison siting close to existing communities. There are grounds to suggest that the aesthetic appearance of prisons is of considerable, yet under-explored, importance for local residents.

The PhD studentship will build upon existing work by contributing to the growing international debate on prison siting using examples from the UK context, and it will complement the main project by investigating the architectural consequences of the transformations in UK prison architecture on the communities which surround prisons.

Career development

Given the interdisciplinary nature of the main project, and of the supervisory team for the PhD project, along with postgraduate training in research methods and transferable and employable skills, this PhD studentship would enable the successful candidate to build an academic and professional CV which would enable them to pursue an academic research career in a range of disciplinary areas. There would be opportunities for joint publication with the supervisory team of main project co-I and PI, as well as opportunities to develop networking skills through participation in dissemination and impact activities, and to contribute to the main project website,, as appropriate. At Birmingham, the successful candidate would join a thriving Postgraduate Research community in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and would be part of the Birmingham Community and Criminal Justice Group – the University’s very wide-ranging criminology scholarship network.


Applicants will have a good first degree in a relevant social science discipline. An MSc/MA postgraduate degree in a related field is also highly desirable. Applicants should have excellent oral and written presentation skills, and experience with qualitative research methods.


The closing date for applications is 30th September 2013. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an interview, to take place soon after the closing date for applications.

To apply, please contact Dr Dominique Moran (

New ESRC-funded research project: “‘Fear-suffused environments’ or potential to rehabilitate?”

8-2754esrc-logoThe UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) have made an award of £728k for a research project entitled “‘Fear-suffused environments’ or potential to rehabilitate?  Prison architecture, design and technology and the lived experience of carceral spaces”. The project investigators, Professor Yvonne Jewkes (University of Leicester, UK) and Dr Dominique Moran (University of Birmingham, UK), will be addressing two over-arching questions – how are penal aims and philosophies (that is, what prison is ‘for’) expressed in prison architecture and design, and how effective is prison architecture, design and technology (ADT) in conveying and delivering that penal purpose? The study seeks to meet its objectives by (a) studying the process of designing new prison buildings in order to understand what it is that architects are asked to deliver and how they achieve this, and (b) studying ADT’s impacts and effects on a range of end users, focusing on the experience of occupying and moving in and around prison spaces, in relation to prisoners’ quality of life and wellbeing, perceptions of penal legitimacy, compliance with the regime, prisoner-staff relations, staff work satisfaction and so on. The project will focus on two newly built UK prisons, and contrast these with two prisons in Norway and Denmark, where penal philosophies differ greatly from those in the UK.

The project will provide funding for a Postdoctoral Research Assistant, based at the Department of Criminology, University of Leicester, and for a PhD studentship at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham, both to start in January 2014. Ads for these two positions will be posted soon – watch this space.

Funded PhD studentship: “The Carceral Archipelago: Transnational Circulations in Global Perspective, 1415-1960”

The School of Historical Studies at the University of Leicester is offering a PhD studentship package for research on the Russian island of Sakhalin as part of a €1.5 million European Research Council grant for the project ‘The Carceral Archipelago: Transnational Circulations in Global Perspective, 1415-1960’.

This project will take a case study and comparative approach to the history of imperial expansion, unfree labour, confinement, and their legacies through a focus on the history of penal colonies all over the world.

Full details can be found at: . Please note that the closing date for applications is 8 March 2013.