ESRC PhD studentship: Technical Justice: Examining Video-Linking in Immigration Courts

ESRC PhD studentship: Technical Justice: Examining Video-Linking in Immigration Courts

The College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Exeter is pleased to offer a PhD studentship funded by the ESRC for entry in 2013/14. Successful applicants will be based within Geography (Streatham Campus, Exeter) at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter.


Dr Nick Gill

Project Description

Video-linking was introduced in 2008 in the UK to allow for speedier determination of asylum appeals, as well as bail hearings for asylum seekers held in detention. According to the Ministry of Justice, video-linking works as follows: “If you are detained it may be possible that your case will be heard by video link. This means that you will remain in your place of detention and give any evidence that you have to give by video link. You will be able to see and hear the hearing room and all the parties on a television where you are detained, and everyone in the hearing room will be able to see and hear you on a television there” (Ministry of Justice webpage, October 2011).

The use of video-linking is justified partly in terms of the time saved: judges, representatives and applicants do not have to travel as far. There have been, however, a series of concerns raised by asylum support groups about the use of video-linking in courts including concerns relating to the adequacy of this form of presence in the courtroom.

This is a fully funded PhD position to run alongside the ESRC project ‘Examining Geographic Disparities in Asylum Appeal Success Rates at Different Hearing Centres Around the UK’. The PhD will explore video-linking in immigration courts from a variety of theoretical perspectives which might include, but are not limited to, socio-technical debates, mobilities, analyses of time, rhythmanalysis, virtuality, absences, synchronicity and simultaneity.

Practical questions that the student might explore include: how does video-linking impact upon the asylum appeal or bail hearing experience from the perspective of the applicant? How does video-linking impact upon the hearing from the perspective of others involved in the appeal process? What different experiences of asylum appeals via video-link do different types of applicant experience (e.g. by gender, nationality, age, language skill and case type)?

More conceptual questions might include: how can the case of video-linking within detention shed more light upon the relationship between virtuality and mobilities? How are different forms of presence distributed through the process of video-linking and what are the key political and social issues that arise as a result of this distribution? What are the implications of the virtualisation of legal processes?

The student will benefit from being part of a wider research team working on related issues, with input from a range of relevant charities and pressure groups. Alongside the standard thesis, the student will be expected to produce and widely disseminate a user-report of their findings.

Academic entry requirements:

Candidates must have (or expect to complete by September 2013) a Masters degree in a social science or relevant discipline with appropriate research training. In addition candidates must have obtained a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a social science or relevant discipline. Applicants with either an academic or personal knowledge of immigration law (especially asylum law) will be at an advantage.

Value of award and residency entry requirements:

The studentship will cover a stipend at the standard Research Council rate (currently £13,590 per annum for 2012-2013), a contribution towards research costs and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for students who meet the residency requirements outlined by the ESRC (see for up to three years. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award.

This position is advertised online at: and

Application procedures:

Please upload the following documents to the studentship application formClick here to apply

The preferred format for all uploaded files is .pdf and preferred filename should start with your last name.

  • CV
  • Covering letter (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
  • Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
  • 2 references (if your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 725150/723706/723310.

The closing date for applications is midnight Thursday 7th March 2013.

Funded PhD studentship: The effectiveness of immigration detention centres in preparing detainees for removal

The Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford is offering one collaborative ESRC + 3 studentship to commence in October 2013 co-funded by Her Majesty’s Prison Inspectorate entitled, ‘The effectiveness of immigration detention centres in preparing detainees for removal: a study of detention centre conditions and outcomes’.

The +3 studentship covers the cost of fees and provides a stipend for three years of doctoral study. It is open to students with a good first degree and a Masters degree in any relevant social science. Students with a masters degree the curriculum of which does not meet the ESRC’s graduate training requirements will be required to take additional methods training during the first year of their doctoral study.

ESRC +3 Studentships are only available to UK (fees plus stipend) and EU (fees only) students.

Applications are invited for these studentships with a closing date of Friday 18th January 2013Interviews will be held on week of 11 February 2013.

To apply, please see the further details below.

Further information

All applicants should read the ESRC Guidance Notes for Applicants and eligibility criteria which can be found on the ESRC website at:

Informal enquiries about the studentships are welcome and can be made to Dr. Mary Bosworth; email; tel: +44 (0)1865 281927.

Enquiries about the application process should be addressed to Ms Tracy Kaye, Graduate Studies Administrator; email:; tel. + 44 (0)1865 274444.

Further information about the Centre, its staff, research and graduate programmes can be found on the Centre’s website:

Information about HM Inspectorate of Prisons can be found at:

Collaborative HMIP/ESRC ‘+3’ Studentship

‘The effectiveness of Immigration detention centres in preparing detainees for removal: A study of detention centre conditions and outcomes.’

Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford

Further Details

The +3 studentship is available to those who wish to study for a doctorate having already completed a Masters degree. Students with a masters degree whose curriculum does not meet the ESRC’s graduate training requirements will be required to take additional methods training during the first year of their doctoral study.

The studentship will examine the effectiveness of programs in British immigration removal centres.  It will be supervised by Dr Mary Bosworth, with staff at HMIP providing mentorship.  The project will be primarily qualitative, based on observation and interviews with detainees and staff.  The student may also use survey tools developed for understanding life in detention.  Strong methodological training will be essential.  Some knowledge of languages other than English would be helpful.

The project will be in line with HMIP’s statutory remit to inspect conditions of detention and treatment of detainees. It will help to develop HMIP’s effectiveness and impact in the agreed area of study.  As part of her or his induction and ongoing learning, the student will undergo induction and training at HMIP. He or she may be required to reasonably contribute to some aspects of HMIP’s work, for instance accompanying them on inspection.  This will not be such as to obstruct the student’s ability to pursue the project.  The student appointed to carry out the studentship will provide an interim and final report to HMIP on the progress of his or her research

How to Apply

Applications for the collaborative HMIP/ESRC +3 studentship are invited from those who i) have obtained a first class, or high upper second class degree, in a relevant subject, such as criminology, sociology, law, social policy, politics, and history, and ii) have completed, or by the end of September 2013 expect to have completed, a masters degree in a relevant subject with an average mark of 68% or above.

To apply you need to submit a full application to the University of Oxford for a DPhil in Criminology via Graduate Admissions:

  1. A completed application form, which can be downloaded from:  (Applicants must read the accompanying Notes of Guidance before completing this form);
  2. A letter of application, stating your reasons for wishing to pursue the programme;
  3. CV/Résumé;
  4. An official transcript of previous higher education results up to the present;
  5. Two samples of written work (each piece should be around 2,000 words in length; it may be a clearly defined extract from a longer piece of work if you prefer);
  6. A research proposal of 2,000 words, which should be the outline of a proposed doctoral study indicating your chosen topic; why you are interested in it; the research questions you want to ask, and how you propose to answer them;
  7. Three academic references;
  8. An application fee payment of £50.

Applicants should refer to the relevant studentship in Section I on the application form by using the appropriate code, either ‘CFC/1314/ESRC/HMIP+3’.

This should be sent to the Graduate Admissions Office by 5:00 p.m. on Friday 18th January 2013.

A copy of all the application materials should also be sent by email to Ms Tracy Kaye on by 5:00 p.m. on Friday 18th January 2013

Interviews will be held on: the week of 11 February 2013



New ESRC Research Project: Breaking the Cycle? Prison Visitation and Recidivism in the UK

The ESRC intends to fund a new research project entitled ‘Breaking the Cycle? Prison Visitation and Recidivism in the UK’, to be undertaken by carceral geographer  Dominique Moran and criminological psychologist Louise Dixon, both at the University of Birmingham, UK.

This 3-year interdisciplinary project will provide a new perspective on prison visitation and its relationship to the highly topical issue of recidivism. Macro-level statistical analysis in parallel with innovative mixed-methods research into visiting facilities will identify the nature of this relationship and its socio-spatial context, informing policy towards visitation and the design of visiting spaces, and contributing to broader debates about prisoner rehabilitation and resettlement.

In the aftermath of the 2011 UK riots, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke described the rioters as a ‘feral underclass, cut off from the mainstream’, and blamed the riots on the ‘broken penal system – one whose record in preventing reoffending has been straightforwardly dreadful’. Reoffending or recidivism is key to the operation of the repetitive cycle of incarceration, re-entry, re-offending and re-incarceration, and represents a major policy challenge. In the UK, 75% of ex-inmates reoffend within nine years of release, and 39.3% within the first twelve months. Clarke’s solution as set out in the government’s “Breaking the Cycle” Green Paper is ‘payment by results’; a ‘radical and decentralising reform’ with ‘freedom to innovate’ new interventions, opening ‘the market to new providers from the private, voluntary and community sectors’. This project draws attention to prison visitation as an aspect of imprisonment which has already been demonstrated to improve the outcomes of released prisoners, but whose specific functionality is at present poorly understood. Through parallel methodologies, this project investigates the relationship between visitation and recidivism.

Research into recidivism finds that prison visitation is a significant factor in improving post-release outcomes; outcomes are in general much more positive for visited prisoners, and lower recidivism rates have been demonstrated across study populations and time periods. However, although the 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 smooth reintegration after release, but this process has never been fully explored. The processes underlying persistent criminal careers remain a research gap, and very little is known about psychological change in relation to prison visits in terms of the psychological constructs which may mediate the relationship between visits and recidivism.

The project will generate both nuanced insights into the relationship between prison visitation and recidivism, and also critical insights into the socio-spatial context of prison visiting, to inform visitation policy and the design of more effective prison visiting spaces. It seizes an opportunity to influence policy and create impact, at a time when the the coalition government is consulting on policy reform, in particular in relation to recidivism. It represents convergence of cutting-edge debates in cognate disciplines of human geography, criminology, psychology and wider social theory, and resonates with policy development in individual prison institutions in the UK in the context of the ‘Breaking the Cycle’ initiative.

There will be a 2.5-year Post-Doctoral Research Assistant position created at the University of Birmingham in connection with this grant; post to be advertised in due course. For any further information please contact

Prison Map: The Geography of Incarceration in the United States

Many thanks to Shaul Cohen for the recommendation of Josh Begley’s Prison Map website via Emily Badger’s piece on ‘The Stunning Geography of Incarceration’.

Josh Begley is a Masters student in Interactive Telecommunications at New York University, and the Prison Map website is part of a class project. He presents satellite images of American penitentiaries, rather than the ubiquitous statistics of mass incarceration, to highlight the sheer volume of these facilities and the resources which go into constructing places to ‘warehouse’ people.

For Begley, the take-home message is about space, not only in relation to the distribution of prisons, and the housing of urban prisoners in rural locations, (and their counting in the census where they are incarcerated, not where they are from), but also in the spaces of imprisonment themselves, viewed from above.

“The first time I was really able to look at all of these images, the thing that jumped out at me the most was that the one commonality among almost all of these prisons was that there was a baseball field there. And the baseball field mimicked the form about these buildings as well. There was something very American about it when I first saw it.”

Satellite images of prisons have been used in research very recently, for example in Robert G Morris and John L Worrall’s forthcoming paper which considers the relationship between prison design and inmate misconduct. Using aerial views, they identify ‘telegraph pole’, (several rows of parallel multistory buildings, or pavilions, connected by one or two main corridors) and ‘campus’ (freestanding buildings surrounded by a large open space, often in the shape of a rectangle) penitentiaties in Texas and analyse the relationship between these two designs and inmate misconduct, using a random sample of 2,500 inmate disciplinary histories sourced from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. They find a modest association between prison design and nonviolent misconduct, but acknowledge the drawbacks of the study, in terms of the reliance on officially reported midconduct data rather than prisoners’ insights, and the limitations of the satellite imagery in understanding the nature of prison spaces.

With prison sites often considered ‘out of sight and out of mind’, these two, very different, uses of satellite imagery remind us of the very concrete reality of carceral spaces, and invite us to consider the everyday reality of life inside of them, baseball pitches or not…

Drawing a chilling parallel between his satellite images and TV newscasting, Begley puts it like this:

“We’re used to aerial images of nation-states overseas, and we’ll see a diagram of some compound that is going to be bombed or something. But rarely do we look at these spaces in our backyard and think critically about them.”

One in one hundred

“For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults is behind bars” states a study reported in the New York Times in 2008.

Thanks to Shaul Cohen, [Carnegie Council Global Ethics Fellow at the Department of Geography, University of Oregon], for the recommendation of this website from a project by his colleagues at neighbouring Oregon State University.

The project website was created by Oregon State University’s Inside-Out students in the fall of 2011. Their hope is that it will grow as an interactive community and online presence for any person who identifies as a part of the 1 in 100 people incarcerated in the United States.

PhD opportunity in Carceral Geography

The so-called ‘punitive turn’ has brought about new ways of thinking about geography and the state, and has highlighted spaces of incarceration as a new terrain for exploration by geographers. This PhD project supervised by Dominique Moran at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, at the University of Birmingham, UK, will enable the Doctoral Researcher to investigate their chosen aspect of ‘carceral geography’ as a geographical perspective on incarceration, in relation to the ideas, practices and engagements that have shaped the development of this new and vibrant sub-discipline.

Proposals which are transdisciplinary, which are both informed by and extend theoretical developments in geography, and which interface with contemporary debates over hyperincarceration, recidivism and the advance of the punitive state, will be particularly welcome. There is considerable scope for applicants to explore synergies with criminology and prison sociology, and to develop a notion of the ‘carceral’ as spatial, emplaced, mobile, embodied and affective.

See the full ad here