Ethnography of Penal Policy

Summary

This project, funded by the ESRC, is using the techniques and perspective of ethnography to study penal reform at a key moment in Scottish history. An ethnographic approach involves close up observation and immersion in the world it aims to document. Over the past 18 months, Sarah has been both working on and tracing the changes taking place in penal policy as various actors – civil servants, politicians, academics, local residents, prisoners, professionals, among others – participate in efforts to change Scotland’s entrenched pattern of high prison populations. The project thus takes an anthropological approach to the study of policy, for example by treating policy documents as cultural texts. The research is also informed by an actor network theoretical orientation that views policy documents and other materials and practices as essential to making sense of change as the people who generate them. The aim of the project is to provide a holistic and integrated account that can answer a very simple question: how do you get things to change?  The fieldwork for the project was conducted from September 2008 to September 2010.

A number of outputs have been completed or are underway; some of these are listed separately under the ‘User View’ Project. These include:

‘Siting Prisons, Sighting Communities: The Case of Addiewell Prison in Scotland’ Presentation at Oxford Workshop on Penal Geographies, 22 June 2010

‘Prisms of Prisons: Policy’s Objects in Scottish Penal Reform’ (Powerpoint) ; Article Version (Word)Presentation at Interpretive Policy Analysis Meeting, Grenoble, 24 June 2010

‘Payback and Punishment: Metaphors in Scottish Penal Reform’ (Powerpoint) and Working Paper Presentation at RaAM8 Amsterdam conference

‘Prison by Numbers’ Presentation to the Howard League of Scotland on 12 October 2010.