Anna Mackenzie

PhD student

University of Glasgow


Working Title of PhD: The role of prison education in developing capabilities and encouraging desistance

Year commenced PhD study: 2014
Institution: University of Glasgow
PhD Supervisors: Prof Fergus McNeill and Prof Nicki Hedge

Synopsis: This project will explore the development of human capabilities (as outlined by Martha Nussbaum) through student’s interaction with learning during incarceration. It will seek to understand how and in what ways education plays a role more diffusely and broadly in producing human capability and social capital that can support the desistance process post-release. It aims to explore the role learning has not just as an essential tool in the desistance process, but also in the development of a pro-social, fully functioning person. This will expand our understanding of how education matters to identity, personhood, citizenship and change.

By using the Capabilities Approach to gauge how well prison education can develop a prisoner’s social capital and functioning, this research can offer a rich, in depth study. It will seek to understand whether learning can contribute towards desistance in offenders within a system so often dedicated to conforming them away from the ideals inherent in the desistance process. The research has the potential both of expanding prison and criminological understandings of education and its effects and of allowing us to capture how the diffuse qualities of education play out in one of society’s most challenging environments.

Interviews will be carried out with learners both within and out with the prison estate (as well as associated staff members). They will focus on the life histories of the participants and their personal journey with education and offending. Further to this it will look more extensively at the potentially transformative role prison education has played in their lives and the development of their capability set.



University of Glasgow

The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research
Ivy Lodge
63 Gibson Street
University of Glasgow
G12 8LR

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