Cara Hunter

PhD Student

University of Edinburgh


Working Title of PhD: The dynamics of imprisonment change in Scotland since 1990
Year commenced PhD study: 2020      
University of Edinburgh
Funding Source (if any): ESRC   
Full or part-time:
PhD Supervisors: Prof Richard Sparks & Dr Fiona Jamieson
Pronouns: She/Her

Synopsis of PhD:

A historical recovery of struggles to change the role and nature of imprisonment in Scotland since 1990, exploring the way the prison debate draws from (and is limited or expanded by) wider political and ideological conversations over time. The project will focus on the role of extended action by people in the field, recovering some of the ‘subterranean’ decisions, actions, and reconfigurations that lead to long term change (or lack of change). This will be achieved through document review (of written evidence, reports, academic work, policy documents, newspapers, political commentary) focussing on moments when the issues at stake in the Scottish imprisonment debate came particularly into focus. This will be followed by extended oral history interviews with a small number of actors centrally involved, but differently positioned, in these crucial ‘moments’ (academics, practitioners, reform or third sector organisation members), asking them to speak to their careers leading up to, during, and after these moments and their recalled sense of ongoing struggle.

Research questions:

  1. How have key actors defined their roles, ideological boundaries, and limits in seeking to shape the imprisonment debate?
  2. How have criminological ideas and language around imprisonment been taken up and used at different moments?
  3. What do actor recollections of these struggles and knowledge-politics tell us about the position of imprisonment within the Scottish political climate since 1990?
  4. What does this tell us about the nature of the relationship between academic knowledge, politics, and penal change in Scotland?


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University of Edinburgh

School of Law
University of Edinburgh
Old College,South Bridge

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