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Working Title of PhD: A contemporary history of Scottish imprisonment debates since 2000
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

Synopsis of PhD:

This research is a contemporary history of imprisonment reform debates in Scotland since 2000. It will focus on understanding extended action by people in the field, looking to recover the ideas, intentions and strategies that contribute to change. This will be achieved through a review of important texts (evidence submitted to commissions, policy publications and reports, and academic, media and political commentaries) and extended oral history interviews with actors who have been centrally involved in imprisonment debates over this period (criminal justice practitioners, academics, members of reform and advocacy groups). The project will look in particular at the impact and negotiation of certain key ‘moments’, such as important commissions and policy changes, but it will be orientated towards putting these in the context of longer term political and ideological debates over the role of the prison in Scotland, and how central actors have understood and navigated these throughout their careers.

Research questions:

How have actors understood their roles, opportunities, and boundaries in seeking to shape the Scottish imprisonment debate?

How have ideas and language around imprisonment been taken up and used at different political moments?

What does recovering the above tell us about the evolving position of imprisonment within the Scottish political climate since 2000?

What does the above tell us about the relationship between ideas, politics, and penal change in Scotland?



University of Edinburgh


School of Law
University of Edinburgh
Old College,South Bridge

Research Themes

Punishment, Citizenship and Communities

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