Criminology Book Prize

Book coverCriminology Book Prize 2021

David Maguire is Director for the Prison Reform Trust’s Building Futures Programme, a five-year programme for those that have served 10 or more years in prison. As a researcher at Oxford University and University College London, UK, he has extensive experience leading on prison-based projects, collecting data on the vulnerabilities facing those in prison and widely disseminating these findings to impact change.

The Chair of the Prizes Committee, Professor James Treadwell said ‘every year the BSC book prize shows the exceptional work being undertaken in the field, and this year’s winner is the latest in a long line of exceptional works.  Male, Failed and Jailed is a fantastic book, and those reading it will see why it is achieving high praise from academics and practitioners alike.

‘Male, Failed, Jailed’ charts the cyclical interrelations between cultural representations of masculinity, place, schooling, (un)employment, crime, and imprisonment.

David McGuire said “Throughout the book I explore if living up to idealised masculinities across sites of extreme exclusion meant the men in my study contributed to their own continued economic marginalisation and their repeated return to prison.   Or whether is it these sites and institutional systems that play an influential role in reinforcing and trapping these men in configuring the same masculinities they exclude, abandon, and incarcerate?”

“Disrupting oversimplified and popular representations of the men that fill our prisons, my ambition was to profile their vulnerabilities, humanity, and pains of imprisonment.  The men’s open and deeply moving life history accounts enabled me to tell their stories and I am indebted and grateful for their generosity, through the insights they shared so freely”.

The result is a book that the prizes committee felt were in the absolute best traditions of quality empirical scholarship but produced and directed in a manner that will engage with academics, policy makers, practitioners and further the interests and knowledge about imprisonment in a manner that can inform debates and policy.  It is truly exceptional work that anyone interested in prison and imprisonment ought to read, and as Treadwell said at the special session David gave at this years conference discussing the book, the hope is that the prize furthers that aim.  However while it is an exceptional work David was keen to stress “I am also deeply grateful to the numerous mentors from across the academy that have supported my journey and this subsequent publication, and I am in no doubt that this book is only a reality because of this help and the labour and encouragement of key colleagues, friends and family who I hope know exactly who they are”.

https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030610586


Winner of the 2020 British Society of Criminology Book Prize

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The Logic of Violence An Ethnography of Dublins Illegal Drug Trade by Brendan Marsh (London: Routledge).

The Prize Committee of the British Society of Criminology is pleased to announce that the 2020 Book Prize has been awarded to Brendan Marsh’s book ‘The Logic of Violence: An Ethnography of Dublin’s Illegal Drug Trade’  (Part of the Routledge ‘Advances in Ethnography’ Series).

The judging panel were presented with a shortlist of three finalists from a list of extremely strong entries, but Marsh’s book stood out.

Marsh’s book examines violence in an illegal drug market from the perspectives of those who had participated in it, that is, formerly addicted people as well as former profit-oriented drug dealers. The text is the result of the first ethnographic study of an illegal drug market in Dublin. It is original in so far as highlighting the culture and character of Dublin,  and it offers something truly original, innovative and new. Marsh’s book really impressed in two ways, it offered a great deal of nuance and complexity around the often-artificial binaries between offenders and victims, deserved and undeserved, and captures the multifarious harms that are associated with, and encountered within, illegal drug markets.  It also adds something really new and refreshing to debates and discourses on desistance from crime.  With a nod to great ethnographic work in the UK on organised crime and violence, which is more established and understands the full spectrum of the trade.

In moving away from the more regular features of young experimental users and social supply, Marsh shines a light into the dark corners and the voices so often unheard, but so often at the centre of that which people understand conventionally as crime.  He does so with an ethnographic sensibility that as Shadd Maruna notes in his forward to the book ‘with every outstanding ethnography, the society exposed in the pages is not necessarily the hidden world of addicts and dealers but one more familiar to the rest of us’.

Professor James Treadwell, Chair of the prize committee and the judging panel said “Marsh’s book is an exceptional ethnography, it balances appreciation, understanding and pathos but never slips toward naivety or simplicity.  He is an ethnographer that can clearly penetrate the surface, and as importantly, challenge the surface suggestions and sentiments, thereby uncovering even more.  It is wonderfully crafted in a manner that presents the stories and the data in an accessible and engaging manner.  It is quite simply, an amazing book that I hope everyone interested in criminology reads”.

Brendan said “I absolutely accept the BSC prize, I am very honoured and   pleased to do so.  I am humbled to be chosen for such a prestigious award”.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has somewhat impacted on the ability of the Society to give a book prize in the normal way with great words of praise and encouragement and a handover at the conference dinner.  However, the Society is planning an online podcast shortly featuring Brendan receiving his prize and discussing the book.  A copy of the book will also be made available for a BSC member draw.  Details will follow on the BSC website and via the members bulletin.


Winner of the 2019 British Society of Criminology Book Prize

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Embodying Punishment: Emotions, Identities and Lived Experiences in Women’s Prisons by Anastasia Chamberlen

I would like to wholeheartedly thank the Society’s Committee for their very kind and generous decision to award me this prize. The book, which aims to be a feminist critique of the prison, argues that prisoner bodies are central to our understanding of modern punishment, and particularly of women’s survival and resistance during and after prison. I’m forever grateful to the women who participated in this study and offered their unique insights into the embodied effects of imprisonment. To receive this award is a very humbling experience, that more than anything makes me realise how important it is to have the support of your academic peers and community. This book started with fieldwork I conducted during my PhD, and it only became a monograph because so many people, from my supervisor to my examiners and many other colleagues and mentors, were there to give me encouragement, advice, criticism and friendship. This prize shows how valuable this collegiality is, and I hope I can do the same for other, young scholars someday.


Winner of the 2018 British Society of Criminology Book Prize

Gendered Harm and Structural Violence in the British Asylum System by Victoria Canning

At the heart of this book is an aim to address systemic and structural oppressions which facilitate violence against women, but also which socially hinder the wellbeing of people seeking asylum more generally once they have reached relative safety. Ultimately, Victoria argues that the British asylum system is structurally harmful in that it is built to regulate, control and dehumanise those who pass through its processes and whose lives depend on its policies.

There is no one aspect that is singularly harmful – not detention, not destitution – but a culmination of procedures which reduce or eradicate autonomy, produce existential banality, and ultimately cause further emotional, physical and relational harms to survivors of violence and persecution. Importantly, many of these processes mirror or are mirrored in the global arena of securitisation and border controls, and expansion rather than reduction is increasingly the main objective of states and nations across the world.


Winner of the 2017 British Society of Criminology Book Prize

The Penal Voluntary Sector by Philippa Tomczak

The penal voluntary sector and the relationships between punishment and charity are more topical than ever before. In recent years in EngBook Coverland and Wales, the sector has featured significantly in both policy rhetoric and academic commentary. Penal voluntary organisations are increasingly delivering prison and probation services under contract, and this role is set to expand. However, the diverse voluntary organisations which comprise the sector, their varied relationships with statutory agencies and the effects of such work remain very poorly understood.


The 2016 Criminology Book Prize

It is a reflection of the fierce competition this year that the book prize was shared by two exceptional, engaging, passionate and brilliantly written books, both hailing from Scotland. The winners are Dr Beth Weaver (University of Sterling) and Dr Alistair Fraser (University of Glasgow) for their books ‘Offending and Desistance: The Importance of Social Relations’ (which is part of the Routledge International Series on Desistance and Rehabilitation) and ‘Urban Legends: Gang Identity in the Post-Industrial City’ (Oxford University Press).

Fraser bookWeaver book

Beth Weavers book ‘Offending and Desistance’, examines the role of a co-offending peer group in shaping and influencing offending and desistance, focusing on three phases of their criminal careers: onset, persistence and desistance. It is a clear work of deep commitment to empirical research and the life stories of six Scottish men (in their forties), who Weaver employs as the central bedrock of the empirical aspect of the book, are revealing and fascinating. Weaver considers the central role of friendship groups, intimate relationships and families of formation, employment and religious communities and using her empirical data in an innovative manner considers how, for different individuals, these relations triggered reflexive evaluation of their priorities, behaviours and lifestyles, but with differing results. Weaver’s re-examination of the relationships between structure, agency, identity and reflexivity in the desistance process ultimately illuminates new directions for research, policy and practice, but also makes for a beautifully crafted and presented book that has rightly earned high praise from academics in the field and the BSC book prize judges.

Dr Alistair Fraser shares in common with Beth a PhD in Sociology from the University of Glasgow and (noted at the prize award) this year’s award can be seen as a triumph for the institution that created two such strong academic works. His book ‘Urban Legends: Gang Identity in the Post-Industrial City’, like Beth Weavers work, commenced as a PhD study, and is something of a re-invigoration of the traditions of UK gang studies long associated with Glasgow. Yet while much of Frasier’s work tips a nod of acknowledgement to that history and context, it also adds much that is new, drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork that he carried out in Glasgow, and offering new theoretical insights that locates both historical and contemporary gang identities within the context of broader social, economic, and cultural change. In doing this, Fraser offers up what the BSC book prize judges noted was an exciting, original and engaging work on the gang phenomenon that draws as heavily on the work of Pierre Bourdieu and academic literature on globalisation as it does on the rich lineage of criminological and sociological interrogation of gangs in the UK and Scotland that will no doubt, like Weavers work, be widely read by British criminologists and internationally.

Both Weaver and Fraser’s books are a fantastic testimony to the rich state of British Criminology, and particularly the engaging, original theoretical and empirical research being undertaken in the discipline more broadly, and both deserve to be widely read by those interested in contemporary criminological debates.


The 2015 Criminology Book Prize was awarded jointly to Jennifer Fleetwood Drug Mules: women in the international cocaine trade published by Palgrave and Nicholas Lord Regulating Corporate Bribery in International Business: Anti-corruption in the UK and Germany published by Ashgate.

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Previous winners:
2014 Don Crewe’s Becoming Criminal: the socio-cultural origins of law, transgression, and deviance and Ana Aliverti’s Crimes of Mobility: Criminal Law and the Regulation of Immigration (Routledge). Also shortlisted, Rachel Armitage for Crime Prevention through Housing Design (Palgrave).
2013: Deb Drake Prisons, Punishment and the Pursuit of Security Palgrave and Coretta Philips The Multicultural Prison: Ethnicity, Masculinity, and Social Relations among Prisoners OUP
2012: Elizabeth Carter for Analysing Police Interviews Laughter, Confessions and the Tape Continuum Bloomsbury
2011: Catherine Appleton Life after Life Imprisonment Oxford University Press
2010: Sharon Shalev Supermax
2009: Joint winners. David A. Green  When Children Kill Children: Penal Populism and Political Culture, Louise Mallinder Amnesty, Human Rights and Political Transitions: Bridging the Peace and Justice Divide
2008: Anne-Marie McAlinden The Shaming of Sexual Offenders: Risk, Retribution and Reintegration
2007: Mercedes Hinton The State on the Streets: Police and Politics in Argentina and Brazil
2006: Simon Mackenzie Going, Going, Gone: Regulating the market in illicit antiquities
2005: Laura Piacentini Surviving Russian Prisons
2004: Declan Roche Accountability in Restorative Justice
2003: Mike McCahill The Surveillance Web
2002: Kieran McAvoy Paramilitary Imprisonment in Northern Ireland: Resistance, Management, and Release

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