BSC Prison Research Network


Chair: Professor David Best, Leeds Trinity University –
Deputy Chair: Sarah Plimley, Staffordshire University –
Education Lead: Helen Nichols, Lincoln University –
Education Lead: Sacha Darke, University of Westminster –
Education Co-operative: Mary Corcoran,Keele University –
Register of interests & Postgraduate Lead: Bronwen Frow-Jones –
Postgraduate Lead: Lewis Simpson, Leeds Beckett University and University of Leeds –
Postgraduate Lead: Serena Wright, Royal Holloway University of London –

Prison research has deep historical links with the development of British criminology. The dramatic and sustained growth of prison populations and the proliferation of penal regimes have fostered a corresponding growth within the BSC of prison research and critical engagement with penal affairs. The PRN offers a means for discussion, critical analysis and sharing perspectives or experience among diverse and dispersed BSC members.


  • To provide a forum for prison researchers and other BSC members to share  information and experience about prisons with a view to developing critical analysis and debate across  research, policy and practice communities.
  • To advance understandings and appreciation of the range of contemporary prison research in the four jurisdictions of the UK, the rest of Europe and the wider international environment.
  • To foster opportunities for collaborative practice among prison researchers, criminologists, prisoners, prison staff and other ‘user groups’ in the penal and voluntary sector.
  • To encourage networking between academics, researchers, practitioners and students interested in prison research and issues.
Forthcoming Events


Please see the BSC members’ bulletin for upcoming events.


Previous Events

BSC Prison Research Network and University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) – Prison Transitions One-Day Conference – 11 March 2024

Following on from the success of the British Society of Criminology conference 2023, hosted by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), the Prisons and Probation strand of the UCLan Criminal Justice Partnership (CJP) are hosting a follow on free one day conference in collaboration with the BSC’s Prison Research Network (PRN) on Monday 11th March 2024, 9:45-5:00pm. This will be the PRN’s first face-to-face event since the pandemic and is a chance for researchers and practitioners across the UK to come together to connect, network and discuss their research and ideas.

The theme is transitions into, within, and out of imprisonment. The transitions associated with imprisonment and release require further scholarly attention, and this conference aims to encourage new ideas on the subject through vibrant discussion and the presentation of current research. We welcome broad interpretations of the conference theme and also welcome submissions from practitioner researchers, early career researchers, postgraduate researchers and those engaged in participatory research with people with lived experience.

Shadd Maruna joins us with colleagues from User Voice to talk all things about peer and prison research.

Online event – 9 November 2022, 16:00 – 17:30 GMT

National Research Council (NRC) on Ethical Approval for Prison Research

May 24, 2021
This event involved short talks from people within the NRC, where they discussed how to navigate the process of applying for ethical approval for research and also their current strategy for research for HMPPS. This event will be extremely useful for postgraduate students, especially at the start of their PhD research.


20 November 2020, 4-5pm 
This event was targeted at PhD students whose research involves prisons and members of PhD supervision teams. Our aim was to provide some basic insight and guidance on the challenges, pitfalls and opportunities involved in conducting PhDs in prisons – both for students entering prisons and for students who are prisoners. We also hoped the event will help to build connections and networks among prison post-graduate researchers, as well as offering a means of supporting academics without a background in penology who are supervising prison-focused PhDs.

Where possible, three Network meetings a year are planned, usually around a theme of interest to members of the network. Activities may include small conferences, seminars and symposia with invited speakers external to the group or provided by group members.

Recent online seminar: Insider Ethnography

Dr Jamie Bennett is a deputy director in HM Prisons and Probation Service in England and Wales, currently Head of Operational Security. His presentation explored the experience of conducting an ethnographic study of prison managers by a prison manager. The theoretical underpinnings discussed included the differences between insider and outsider research in locating a reflexive position that is both sufficiently intimate in order to capture the rich experience of those being studied whilst also having enough distance in order to be able to situate this within a wider social context. The presentation discussed insider ethnography as turbulent process with its emotional complexity and implications for identity and power. The presentation discussed the way that my role as researcher (and manager) was understood and perceived by research subjects, and how this role was viewed through lens of organisational culture and power. The presentation also discussed how undertaking research led to shifts in personal identity and generated discomfort about the implications of prison management and practice for social justice.

If you know anyone who would like to join or you have any ideas or suggestions, please let us know –

Surviving Prison and Probation – November 7, 2019
This event was at De Montfort University (in association with the Prisons and Probation Research Hub).

Carl Cattermole, author of ‘Prison: A survival guide’, talked from a lived experience account of what life in a UK prison is really like, and Roz Morrison, talked about surviving probation from a professional perspective, reflecting on changes in recent years that have impacted on practice and influence our thinking about research.

Read the blog by David Best – Celebrating Survival

Joining and staying in touch

The network has a small steering group and a convenor that plan and co-ordinate meetings and other activity on an annual basis. A mailing list will assist in communication between members and interested parties.

Click here for a flyer of a new book Convict Criminology by former network chair Dr Rod Earle.

Contact the Network

Professor David Best –

Twitter – @BSC_PN

If you would like to join or you have any ideas or suggestions, please let us know –

Websites of interest

The Howard League for Penal Reform
Prison Reform Trust: