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International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy Queensland University of Technology 2202-8005 The International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy is an open access, blind peer-reviewed journal that publishes critical research about challenges confronting criminal justice systems around the world.  The Journal is committed to democratising quality knowledge production and dissemination. Authors retain copyright and articles are licenced via Creative Commons to make published articles more readily available and useable. There are no APCs (Article Processing Charges). Authors can submit and publish at no cost.
International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 3 1

Decorative Justice: Deconstructing the Relationship between the Arts and Imprisonment


This article synthesises diverse material to discuss both state use of the arts for the purposes of controlling prisoners and the broader public, and the use made of the arts by prisoners and portions of the broader public as tools of resistance to penal states. The article proceeds with an analysis of the politics surrounding and underpinning the philosophy, formation, operation, effectiveness, and research evaluation of arts-in-prisons programmes in the contemporary Anglo-American world. It argues that arts-in-prisons programmes and pertinent evaluation research are often employed as means to a variety of latent ignoble ends, with ‘decorative justice’ – the function of masking the injustices and painful nature of imprisonment behind claims of fairness, benevolence and care – chief amongst these ends.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Pages:16 to 34
Section: Articles
11 citation(s) in Scopus
0 citation(s) in Web of Science


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Author Biography

University of Edinburgh
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Leonidas K. Cheliotis is a Chancellor's Fellow in Law and Co-Director of the Centre for Law and Society at the School of Law, University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on the political economy of crime, violence and punitiveness, as well as on the implementation of criminal justice policies and their socio-economic consequences for targeted populations. In 2013, he received the Critical Criminologist of the Year Award by the Division on Critical Criminology of the American Society of Criminology.