Inside the Belly of the Penal Beast: Understanding the Experience of Imprisonment

  • Institute of Criminology University of Cambridge
     United Kingdom


One of the striking characteristics of much ‘big picture’ penal scholarship is that it stops at the gates of the prison, or breaches its surface somewhat barely or briefly. This article proposes that such work could be advanced and made more compelling if its insights were married with – and modified through – those provided by empirical and ethnographic analyses of the practice and experience of penal power. It then sets out a framework which would enable this form of engagement and analysis, first providing an account of the development of the main components of the framework, before elaborating in more detail how its constituent parts – depth, weight, tightness, and breadth – might be conceptualised. It concludes by offering some reflections on the practical implications of this agenda for prison researchers.
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Published: 2015-04-01
Pages:50 to 65
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Author Biography

Institute of Criminology University of Cambridge
 United Kingdom
Dr Ben Crewe is Deputy Director of the Prisons Research Centre, at the University of Cambridge.