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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 4 1

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


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.
Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Pages:50 to 65
Section: Articles
12 citation(s) in Scopus
0 citation(s) in Web of Science


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Author Biography

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