Bearing Witness to the ‘Pain of Others’: Researching Power, Violence and Resistance in a Women’s Prison

  • Queen's University of Belfast, Ireland


Addressing the dynamics of interpersonal violence, institutionalised abuses and prisoner isolation, this article consolidates critical analyses as challenges to the essentially liberal constructions and interpretations of prisoner agency and penal reformism. Grounded in long-term research with women in prison in the North of Ireland, it connects embedded, punitive responses that undermine women prisoners’ self-esteem and mental health to the brutalising manifestations of formal and informal punishments, including lockdowns and isolation. It argues that critical social research into penal policy and prison regimes has a moral duty, an ethical obligation and a political responsibility to investigate abuses of power, seek out the ‘view from below’. Challenging the revisionism implicit within the ‘healthy prison’ discourse, it argues for alternatives to prison as the foundation of decarceration and abolition.
Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2016-03-01
Pages:5 to 20
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How to Cite
Scraton, P. (2016) “Bearing Witness to the ‘Pain of Others’: Researching Power, Violence and Resistance in a Women’s Prison”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 5(1), pp. 5-20. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v5i1.288.

Author Biography

Queen's University of Belfast, Ireland

Professor of Criminology and Director of the Childhood, Transition and Social Justice Initiative

Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice

School of Law