Event: Prisoner rights – Time for a rethink?

Call for abstracts

Socio-Legal Studies Association Seminar

We are pleased to invite abstracts for a Socio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA) seminar on prisoners’ rights in the UK, to be held at the University of Liverpool in collaboration with Cardiff University on 26 July 2023.

A critical appraisal of prisoner rights in the UK has never been more urgent. Nominally, domestic and international human rights law confer a wide range of legal rights on prisoners. These rights are supposed to provide minimum standards of treatment for prisoners, a guarantee of humane conditions in the face of state power and a punitive political culture. Their effectiveness, however, is under increasing scrutiny.

Prisons across the UK are engulfed by acute staffing, overcrowding and mental health crises. Many prisoners continue to be kept in their cells for twenty-three hours a day. Thousands are still detained indefinitely under the controversial (now abolished) scheme of ‘Imprisonment for Public Protection’ (IPP). Meanwhile, prisoners are excluded from the legal minimum wage and other basic labour protections, making them vulnerable to exploitation by the state and private companies. In some instances, where prisoner rights litigation has succeeded – most notably on the right to vote – no change in the law followed. On other occasions, successful rights litigation led to dramatic increases in prison service budgets and an expansion of the prison estate.

In short, there are strong reasons to be sceptical of prisoner rights. This event will therefore bring together socio-legal, criminological and other academic perspectives to explore the role and effectiveness of these rights in the UK context. Drawing on empirical and theoretical insights, it will examine the sufficiency of the present rights regime, options for reform and alternatives to rights-based prison governance and imprisonment.

If you would like to participate in this event, please email an abstract of no more than 250 words to Greg Davies (g.j.davies@liverpool.ac.uk) and Robert Jones (jonesrd7@cardiff.ac.uk) by Friday 28 April 2023.

We welcome abstracts from postgraduate and early career researchers. In recognition of the significant territorial differences in law, policy and practice around prisoner rights, we are keen to have perspectives from each of the UK’s legal and political jurisdictions.

Liverpool Public Law Unit

School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool