Prison and university: a tale of two institutions?

Earle, Rod (2011). Prison and university: a tale of two institutions? In: British Society of Criminology, 4-6 Jul 2011, Newcastle, UK, pp. 20–37.



For many years prisons have had a reputation as universities of crime providing novice criminals with opportunities to learn from more experienced criminals. Over the last 20 years, as prison populations have grown there has been a simultaneous expansion of university places and of courses specialising in studying crime. Academic criminology has experienced rapid growth with some suggesting that there are more students studying criminology now than sociology. There have never been more criminology courses on offer, or institutions offering them. Amidst this growth, there are indications that there are significant numbers of criminologists with more personal experiences of both crime and prison, combining experience of the Academy and its poorer relation at the opposite end of the social structure. What accompanies the transition from crime and prison to criminology and university? The instrumental relationships between prisons and criminology are notorious, long-standing and controversial, but rarely examined at the personal level. In this paper the author reflects on such an experience of prison, conducting research, studying and teaching criminology. The intention is to foster a reflexive exploration of relations, both institutional and structural as well as personal, between prison and university.

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