The project ‘The Persistence of the Victorian Prison: Alteration, Inhabitation, Obsolescence and Affirmative Design’ considers the persistence of Victorian prisons in the UK today.
In England and Wales, 22,000 prisoners are held in Victorian-era prisons, equivalent to one-quarter of the prison population. This project explores the implications of the continued operation of Victorian-era prisons, and asks how we will know when they have reached the end of their operational lives.
The project aims to answer five questions about the continued use of these historic prisons:
- How has the fabric of Victorian prison buildings changed over time?
- How do Victorian prisons function today?
- What does it feel like to live and work in Victorian prisons?
- How has the cultural framing of the Victorian prison shaped the collective consciousness?
- What is the fallout of the continued operation of Victorian prisons?
We want to understand what these prisons are like to live and work in, and how has this changed over time. We are examining the ways that these prison buildings carry traces of the past, while operating in the present day.
The project considers how and why these buildings have survived for so long, and asks how we will know when they have reached the end of their operational lives. We consider the significance of the Victorian prison in shaping public and professional ideas of what prison should be like. Crucially, this project explores the implications of the continued operation of Victorian-era prisons for the contemporary prison service, and aims to inform policy development.
For more information, please visit the project website.
We are interested in speaking to former prison staff and people with lived experience of prison, about their experiences of these historic buildings.
If you are interested in sharing your experiences, we would love to hear from you!
Please email the project team at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: victorian-prisons.com/about/take-part
The research team
Meet the team behind The Persistence of the Victorian Prison project.
Dominique Moran is Professor of Carceral Geography in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, at the University of Birmingham, UK. She is interested in the relationship between people and places, and she brings this perspective to the prison, focusing on the lived experience of prison spaces, and the ways in which prison buildings influence those who live and work in them, and vice versa.
Matt Houlbrook is Professor of Cultural History in the Department of History, at the University of Birmingham, UK. He works on the cultural history of 20th century Britain, with particular interests in histories of gender and sexuality, space and identity, and the relationship between culture, crime, and politics.
Yvonne Jewkes is Professor of Criminology in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences, at the University of Bath. Her main research interests are prison architecture, design and technology, and how they can assist in rehabilitating offenders, enhancing prisoners’ quality of life and wellbeing, reducing trauma, improving prisoner-staff relations, and making prison staff feel like a professionalised and valued workforce.
Eleanor March is Research Fellow in Interdisciplinary Prison Research in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, at the University of Birmingham, UK. She researches cultural representations of the carceral, focusing on prisoner writing, literary and media representations of prisons, and prison history. Her research has an interdisciplinary focus, working across literature, carceral geography, criminology and history.