Black to Red: the Politics of Prison Reform in the former Soviet Union

Room 715 Muirhead Tower
Wednesday 21 November 2018 (15:00-16:30)

Please contact Dr Nino Kemoklidze

Joint CREES/POLSIS Departmental Seminar with Dr Gavin Slade, Associate Professor of Sociology at Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan. 

Prisons in the former Soviet Union are marked by legacies of the Gulag. In particular, the form prison takes involves communal punishment in open space known as ‘colonies’. In these colonies complex forms of self-governing among prisoners emerged. In the present day, in a number of states in the region these self-governing structures have come to be conceptualised as a form of organised crime and prison gangs. Governments have implemented policies of prison reform to tackle this issue – known colloquially as turning ‘black’ (controlled by prisoners) prisons into ‘red’ prisons (controlled by the regime). However, the outcomes have been highly variable across states. Utilising interviews and survey data with prisoners, policy-makers and experts, this talk will examine the politics of prison reform in four countries: Georgia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Lithuania. These countries provide variation in levels of reform and outcomes. The talk analyses why and how prison reform becomes problematised and what determines the outcomes of reform efforts. 

Gavin Slade is an Associate Professor in Sociology at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan. He has previously held positions at the University of Toronto, Freie Universitat Berlin and the University of Glasgow. He researches criminal justice issues in the former Soviet Union with a specific interest in policing, prisons and organised crime. His book Reorganizing Crime: Mafia and Anti-Mafia in Post-Soviet Georgia was published by Oxford University Press in 2013.

This event is open to the public and is free to attend.