British Society of Criminology annual conference in Newcastle a small group of academics discussed the viability of establishing a Convict Criminology group, modelled loosely on a similar organisation established in the USA. These discussions arose from personal experience of conducting prison research and becoming more aware of the significance of corresponding experiences of ‘doing time’ and ‘crime’ for some of us. It is possible that in the UK the expansion of both University criminology courses and prisons over the last twenty years may have generated an otherwise unlikely convergence of experience that we feel is potentially productive but overlooked and underexplored.
Our intentions at this stage are very open as we don’t want to set fixed and rigid agendas for the potential grouping. We don’t know how many people such a group would appeal to so we are asking readers of this [BSC] newsletter to indicate if they are interested or know of others who may be. The group is not intended to be only for those with prison experiences (i.e. ex-convicts in the US vernacular) and we welcome wider support. Disclosure of any such relevant past is a matter of personal discretion that should be respected by all. We want to avoid privileging or stigmatising particular convictions or time inside. Having said that, we don’t think it would be appropriate for ex-prisoners to be a minority in the group. We would thus ask people, when contacting us at this stage to declare an absence of convictions by just putting ‘non-con’ after their name. The last thing we want to do is operate as some kind of reverse CRB vetting procedure but doing so will help us to establish the contours of interest in the group. Early indications from our own networks are that such a group could be viable and productive. It would deepen and enrich criminology’s perspectives on prison and other forms of criminal sanction by introducing some of those views most commonly excluded and hard to elicit.
- Providing support to prisoners and ex-prisoners in establishing themselves as academics in criminology and its cognate disciplines
- Developing critical perspectives on prisons and research with/on prisoners and former prisoners
- Utilising our collective knowledge, experiences and expertise to influence, or at least attempt to influence, policy change through our academic work and connections to advocacy/campaign groups
- Developing strong links with non-statutory sector organisations in the field i.e. penal reform advocacy & campaign groups
- Developing the membership and profile of the group through organising seminars, guest lectures and conferences
- Sharing experiences and developing ideas that draw from the convergence of academic study of prison and experience of it as a prisoner.
We will try to acknowledge all contacts and, having consolidated them, organize a meeting to discuss how we might develop and guide the group. We look forward to hearing from you and please pass the word around.