Criminalisation, punishment and expulsion of prisoners examined at conference

The imprisonment and incarceration of women in today’s Russia, and the long distances they are sent to serve their sentences, will be assessed in an international workshop at the University of Oxford next month.

The event, jointly held by the Universities of Oxford, Strathclyde and Birmingham, will consider the widespread practice of jailing women far from home in the last years of the USSR and in post-Soviet Russia and the extent to which penal reform in Russia has dealt with the issue.

Broader debate will concentrate on matters such as older prisoners, the effect of prisoners’ punishments on their families and the use of ‘transitional justice’ in societies undergoing change.

Experts in criminology, sociology, anthropology and geography will be taking part in the workshop, which explores many theoretical and visual themes and is the first interdisciplinary project on its subject, on 22-23 June.

Alongside conventional academic papers, the event will use photography, television and architectural images to discuss imprisonment against the background of social changes in societies including Northern Ireland and the USA. There will be a visual art presentation from Dara McGrath whose work featured in Ireland’s entry to the Venice Biennale arts festival in 2006.

By the end of 2007, approximately 64,000 women were in prison in Russia, part of a total prison population of 890,000.

Dr Laura Piacentini, a Reader in Criminology at the University of Strathclyde’s Law School and a co-organiser of the event, said: “The general experience of many of Russia’s prisoners is that they can be sent thousands of miles to serve out their time in penal colonies and settlements located in remote extra-urban locations.

“This practice has a long history in Russia but women continue to suffer disproportionately from ‘expulsion’ imprisonment. Many of the problems in the contemporary Russian penal system may be associated with the location of penal colonies- penal reform in Russia is complex and expensive and as with many large penal systems, minority groups in the prison population, such as women, are often the last to benefit from changes and improvements.

“Our workshop will be considering important questions which all of this raises about  direction of change in today’s penal system as well as the different ways groups of prisoners are treated in societies with high levels of imprisonment. We will also be considering wider themes on the criminalisation and punishment of other minority groups in prison and look forward to stimulating and informative debate.”

The workshop,  Gender, Geography & Punishment in Comparative Perspective, forms part of a four-year study by the Universities of Oxford, Strathclyde and Birmingham, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

For Further information – contact@

Dr Laura Piacentini

University of Strathclyde


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