Prisons Research Group

The Prisons Research Group (PRG) at Middlesex University brings together staff and students to critically examine prison reform issues and debates in the context of ambitions for change, transformative prison rehabilitation and supported reintegration on release.

Our mission statement

Our research is underpinned by principles of social justice, humanity and the interaction of these with criminal justice processes and organisational delivery. These values inform our study of penal policy and practice, prison management, and prison institutional life and culture. We are committed to prison reform so that prisons are places of real life change and contribute to positive future outcomes for those incarcerated within them.

Our research

The PRG is made up of staff conducting rigorous independent research. Our studies are empirically driven and based on lived real experiences, as well as grounded in theoretical thought. Staff are engaged in in-depth qualitative research, large-scale quantitative surveys, and programme intervention evaluation research. Research is conducted as funded and unfunded enquiry, and as both exploratory and evidence-based studies. We foster and facilitate links with academics at other universities and with colleagues working in criminal justice professional practice and among staff and managers of prison establishments. Our research ideas and design are interdisciplinary and strengthened by the faculty subjects of law, psychology, social policy, social work and mental health practice at Middlesex University.

Our London location interests us in London-specific prison issues and staff are involved in examining the closure of London prisons, such as HMP Holloway women’s prison and the impact of this on prison staff, the prisoners, their children and families, and community integration on release.

We have prison research experience in a range of areas, including: prison drugs policy; the limitations of short prison sentences and value in community-based alternatives; youth custody and care; management of offenders with Personality Disorder (DSPD); research on drugs market organisation with people imprisoned on supply charges; examination of self-inflicted deaths in custody, and; theories of another course of action to prisons. Much of our criminal justice-focused research overlaps with punishment and imprisonment issues.

We held a prison roundtable event in February 2015, with a range of informative speakers, please look at the events section of this website for information and links to podcasts taken from the day.



In April 2017, The Prison Research Group hosted a follow up prison roundtable event that focused on recent prison reforms and challenges in the criminal justice system.  Audio recordings for all five of our speakers can now be viewed on our events page, or online on our soundcloud page.


The prison research group is hosting a follow up prison roundtable seminar on Tuesday 4th April 2017 9.00am-1.30pm Boardroom, College Building C219-220 Middlesex University, The Burroughs, London, NW4 4BT.

The event is titled: ‘Changing Prisons in Challenging Times- Revisited’

Confirmed speakers include: Professor Nick Hardwick (Chair of the Parole Board and Professor of Criminal Justice, Royal Holloway University of London), Professor Philip Leach and Natalie Gray (Middlesex University), Dr. Jenni Ward (Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Middlesex University), Dr. Amy Ludlow and Dr. Ruth Armstrong (Learning Together, Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University), Mr Nick Pascoe, (Executive Governor, Prison Reform – Coldingley and High Down) and Erwin James (author, Guardian columnist and Inside times editor).

Please see our event page for further information, free tickets and further information can be found HERE.


PRG group member Dr Jenni Ward, is having a book launch at Middlesex University, for her new work on 'Transforming Summary Justice: Moderation in the lower criminal Courts'.  The Launch will take place on Wednesday 15th February at 5pm.  For free tickets and more information please see HERE.


Middlesex University will teach a Criminology module at HMP Wandsworth as part of the ‘Learning Together’ network initiative. The Learning Together approach brings together students from universities and from within prisons to learn together, and learn from one another, in an innovative method of knowledge exchange and discussion.  For more details, please see our learning together page.


A follow-up prisons round table, entitled ‘Changing Prisons in Challenging Times Revisited’ will take place on the 3rd of April 12.00-4.30pm at Middlesex University, more details to follow.  For details of the first roundtable in 2015, including podcasts of the speakers, please see our events page.


Prison Research Group member, professor Philip Leach has been appointed Specialist Adviser to an inquiry on mental health and deaths in prison by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The inquiry, which was launched at the end of 2016, will seek to establish whether a human rights-based approach can help prevent mental health-related deaths in prison. Read more about the inquiry here.

Get in touch

Please contact Matthew Cracknell for any enquiries.

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