A Workshop to Examine Prisons, Prisoners, and Prison Records in Historical Perspective

Evan Roberts's picture


April 23-24 2019
University of Guelph, Canada

The rise of the prison as an institution of mass incarceration for offenders has for long fascinated
researchers. In part, this is due to the unusually detailed nature of most prison records. The wide
availability of somewhat similar sources across diverse European and European-derived societies
provides criminologists, social and economic historians, demographers and other social scientists
with rich collections of personal information that have been analysed intensively since the 1970s.
The increasing power of software and hardware and the accumulation of very large quantities of
prison data, some of it linked to other sources, offers challenges and opportunities for
researchers today. The workshop responds to the challenge of harnessing criminal justice records
by bringing together scholars in different disciplines and countries to share information about
their sources, methodologies of classification and analysis, and to reconceptualize research

This workshop welcomes researchers with an interest in one or more of several broad

  1. What research is now ongoing in Canada and elsewhere to examine prison and prisonlike institutions and their populations, and how does it fit into the rich history of research since the 1970s? Literature reviews and case studies that draw from ongoing research programmes are welcome.
  2. What difficulties are encountered as we try to understand the life experience of the incarcerated using records generated by an institution without permission from the incarcerated and often without their knowledge?
  3. What conceptual and methodological challenges are encountered in constructing and using databases that result from a digitization process and that describe an entire population of prisoners? How do we ensure that digitized resources created today will survive and be useful for future generations?
  4. Can we organize information about institutions in a way that will facilitate comparative analysis of prosecution, conviction and incarceration practices and experiences across jurisdictions?
  5. What does social science analysis of historical criminal justice records, criminology in the past, offer to scholars and policy-makers responding to current and future challenges?

Researchers who might like to offer a paper or simply join the discussion are encouraged to express their interest. Graduate students are especially welcome. The organizing committee consists of Catrien Bijleveld (Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement), François Fenchel (Université Laval), Donald Fyson (Université Laval), Barry Godfrey (University of Liverpool), Kris Inwood (University of Guelph) and Hamish Maxwell-Stewart (U of Tasmania).

Please direct a 250 word abstract by September 30 to Kris Inwood kinwood@uoguelph.ca.