26 August 2010


Peter Scharff-Smith

The actual event took place at the Law Faculty of the University of Copenhagen from Monday 14th to Tuesday 15th May 2007. The following is a description of the programme with brief notes outlining the contents of the various presentations:
Linda Kjær Minke, Peter Scharff Smith, Andrew M. Jefferson
Linda, Andrew, and Peter welcomed the participants and introduced the seminar theme. Drawing on Scandinavian and international examples they described how observers from different disciplines have confronted each other through their prison studies, which has given rise to heated disputes and misunderstandings on the one hand, but to fruitful interdisciplinary research on the other.
Ben Crewe PhD, University of Cambridge, UK
Ben Crewe gave a description of how sociology has contributed to the study of prisons all the way from the classical work of Gresham Sykes, James B. Jacobs, and others, up until today. He touched upon different methodological issues and various interpretations concerning the meaning of, for example, order, legitimacy, and power in a prison context. Finally Ben described five different prisoner typologies based on his own recent fieldwork.
Minna Ruckenstein PhD, Finland 
Minna Ruckenstein described how anthropologists have confronted the prison with a number of ontological questions, which has given rise to different types of anthropological prison studies: one focusing on exploring the interior life of the prison, another on tracing collective histories of imprisonment, and finally the third type of prison studies, which have tried to deconstruct the various functions and aims of imprisonment.
Charlotte Mathiassen PhD, Denmark’s University of Education 
Charlotte Mathiassen adopted a historical perspective and traced some of the important tendencies in psychological and psychiatric research on prisoners, criminals, and deviants from the 19th century theory of degeneration, over moral insanity to the concept of psychopathy, and recent neurological research on abnormal brains.
The participants gathered in groups where each member gave a brief description of his or hers current prison research, which was followed by a discussion where group members sought to apply their disciplinary perspectives to the various projects.
Roddy Nilsson PhD, Lund University, Sweden 
Roddy Nilsson gave a historiographical presentation of how prison history has developed from the late 19th century up until today. He identified three types/periods of prison history: a) an evolutionist prison history which adopted and praised the so-called “reform perspective” and told a story of perpetual progress; b) “Revisionism” – the Marxist and Foucauldian social control perspective of the 1960s and 1970s; c) Recent tendencies – prison history has taken off in many directions often based on empirically strong studies as well as a critique of the revisionist literature.
Hans Draminsky Petersen MD, member of Sub Committee on Prevention of Torture 
Hans Draminsky made a presentation of a study on the assessment of the quality of medical documents issued in central police stations in Madrid in Spain. In doing so he described how Doctors could and should contribute to prevent ill-treatment of detained individuals, but he also described how medical staff can overlook or become involved in practices of ill-treatment.
Professor Pat Carlen,  Kent University, UK 
Finally Pat Carlen talked about “imaginary penalities”, “risk crazed governance”, and the way that knowledge is controlled and sometimes suppressed in the area of penal policy. Pat concluded that the political functions of the prison are far too many and contradictory and used a study of an Australian prison as an example, which illustrated how official policy and actual practice can sometimes have almost nothing to do with each other.
As organizers we were satisfied to have been able to gather qualified persons from a variety of Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland). Our sense from the meeting and discussions afterwards is that participants appreciated the chance to network, to be part of an inspiring inter-disciplinary milieu and to look beyond national borders. Our two guests from the UK Pat Carlen and Ben Crewe both expressed interest in becoming honorary Scandinavians so they could continue to participate in the network. A concrete output resulting from the seminar has been the production of a flyer which has subsequently been distributed at international prison conferences, the aim being to raise the profile of the network.

Status:    Finished
Country: Denmark
Contact: pss@humanrights.dk

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