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The Arts of Punishment: Experiences of Injustice, Prison & Artistic Expression

This page offers additional content on a series of interactive sessions focused on unpacking lessons we can derive from lived experiences of imprisonment and lived experiences of injustice that will take place in November 2021. All the panellists have been exposed, in different ways and degrees, to the structures, practices and impacts of criminal justice institutions, policies and rationales and have sought to use the arts and creative expression as a means to communicate and make sense of their experiences. Focusing on a number of enduring problems facing criminal justice, our panellists discuss how we might approach the current ‘crises’ of prisons and move towards challenging racism, discrimination, inequalities and stigma in the context of criminal justice. Through their work and art, they also invite us to think about social justice more broadly, questioning thus the viability of criminal justice in a fundamentally unjust world.

In particular the Q&A session on the 22nd of November is being organised as part of the final year Sociology module, SO350 Punishment, Justice & Control and is co-hosted by the Warwick Criminal Justice Centre and the Department of Sociology and was supported by a Social Engagement in the Curriculum fund.

This event draws directly from Dr. Chamberlen’s new project looking at the relationship between the arts – broadly conceived to incorporate music, drama, writing and the visual arts – and imprisonment. Specifically, her work in this area suggests that in order to understand the role and impact that the “prison arts” have on the institutions that host them, on the artists that create them, and their audiences beyond prison walls, it is important to frame art and punishment in the carceral context as co-existing in a complex, dynamic, often contradictory but curiously symbiotic relationship. While still in its embryonic stages, the project seeks to show through empirical engagement with prisoner arts that this relatively unexplored relationship needs to be comprehensively understood as it constitutes both unexplored territory in terms of understanding the effects and emotions of imprisonment, but also because of prison arts’ political promise to challenge current injustices.

For more questions on this project please contact Ana Chamberlen or visit her profile page here.

The Guest Speakers

Jason Smith, Spoken Word Artist, Workshop Facilitator and Mentor. Platinum award winning poet.

Jason has worked with keynote speakers, including Teresa Clarke of HMPPS when opening and closing the National Care Experienced People Conference with spoken word and by delivering a workshop. He has worked with Safe Ground – a criminal justice arts charity addressing criminal justice matters with Spoken word at the National Theatre, Roundhouse, St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, Tate Exchange and at Warwick University. He has worked for CRC as a Community Support Worker and has delivered spoken word and workshops nationally. Jason is a qualified drug and alcohol counsellor and works as a development coach for young people in care. He is a trustee of Safe Ground since 2018. Jason has lived experience of the criminal justice and care system.

Facebook page.


Brenda Birungi (Lady Unchained), Poet and Founder of Unchained Poetry

Brenda’s mission is to prove that there is life after prison. She is the Founder and Creative Director of Unchained Poetry, an artistic platform for artists with lived experience of the criminal justice system. She hosts Unchained Nights in partnership with Artsadmin at Toynbee Studios, a night of inspirational storytelling through poetry and music. Brenda runs poetry workshops in prisons and in the community in Women Centres such as Pecan part of Southwark Women’s hub to help women find their creative voice. She is now a member of the NCJAA Steering group and continues to challenge the ex-offender label through creativity.

BBC Sounds - Unchained


Charlotte Weinberg, Executive Director at Safe Ground since 2010 and Chair of Trustees at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies since 2017.

Charlotte has led Safe Ground through a period of sustained growth and diversification including a focus on innovation, evidence and quality standards. With significant direct experience as a youth worker and community arts activist, her career to date has incorporated a broad spectrum of roles, all in the field of reducing social harm and gendered approaches to community building. Charlotte’s history includes five years as a senior residential worker at a hostel supporting young people towards independence and two years as the coordinator of the detached youth work Saffron Young People’s Project, which worked with young people and families to influence service provision and policy at local and national level. Charlotte spent six years working for an NGO in Nicaragua, where she was part of the small leadership team of a mass media strategy for social change. She was responsible for the scripts, storylines and educational materials for the award winning social soap opera, Sexto Sentido. As a youth worker, she worked in a wide variety of youth club and community settings and has also worked as a drugs counsellor, a project manager for Clean Break theatre company and an Assistant Producer on a series of short films for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Charlotte continues to campaign for social change at policy level and, in her role at Safe Ground, sits on a number of strategic boards and steering groups including the Prisoner Learning Alliance, Your Family, Your Voice and the Reclaim Justice Network.