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Expressions of Punishment: Emotions, Identities and Lived Experiences in English Prisons

Expressions of Punishment

What can we learn about justice from people who have been in prison? Does prison work? How might we address the problems raised by crime and punishment?

Dr Anastasia Chamberlen, Department of Sociology

Expressions of Punishment explored prisoners’ experiences of the criminal justice system in the light of the current prison crisis. It encourages participants to consider what life inside prison is like, and to engage with questions about social justice and prison reform.

Dr Chamberlen’s events drew on her research on experiences of imprisonment and social attitudes towards punishment to open up the debate about the current crisis in English prisons. Her research findings were showcased through a range of interactive activities that invited visitors to engage directly with the experiences of those in the criminal justice system.

As we, the books, shared our narratives with people there was a joining when open minds walked along story lines of our pages into our pasts. In this, both reader and writer gained inspiration for a new narrative.

Feedback from a Human Library participant

The Human Library

Human Libraries are a growing international movement, seeking to build positive conversations and social change by challenging prejudice, stereotypes and stigma. Warwick Tate Exchange hosted a Human Library in collaboration with the Howard League, the criminal justice arts organisation Safe Ground (which focuses on rebuilding relationships and providing rehabilitation resources in prison), and the independent reading consultant and prisons expert, David Kendall.


Men and women with lived experience of the criminal justice system acted as ‘books’ for visitors to engage with in conversation in order to listen, empathise, and learn from their experiences. You can read David Kendall's reflection on the experience in his blog.


Probationary: The Game of Life on License is an interactive board game designed by artist Hwa Young Jung which explores different stages of criminal justice and life after release from prison.

The Chamber

The Chamber was an interactive theatre workshop facilitated by Face Up Theatre and Ride Out (Creative Arts for Rehabilitation) which invited participants to participate in a fictional parliamentary chamber debating punishment and the criminal justice system.