Calls For Research 01 Prisons

The first call for research comes from the Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee (IWOC) which is a prisoner-led section of the Industrial Workers of the World. IWOC spoke at the most recent History Acts on Prison Abolition.

IWOC are looking for historical research on:

  • the role of public sector unions in influencing penal policy, prison expansion, prison regimes, etc
  • the role of the private sector as above
  • the historical role of prison labour. continuities and discontinuities (including between institutions, eg. workhouses and later prisons). changing composition of industries. introduction and development of private sector contracts, etc.
  • revenues and expenditure
  • impacts of prisons on local, regional, and national public and community sector service provision (eg. healthcare).
  • the role of reforms in expansion or innovation (eg. significant population increase following introduction of parole). especially the relationship between decarceration and the implementation of alternative disciplinary technologies.
  • the exchange between domestic and colonial prisons

They are also really up for ongoing communication, so if people do know of any research in these areas we’d really appreciate an email, and that we’re really happy to share any research we’ve done ourselves with researchers in the field – so just get in touch!

To discuss this further please contact
Please title your email ‘Relevant Research’.

IWOC unfurl a banner at History Acts 14, Prison Abolition – Tuesday 22 January 2019

14: Prison Abolition

Tuesday 22 January 6PM-8PM

Birkbeck College, Room:GOR 327,
43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD.


Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee (IWOC) is a prisoner-led section of the Industrial Workers of the World. IWOC struggles to end prison slavery along with allies and supporters on the outside. On September 9, 2016 it was part of a coalition of inside and outside groups that launched the largest prison strike in US history. Resistance to prison slavery continues with work stoppages, hunger strikes and other acts of resistance to business as usual.

The Empty Cages Collective is a project aimed at building a movement in England, Wales and Scotland that resists the prison industrial complex and organises towards a prison-free world.


Oisín Wall is an historian and curator based in University College Dublin at the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland. He is currently working on the Wellcome funded project Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000. His strand of research is focused on the instrumentalization of health by non-political prisoner activists and the prisoner rights movement in Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s..

Ben Bethell is a PhD student at Birkbeck, University of London, researching a thesis titled ‘“Star men”: first-offender classification in English convict prisons, 1863-1914’.  His publications include ‘An exception too far: “gentleman” convicts and the 1878-9 Penal Servitude Acts Commission’, Prison Service Journal 232 (July 2017) and ‘Defining “unnatural crime”: sex and the English convict system, 1850-1900’ in Sean Brady & Mark Seymour (eds.) From Sodomy Laws to Same-Sex Marriage: International Perspectives since 1789 (Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming 2019).