The relationship between the prison and the public will be the topic of debate during a special conference at Edge Hill University.

State punishment, law and order has always kindled the public imagination and in more recent years the ‘private’ world of the prison has become increasingly exposed.

In light of this ever-increasing public interest in prisons, this one-day conference on 27th March has been co-organised by lecturers in the University’s Department of Law and Criminology and the Department of English and History to explore the variety of means through which the prison has become connected with the public.

As well as criminological and historical analysis, The Prison and the Public will focus on topics such as representations of prisons in film, TV and literature, the role of journalism in relation to the prison, visual images of and from the prison in art and photography, and the construction and purpose of prison museums and exhibitions.

Dr Alyson Brown, Reader in History at Edge Hill University, has a particular interest in prisons as tourist attractions as a good way of telling the story of British justice and punishment.

She said: “People are drawn towards attractions that are linked in one way or another with death, suffering, violence or disaster. My work focuses on the prison as a site of ‘dark tourism’ and why former prisons have become popular tourist destinations.”

Dr Alana Barton, Reader in Criminology, is working alongside her on this area of research. She explained: “Dartmoor, for example, is one of the oldest British prisons still in use. Opened in 1809, it quickly gained a brutal reputation that its later history has done little to dispel. The image of Dartmoor has loomed large in England’s penal and cultural past and endures because of its combination of architecture and inmate population, as well as its unique capacity to invoke, within the public consciousness, an idealised and even mythical representation of prisons. Yet this isn’t the reality of all prisons and this is something we’d like to examine at the conference to dispel this stereotype.”

This and other topics will be debated during the conference, which includes keynote speakers Dr Jamie Bennett, Governor of HMP Grendon, Editor of the Prison Service Journal and Research Associate at the Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford; and Eric Allison, prisons correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, trustee of the Shannon Trust and a former prisoner.

Academics, writers, practitioners, artists, journalists, archivists and curators, and those who work within TV and film still have time to submit papers for inclusion.  Abstracts of 250 words and a short biography should be submitted by Friday 22nd February to browna@edgehill.ac.uk or bartona@edgehill.ac.uk.

For more information or to book a place on the conference, visit the website www.ehu.ac.uk/booktheprisonandthepublic.