Funded by the Leverhulme Trust for two years starting March 2015, our overarching question is: How are Russian penal policies and practices responding to developments in rights consciousness amongst prisoners?

The aims of this research are threefold

  • To map the trends, and understand the patterns, of how prisoners understand rights, and how rights consciousness shapes understandings about prison as a place of punishment;
  • To mobilise understanding and knowledge exchange between the policies and practices in Russia and other European prison jurisdictions;
  • To contextualise current experiences of penal reform and human rights with respect to the history and culture of Soviet and post-Soviet penal policy and practices.

As we say above, key to our project is to develop meaningful knowledge exchange between Russia and the West in order to better understand how Russia is responding to new world prison challenges. Our focus is mainly on prisoners, but we also hope to hear from those whose lives are touched by incarceration more broadly such as families and friends. We intend to promote best practices and positive experiences of the penal reform process where we can.

We are using a mixed methodology to gather new empirical knowledge that, in this current phase, consists of participating in online-social media sites and working in a professional and appreciative way with other prison-web-site users to better understand the issues and challenges facing those who are connected to Russian prisons.

We appreciate the need for confidentiality and anonymity and no names will be asked or published during our fieldwork. We will follow the University of Strathclyde’s code of research ethics, which we are required to do as part of our study.

The project has three key beneficiary groups:

  1. Prisoners and their families;
  2. Local and national policy makers and the third sector who work in the area of reforming Russian prisons;
  3. Other international prison systems that can learn from Russia in how to respond to, and engage with, reform agendas.