Contemporary prisons beyond the West are under-researched and ill-understood, though often subject to critique and condemnation. The Global Prisons Research Network, established in 2009, aims to fill the empirical gap created by the hegemony of the Anglo-American axis of comparison in prison studies by promoting and supporting indepth studies of prison practices in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and the former Soviet States.

Our aim is to illuminate prison life on the basis of critical, research-based understandings of prison practice and prison actors. The network will encourage ethnographic perspectives on prison practice and challenge the reduction of prisons in the global south and in transitional societies to examples of failure to live up to international best practice, norms and standards.

In order to create a rigorous empirical basis for future comparative projects the network will facilitate interaction between researchers, map the field of prison studies beyond the West and establish a shared knowledge-base. The network will strive to build bridges between theory and practice and make insights and findings accessible and available to prison actors at local and state levels and to promote local research capacity. Our ambition is that our joint endeavours might generate methodological tools and theoretical and analytical concepts which can illuminate not only penal institutions but also other complex institutional and societal practices contributing to the development of social theory more generally. The network also aims to create a supportive milieu for researchers engaged in such studies, acknowledging the demanding psychological and material nature of encounters in the field.