Dr Sharon Shalev

Sharon Shalev

Department: Mannheim Centre for Criminology| ;Contact details: +44 (0)20 7955 6263; S.Shalev@lse.ac.uk| ;LSE experts:
Dr Sharon Shalev| ;Personal website: solitary confinement.org|

Sharon Shalev is a human rights worker and a criminologist. She gained her first degree in Political Science and International Affairs at Tel Aviv University and later took a post with the human rights organisation Israeli-Palestinian Physicians for Human Rights.

 In 1995 she left her post to pursue an LLM in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Essex University. In 1998 she joined the LSE where she completed a PhD thesis on supermax prisons in the United States and later took part in the making of a documentary film on these prisons, filmed and broadcast in the United States.

She has since published widely on supermax prisons and solitary confinement and acts as an independent consultant in these areas. She is a Research Fellow at the Mannheim Centre for Criminology and an Associate at the International Centre for Prison Studies.



  • Supermax: controlling risk through solitary confinement (Willan, 2009)
  • winner of the BSC book prize 2010

    The book examines the rise and proliferation of 'supermaxes', large prisons dedicated to holding prisoners in prolonged and strict solitary confinement, in the United States since the late 1980s.

    Drawing on unique access to two supermax prisons and on in-depth interviews with prison officials, prison architects, current and former prisoners, mental health professionals, penal, legal, and human rights experts, it provides a holistic view of the theory, practice and consequences of these prisons. Given the historic uses of solitary confinement, the book also traces continuities and discontinuities in its use on both sides of the Atlantic over the last two centuries.

    It argues that rather than being an entirely 'new' form of imprisonment, supermax prisons draw on principles of architecture, surveillance and control which were set out in the early 19th century but which are now enhanced by the most advanced technologies available to current day prison planners and administrators, and asks why a form of confinement which had been discredited in the past is now proposed as the best solution for dealing with 'difficult', 'dangerous' or 'disruptive' prisoners.


    1 Introduction: the supermax phenomenon
    2 Solitary confinement as a penal strategy: a brief history
    3 Factors and actors in the rise of supermax prisons
    4 Ideologies of control: discourses on the goals and roles of supermax prisons
    5 The bureaucratisation of control: prisoner classification and placement in supermax prisons
    6 Technologies of control: the architectural design, physical fixtures and security arrangements in supermax prisons
    7 Inside a supermax: daily routines and prisoner provision
    8 The dynamics of control: views from the control room, views from the cells
    9 Evaluating supermax confinement
    -- Appendix
    -- Bibliography
    -- Index

publisher's site|

  • A Sourcebook on Solitary Confinement (2008)

The sourcebook, available in full at solitaryconfinement.org|, provides a single reference point for those concerned with the practice of solitary confinement.

Its purpose is to a) inform prison operational staff, health professionals, and policy makers of the human rights position regarding solitary confinement, of ethical and professional standards and codes of practice relating to prisoner isolation, and of research findings on the health effects of solitary confinement, and b) propose safeguards and best practice in light of the above. More broadly, it aims to raise awareness of the potential consequences of prolonged solitary confinement.

Work on the Sourcebook was carried out with the generous support of the Nuffield Foundation's Access to Justice Programme.


1 Introduction
2 The health effects of solitary confinement
3 The decision to place prisoners and detainees in solitary confinement
4 Design, physical conditions and regime in solitary confinement units
5 The role of health professionals in segregation units: ethical, human rights and professional guidelines
6 Monitoring and inspecting solitary confinement units
7 Summary of recommendations
-- Appendix 1: Selected texts
-- Appendix 2: The Istanbul statement on the use and effects of solitary confinement
-- Acronyms and abbreviations
-- Links & Resources
-- Bibliography


  • 'The power to classify: avenues into a supermax prison', in Crime, Social Control and Human Rights. From moral panics to states of denial. Essays in Honour of Stanley Cohen. Eds. D. Downes, P. Rock, C. Chinkin, and C. Gearty. Willan Publishing, Cullompton, Devon, 2007, 107-119

The work of Stanley Cohen over four decades has come to acquire a classical status in the fields of criminology, sociology and human rights. His writing, research, teaching and practical engagement in these fields have been at once rigorously analytical and intellectually inspiring. It amounts to a unique contribution, immensely varied yet with several unifying themes, and it has made, and continues to make, a lasting impact around the world. His work thus has a protean character and scope which transcend time and place.

This book of essays in Stanley Cohen's honour aims to build on and reflect some of his many-sided contributions. It contains chapters by some of the world's leading thinkers as well as the rising generation of scholars and practitioners whose approach has been shaped in significant respects by his own.

publisher's site|

  • (With D. Guinea) 'The Use of Solitary Confinement in England and Wales'. Translated to French and published as: La detention en isolement dans les prisons Europeennes, in: Zingoni-Fernandez M. et Giovannini, N. Les regimes speciaux de detention en Italie et en Espagne et les measures administratives en France et au Royaume Uni. Bruxelles: Bruylant, 2004, .63-96. 
  • (Contributor) 'Doctors and Weapons' in: The Medical Profession & Human Rights: Handbook for a changing agenda. British Medical Association, London: Zed Books. 2001, pp.265-289