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Breaking prison narratives

 Podcasts from the Prison and The Media event

 1st April 2019, Wolfson Theatre


Breaking prison narratives conference
Image designed by Manos Leontsinis

This event, supported by the Department of Sociology and the SPA and hosted by the Department of Social Policy and the Mannheim Centre for Criminology brought together screenwriters, novelists, documentary-makers, criminologists and others working in the criminal justice system to discuss and challenge media representations of penal issues.

The full programme is available here (pdf). The main sessions below were recorded to share with a wider audience.


Dr Meredith Rossner, co-director of the Mannheim Centre, opening the event as host.
Dr Marianne Colbran and Dr Ioanna Gouseti talking about aims of the event.
Dr Janet Foster, talking about the event more generally as Chair. 

What do we consume? Helpful vs.harmful narratives of crime and punishment

Professor Richard Sparks, Edinburgh, in conversation with Alex McBride, criminal barrister, author and screenwriter, Dan Sefton, author and screenwriter and Sean Black, author and screenwriter.

Listen to podcast here


Who do we see? Representations in fictional crime and punishment narratives

Professor Yvonne Jewkes, Bath, in conversation with Dr Deirdre O’Neill, academic, activist, film-maker and co-ordinator of Inside Film project and Geoff Hughes, former governor of HMP Belmarsh, Cardiff Prison and Roger Arthur Graef OBE, theatre director, filmmaker and Visiting Professor at LSE Mannheim Centre for Criminology.

Listen to podcast here


How are prison narratives constructed? Writers talking about researching their stories

Dr Rod Earle, Open University, in conversation with Isabelle Grey, author, journalist and screenwriter and Adam Hamdy, author and screenwriter.

Listen to podcast here


Bridging the gaps between academic and media narratives of crime and

Mollie Hanley, co-ordinator of Open Corporates – an organisation that aims to assist academics, activists and journalists researching crimes of the powerful.

Sean Black, Alex McBride, Dan Sefton, Adam Hamdy, Isabelle Grey, Dr Deirdre O’Neill, Geoff Hughes and Dr Rod Earle on how they think media practitioners can work more closely with academics to bridge the gap.

Professor Richard Sparks and Professor Yvonne Jewkes on their reflections on the day.

Podcast will be posted here shortly.


Speakers' bios (in alphabetical order)

Sean Black (David Young)

David Young is a reformed television writer who now writes novels under the pen name, Sean Black. As part of his research, he has trained as a close protection bodyguard in the UK and Europe, and for his sec-ond novel, Deadlock, spent time inside Pelican Bay Super-max prison in California. His latest novel, Second Chance, won the 2018 International Thriller Writers Award in New York.

His books have been translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Turkish and Russian.

Dr Marianne Colbran

Marianne Colbran is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the Mannheim Centre for Criminology at LSE and a Research Associate at the Centre for Criminology, Oxford.  She holds a PhD and MA from LSE and a BA in English Language and Literature from Oxford. Her first monograph. Media Representations of Police and Crime: Shaping The Television Drama, by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014, and explored the impact of production processes on  storytelling on nine British and European crime dramas from the last 25 years. Before becoming an academic, she was a television scriptwriter for thirteen years. She worked as a staff writer on The Bill for seven years and on Brookside for two years where one of her episodes was nominat-ed for a BAFTA in 2001. She is currently working on a monograph, Crime Reporting in the Digital Age, and has published recently on police/media relations in the United Kingdom post-Leveson.

Dr Rod Earle

Rod Earle is a senior lecturer in the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at The Open University. He is proud to work for an institution established in 1969 to challenge the elitist and exclusive traditions of higher education in the UK. In 2019 he is helping it to celebrate its 50th birthday by co-editing a book, De-grees of Freedom - The Open University’s Work in Prisons, that gathers first-hand accounts of prisoners who have studied with The Open University and critically reviews relationships between universities and prisons. Over the last few years Rod has helped to establish convict criminology in the UK, an approach to studying imprisonment that combines conventional academic perspectives with personal experience of imprisonment. His book, Convict Criminology - Inside and Out, is the first, sole-authored account of this approach to criminology.

Dr Janet Foster

Janet Foster- Associate Professor, London School of Economics

Janet Foster has extensive experience as a qualitative researcher on crime, community and policing issues and has published widely.  She has worked with a range of government departments and police forces across Britain and in Europe and; has worked with some of Britain’s most senior police officers, directing a bespoke programme for the Strategic Command Course at the University of Cambridge.  She has also act-ed as a special adviser to the Chief Constable of Norfolk, to assist their change programme; has been an Academic Advisor to the Home Office, HM Treasury and, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, at various times.  Janet co-managed the largest single piece of policing research ever undertaken in the UK to evaluate the impact of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry on policing (involving quantitative research in 17 forces and qualitative fieldwork in eight different sites across England and Wales).  While on secondment to the Police Foundation she was engaged in a range of action based research projects to improve po-lice/community engagement and access and service to ‘hard to reach’ groups. Janet is currently finishing a book on policing homicide:‘The Real Sherlocks’: Murder investigators at work.  This is based on three years of ethnographic research with homicide detectives and observations of cases from crime scene to court-room. 

Dr Ioanna Gouseti

Ioanna Gouseti is currently a Course Tutor in the Department of Sociology at The London School of Eco-nomics and Political Science. She convenes criminology and social research methods courses at the under-graduate and postgraduate levels. Her background is in Sociology, Criminology and Social Research Meth-odology. Her current research lies at the intersection of criminology and research methodology. She looks at the impact of crime information processing on public attitudes to crime and justice, such as fear of crime, and adopts an integrated methodological approach to the empirical exploration of these topics. Her wider research interests include risk perception, public criminology, sexual harassment, cultural criminol-ogy, gender and crime.

Dr Roger Graef

Roger Arthur Graef OBE is a theatre director and filmmaker. Born in New York, he moved to Britain in 1962, where he has made acclaimed documentary films with his ability to gain access to hitherto closed institutions, including Government ministries and court buildings. Roger has been involved with a four-part debate with Prof. Chris Stone of Harvard on the Today Programme about different phases of the criminal justice system. The episodes and an article he wrote for it are on justice debates. He was the Executive Producer for 'The Trouble with Pirates' for BBC, Swedish and German Tele-vision, exploring the conundrums around Somali piracy and its impact. 'Kids in Care', a Panorama Special that followed a group of teens and a three year old in care in Coventry. The pressures and problems of managing them were very clear, and the staff were seen as very gifted but still unable to control their charges. in Care. 'Requiem for Detroit', which explored the rise and fall and pos-sible rebirth of what was once the fourth largest city in America. This was also screened at a successful seminar at the LSE. Roger spoke about policing and the media at the Stockholm Criminology Conference in June, and also lectured at John Jay College and the Kennedy School for Government at Harvard in 2010. He was on a recent panel at the Royal Society of Arts about neighbourhood policing.

Isabelle Grey

Isabelle Grey is a freelance journalist, Accused. She had written four novels in an Essex-based crime series featuring DI Grace Fisher. The most recent, Wrong Way Home, was a Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month, and The Sunday Times described Grey as "one of the most intelligent authors of contemporary crime fiction".

Adam Hamdy

A graduate of Law from Oxford University, Adam Hamdy is a British screenwriter and author, who has worked with production companies and studios on both sides of the Atlantic. As an author, Adam has just signed a three book deal with Pan Macmillan, with the first book in the thriller series, Black Thirteen, to be published in autumn 2019, and two further novels due in 2020 and 2021. Under Adam’s previous three book deal with Headline, his debut novel, a thriller entitled Pendulum was selected by Amazon for their Rising Stars 2016 list, and optioned to Universal Media Studios for Adam to adapt as a TV series.

As a screenwriter, Adam is currently working on a TV series adaptation of the post-apocalyptic novel One Second After for Constantin Film; an original TV series Boneseekers for DRG; a TV film about internet hacker Aaron Swartz for former Lionsgate COO Guy Avshalom’s new company BlackBox Multimedia and Academy award-winning Italian production company, Indigo Films; a Vatican set thriller feature entitled Kings Of Rome for German production company DCM and US producer John Lesher; and an original action thriller feature, The Fear, with Academy award-winning British production company CrossDay Productions.

Mollie Hanley

Mollie Hanley is community organiser at OpenCorporates, the largest open database of companies in the world. Her role includes running open data campaigns and supporting the journalists and investigators who use OpenCorporates to ensure they make as much of an impact as possible. @molliehanley

Geoff Hughes

Geoff was born and raised in Usk, Monmouthshire and was educated at Monmouth School. He was a teacher for nine years before joining HM Prison Service in 1981 as an Assistant Governor, spending 27 years working in over 100 prisons in England and Wales. He is a former Governor of HM Prison Belmarsh - the highest security prison in UK, a former Governor of Cardiff Prison and Drake Hall women’s prison and retired in 2008 as the Area Manager for public sector prisons in Wales. He also held posts in Prison Service Headquarters, including Head of Security. Geoff spent four years on secondment to HM Inspectorate of Prisons and in 1999 was awarded a Sir Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to study prison inspection in Finland and Sweden and has travelled to over 25 countries as a consultant in prison reform.

He is currently Chairman and independent member of the Standards Committee of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, former independent member of the Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner’s Audit Committee for Gwent and an independent member of the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for South Wales. He is a trustee of the Roger Edwards Educational Trust (Usk) and has also been a Council Member of the Royal London Society and is a Director of “Inside Time”. He also works as an expert witness in Court Cases and as prisons adviser for several television programmes including Father Brown, The Cor-oner and Eastenders.

Geoff’s extra curricula interests include Rugby (played for Newport, Pontypool, Cross Keys, Bath and Mon-mouthshire), skiing and travel. In September 2010 he climbed Mt Kilimanjaro with 15 former Welsh Rugby Captains to raise money for research into lung cancer at Velindre Hospital.

Professor Yvonne Jewkes

Yvonne Jewkes is Professor of Criminology at the University of Bath. Her main current area of expertise is prisons and imprisonment, particularly the architecture and design of prisons, which she has been re-searching for over a decade. Yvonne has been the recipient of two Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grants: one a comparative study of prison design in England and Wales, Scotland, Norway and Denmark (2014-2017), and one an investigation of whether prisons can rehabilitate through their design, management and culture (2018-2020). She was also the recipient of a Foundation of Sociology of Health and Illness award for research into trauma-informed design for women’s prisons. Yvonne has worked ex-tensively as a consultant on the planning and design of new prison facilities, including for the UK Ministry of Justice, the Irish Prison Service, Corrections Victoria in Australia and the New Zealand Department of Corrections. She has also worked with numerous architects around the world on custodial design. Yvonne’s other main research expertise is in constructions of crime and punishment by the media. She is author of the best-selling Media and Crime (Sage Publications) which will shortly be published in its 4th revised edi-tion. With Travis Linnemann (Eastern Kentucky University), she published Media and Crime in the US (Sage, 2017). Yvonne was a founding editor of Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal and will shortly be launching another new journal on Incarceration.

Alex McBride

Alex McBride is a criminal barrister, author and screenwriter. His non-fiction book, Defending The Guilty: Truth And Lies In The Criminal Courtroom, published by Penguin, was shortlisted for the 2010 Crime Writ-ers' Association Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction. He has co-adapted it with Keiron Quirke as a comedy series for Big Talk Productions, currently in production to transmit on BBC2 in 2019, starring Katherine Parkinson and Will Sharpe (Flowers).

Alex is currently developing an original legal series for BBC Studios. He has contributed to the writers room and is writing two episodes of Dan Sefton’s crime series Mallorca Files for Cosmopolitan Films/BBC Daytime to transmit in 2019, and has co- created an original prison horror series, Black Marsh, which he is currently writing with Dan Sefton for Seven Seas Films.

Alex selected and introduced six classic murder trials from the legendary Famous Trials series of real-life courtroom dramas as Penguin Specials for modern readers, is the author of the 'Common Law' column in Prospect magazine and has contributed to the Guardian, Independent and New Statesman, as well as to various BBC programmes, including From Our Own Correspondent.

Deirdre O’Neill

Deirdre O’ Neill is a working class lecturer and filmmaker.

Her recent book Film as a Radical Pedagogic Tool explores the way in which a radical pedagogy of film grounded in the experiences, class location and everyday realities of the working class can provide a start-ing point for a critical engagement with and a materialist understanding of how society is organised.

She is the co-coordinator of the Inside Film Project ( She has co-directed (with Mike Wayne) three films: Listen to Venezuela ( and Condition of the Working Class ( Their most recent film is The Acting Class about the lack of working class actors (

Dr Meredith Rossner

Meredith Rossner is an Associate Professor of Criminology in the LSE Law Department and the co-director of the Mannheim Centre for Criminology. Before joining the LSE, she was a research fellow at the Univer-sity of Western Sydney. She holds a PhD in Criminology and Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania and a MA and BA from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include emotions and inter-actions in criminal justice, criminology theory, restorative justice, and lay participation in justice. She is editor of LSE Law Policy Briefing Papers.

Dan Sefton

Dan Sefton is an experienced screenwriter and qualified medical doctor. Original network drama projects Delicious (Sky TV) and The Good Karma Hospital (ITV) have both been recommissioned for third seasons, with Delicious being the highest rating Sky launch of 2016 and The Good Karma Hospital nominated for a TV Choice Award for best new drama. Original drama series Trust Me was transmitted on BBC1 in July 2017 and Hulu later that year and nominated for a Scottish BAFTA for Best Scripted Series. The BBC have recommissioned a new series to shoot in Autumn 2018. Sitcom Porters starring Rutger Hauer launched in the Autumn on UKTV in 2017 and series two is being shown in Spring 2019 on UKTV. New series The Mal-lorca Files is currently filming on location and will be shown on the BBC, ZDF (Germany) and France Deux in the coming year.

Professor Richard Sparks

Richard Sparks is Professor of Criminology at the University of Edinburgh. He was formerly Head of the School of Law there (2014-17), and was a founding Co-Director of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research ( (2006-16).

Amongst other subjects, Richard has had career-long interests in media representations of crime (from Television and the Drama of Crime, Open University Press, 1992 onwards) and prisons (from Sparks et al. Prisons and the Problem of Order, OUP, 1996 to Dzur, Loader and Sparks, Democratic Theory and Mass Incarceration, OUP, 2016)

Richard is Convener of Howard League Scotland.