skip to primary navigationskip to content
 

Professor Alison Liebling

Professor Alison Liebling

Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Director, Prisons Research Centre


Office Phone: +44 (0)1223 335371

Biography:

Alison Liebling is Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Cambridge and the Director of the Institute of Criminology’s Prisons Research Centre. After completing an MA in Criminology at Hull University, for which she was granted a distinction, Alison worked on a study of young offender throughcare with Professor Keith Bottomley from 1986-7, before undertaking her PhD on suicides in prison at the Cambridge Institute of Criminology. During the years 1991-2000 she attracted research fellowships from Trinity Hall, Leverhulme and the ESRC (rated 'outstanding'), enabling her to carry out research on staff-prisoner relationships, the work of prison officers, vulnerability to suicide, small units for difficult prisoners, incentives and earned privileges, and prison privatization.

Her main interests lie in the changing shape and effects of imprisonment; the role of values in criminal justice; and in the role of safety, trust and fairness in shaping the prison experience.

She has carried out a significant programme of research on measuring the moral quality of prison life, the effectiveness of suicide prevention strategies in prison, and values, practices and outcomes in public and private sector corrections. This cumulative body of work, with others, has suggested that the concept of 'personal development' may function as an intermediate outcome measure when evaluating the effects of prison sentences. She is particularly interested in the role of prison officers, in general, but also in bridging the 'gap' between interventions and the prison environment. Her most recent research is on prison privatization, and staff-prisoner relationships and prisoner social organisation in high security prisons.

She has recently been awarded new research contracts to explore the measurement and conceptualization of prison climates and cultures, an evaluation of drug recovery wings (with a team from York University), and the building of trust in high security settings.

She has 7 current PhD students. She is interested in receiving future PhD applications in the areas above, or in areas related to the prison experience, the work of prison officers, and in the prevention of ill-treatment, in the UK or elsewhere.

Alison has published several books, including Suicides in Prison (1992), Prisons and their Moral Performance: A Study of Values, Quality and Prison Life (2004), The Effects of Imprisonment (2005) (with Shadd Maruna), the second edition of her book, The Prison Officer (2011) (with David Price and Guy Shefer) and Legitimacy and Criminal Justice: International Explorations (2013) (with Justice Tankebe). She has also published widely in criminological journals. She has completed a repeat of a highly regarded study of staff-prisoner relationships at Whitemoor high security prison in 2010, which explored the changing nature of high security prison dynamics. 

Research Interests

Professor Liebling has conducted a wide range of empirical research in prisons, including studies of young offender throughcare; an evaluation of two small units for difficult prisoners in Scotland; an evaluation of Wolds private remand centre; an evaluation of incentives and earned privileges; an ethnographic study of staff-prisoner relationships; a study of the decision-making process on discretionary life sentence panels; an evaluation of close supervision centres for difficult prisoners; and several studies on measuring the quality of prison life. She has carried out a detailed evaluation of the relationship between prison quality and prison suicide, a study of prolific self-harm at Peterborough Prison, and the development of a quality of life survey for prison staff. Her research includes a detailed study of values, practices and outcomes in public and private sector corrections (funded by the ESRC) and a repeat of the study of staff-prisoner relationships at HMP Whitemoor.

Key Publications

Recent publications relating to the Trust project

Liebling, A., Armstrong, R., Bramwell, R. and Williams, R. (2015) ‘Locating trust in a climate of fear: religion, moral status, prisoner leadership, and risk in maximum security prisons - key findings’. Final report submitted to ESRC (available from authors).

Liebling, A. (2015) ‘A new ‘ecology of cruelty’? The changing shape of maximum security custody in England and Wales’ in Keramet, R. and Koenig, A. Extraordinary Punishment: An Empirical Look at Administrative Black Holes in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Palgrave MacMillan. 91-114.

Liebling, A. (2014) ‘Moral and Philosophical Problems of Long-Term Imprisonment’, Studies in Christian Ethics, vol. 27 no. 3 258-269.

Liebling, A (2013) ‘Legitimacy under pressure’ in high security prisons, in J Tankebe and A Liebling (eds) Legitimacy and Criminal Justice: An International Exploration Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.206-226.

Liebling, A. (2013) Identity and emotion in a high security prison, Criminal Justice Matters, 91:1, 22-23

Liebling, A. and Arnold, H. (2012) ‘Social relationships between prisoners in a maximum security prison: violence, faith, and the declining nature of trust’, Journal of Criminal Justice, 40(5): 413-424.

Liebling, A. and Straub, C. (2012), 'Identity Challenges and the Risks of Radicalisation in High Security Custody', Prison Service Journal. Special Edition: Combating Extremism and Terrorism, No. 203: 15-22.

Liebling, A. (2011) ‘Moral performance, inhuman and degrading treatment, and prison pain’, Punishment and Society 13(5): 530-550.

Liebling, A., Arnold, H and Straub, C (2011) An Exploration of Staff-Prisoner Relationships at HMP Whitemoor: Twelve Years On, London: National Offender Management Service

Recent publications about methods

Liebling, A. and Costa, J. (forthcoming 2016) ‘Being human as a method and research finding in social science’ in Coffman, D. (eds) Festschrift for Jonathan Steinberg, Anthem Press.

Liebling, A (2015) ‘Appreciative inquiry, generative theory, and the ‘failed state’ prison’, in J. Miller and W. Palacios, (eds) Advances in Criminological Theory, Transaction Publishers, pp. 251-270.

Liebling, A., Arnold, H., and Straub, C. (2015) ‘Prisons Research Beyond the Conventional: Dialogue, ‘Creating Miracles’ and Staying Sane in a maximum security prison’, Drake, D., Earle, R., & Sloan, J. (eds) International Handbook of Prison Ethnography, Palgrave McMillan, pp. 59-79.

Liebling, A. (2015) ‘Description at the edge? I‐It / I‐Thou Relations and Action in Prisons Research’, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 4 (1) 18:32.

Liebling, A. (2014) ‘Postscript: Integrity and Emotion in Prisons Research’, Qualitative Inquiry, 20 (4): 481-486

Liebling, A. (2012) 'What is ‘MQPL'? Solving Puzzles about the Prison’, Prison Service Journal, No.202: 3-5.

Liebling, A. (2011) ‘Being a Criminologist: Investigations as a Lifestyle and Living’, in M. Bosworth and C. Hoyle (eds) What is Criminology?, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 518-529.

Liebling, A., Crewe, B. and Hulley, S. (2011) 'Conceptualising and Measuring the Quality of Prison Life', in D. Gadd, S. Karstedt and S. F. Messner (eds) The Sage Handbook of Criminological Research Methods, London: Sage Publishing, pp. 358-372.

Liebling, A. (2009) ‘Identifying and Measuring Prison Moral Climates’ in The Correctional Psychologist, IACFP quarterly newsletter, International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology (IACFP).

Liebling, A. (2009) ‘Research as reform?’, Criminal justice matters, 77(1): 18-19.

Liebling, A. (2008) 'Measuring the Quality of Prison Life (MQPL)', in Y. Jewkes and J. Bennett (eds) Dictionary of Prisons and Punishment.  Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, pp. 163-164.

King, R. D. and Liebling, A. (2007) ‘Doing Research in Prisons’, in R.D. King and E. Wincup (eds) Doing Research on Crime and Justice, 2nd edn.  Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 431-451.

Recent publications about public and private sector prisons

Liebling, A. and Ludlow, A. (2016) ‘Privatising public prisons: Penality, law and practice’, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 0(0): 1–20

Crewe, B. and Liebling, A. (2016) ‘Quality, professionalism, and the distribution of power in public and private sector prisons’, in Hucklesby, A. and Lister, S. (eds) The Private Sector and Criminal Justice.

Liebling, A. and Crewe, B. (2014) ‘Staff-prisoner relationships, moral performance, and privatisation’, in Durnescu, I. and McNeill, F. Understanding Penal Practice. New York: Routledge, pp. 153-166.

Crewe, B., Liebling, A., Hulley, S. (2014) ‘Staff-prisoner relationships, staff professionalism and the use of authority in public and private sector prisons’, Law and Social Inquiry, 40 (2) 305-344.

Crewe, B., Liebling, A., and Hulley, S. (2014) 'Heavy/Light, Absent/Present: Rethinking the 'Weight' of Imprisonment', British Journal of Sociology, 65(3): 387-410.

Liebling, A. (2013) Prison privatisation in Europe and beyond: Changing states and penal rationalities, in T. Daems, D. v. Z. Smit and S. Snacken (eds.), European Penology?, 217-245.

Crewe, B. and Liebling, A. (2012) ‘Insider views of private sector competition’, in V. Helyar-Cardwell (ed.) Delivering Justice: The role of the public, private and voluntary sectors in the prison system, Criminal Justice Alliance publications, pp. 25-30.

Hulley, S., Liebling, A., and Crewe, B. (2012) 'Respect in prisons: Prisoners’ experiences of respect in public and private sector prisons', Criminology and Criminal Justice, 12 (1): 3-23.

Liebling, A., Crewe, B. and S. Hulley (2012) ‘Values, Practices and Outcomes in Public and Private Sector Prisons’, in V. Helyar-Cardwell (ed.) Delivering Justice: The role of the public, private and voluntary sectors in the prison system. Criminal Justice Alliance publications, pp. 17-24.

Crewe, B., Liebling, A. and Hulley, S. (2011)  ‘Staff Culture, Use of Authority and Prisoner Quality of Life in Public and Private Sector Prisons’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 44(1): 94-115.

Crewe, B., Liebling, A., Hulley, S. and McLean, C. (2010) 'Prisoner Quality of Life in Public and Private Sector Prisons'

Liebling, A., Crewe, B., Hulley, S. and McLean, C. (2010) Values, Practices and Outcomes in Public and Private Corrections.  Report submitted to the ESRC.

McLean, C. and Liebling A. (2008) ‘Prison Staff in the Public and Private Sector’, in J. Bennett, B. Crewe and A. Wahidin (eds) Understanding Prison Staff.  Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, pp: 92-114.

Shefer, G. and Liebling, A. (2008) ‘Prison Privatisation: In search of a business-like atmosphere?’ Criminology and Criminal Justice, 8(3): 261-278.

Liebling, A. (2006) ‘Lessons from Prison Privatisation for Probation’, in M. Hough, R. Allen and U. Padel (eds) Reshaping probation and prisons: The new offender management framework.  London: The Policy Press, pp. 69-77.

Recent publications about prison management

Liebling, A and Crewe, B (2016, in press) ‘Prison Governance: Why Moral Values Matter’, in For Justice and Mercy. International Reflections on Prison Chaplaincy, Wolf Legal Publishers in the Netherlands.

Crewe, B. and Liebling, A. (2015) ‘Governing Governors’, Prison Service Journal n.222, November 2015: 3-10.

Liebling, A. and Crewe, B. (2012) ‘Prisons beyond the new penology: the shifting moral foundations of prison management’, in J. Simon and R. Sparks (eds) Handbook on Punishment and Society, London: Sage Publishing, pp. 283-307.

Crewe, B. and Liebling, A. (2012) 'Are Liberal Humanitarian Penal Values and Practices Exceptional?', in T. Ugelvik, J. Dullum and T. Mathiesen (eds) Nordic prison practice and policy - exception or not? Exploring penal exceptionalism in the Nordic context(s). Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, pp. 175-198.

Liebling, A. (2010) ‘‘Governmentality’ and Governing Corrections: Do Senior Managers Resist?’ in L. Cheliotis (ed) Roots, Rites and Sites of Resistance: The Banality of Good. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan Publishing, pp. 220-245

Liebling, A. (2008) ‘Do Prison Governors Need Criminology?’ in The Key – Magazine of the Prison Governors Association, July: 4-7.

Recent publications about prison staff

Liebling, A. and Kant, D. (2016) ‘The Two Cultures: Correctional Officers and Key Differences in Institutional Climate’, in J. Wooldredge and P. Smith (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Prisons and Imprisonment

Crewe, B. and Liebling, A. (2015) ‘Staff culture, authority and prison violence’, Prison Service Journal n.221, September 2015: 9-14.

Liebling, A., Price, D. and Shefer, G. (2011) The Prison Officer, 2nd edition, Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, pp. 256.

Liebling, A. (2008) ‘Why Prison Staff Culture Matters’, in J. M. Byrne, D. Hummer and F. S. Taxman (eds) The Culture of Prison Violence.  Allyn and Bacon Publishing, Boston USA, pp. 105-122.

Arnold, H., Liebling, A. and Tait, S. (2007) ‘Prison Officers and Prison Culture’, in Y. Jewkes (ed) Handbook on Prisons.  Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, pp. 471-495.

Liebling, A. and Tait, S. (2006) ‘Improving Staff-Prisoner Relationships’, in G. E. Dear (ed.) Preventing Suicide and Other Self-Harm in Prison.  London: Palgrave-Macmillan, pp. 103-117.

Liebling, A. and Price, D. (2001) The Prison Officer, Leyhill: Prison Service (and Waterside Press), pp. 212. 2nd edition completed February 2009, pp.256.

Liebling, A. (2011) ‘Distinctions and distinctiveness in the work of prison officers: Legitimacy and authority revisited’, European Journal of Criminology 8(6): 484-499.

Liebling, A. (2009) Evidence to Justice Committee Inquiry on ‘The Role of the Prison Officer’, Report submitted to the Justice Committee Inquiry: January 2009.

Other Publications

Books

Tankebe, J. and Liebling Alison (2013) (eds.) Legitimacy and Criminal Justice: International Explorations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.384.

Liebling, A., Price, D. and Shefer, G. (2011) The Prison Officer, 2nd edition, Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, pp. 256.

Liebling, A. and Maruna, S. (eds) (2005) The Effects of Imprisonment, Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, pp. 492.

Liebling, A.; assisted by Arnold, H. (2004) Prisons and their Moral Performance: A Study of Values, Quality and Prison Life, Oxford: Clarendon Studies in Criminology, Oxford University Press, pp. 588.

Liebling, A. and Price, D. (2001) The Prison Officer, Leyhill: Prison Service (and Waterside Press), pp. 212. 2nd edition completed February 2009, pp.256.

Liebling, A. (1998) (ed.) Deaths of Offenders; The Hidden Side of Justice, Waterside Press: London, pp. 270.

James, A. L.; Bottomley, A. K., Liebling, A. and Clare, E. (1997) Privatising Prisons: Rhetoric and Reality, Sage: London, pp. 194.

Liebling, A. (1996) (ed.) Deaths in Custody II: Caring for People at Risk, Whiting and Birch: London, pp. 226.

Liebling, A. and Ward, T, (1994) (eds) Deaths in Custody: International Perspectives, Whiting and Birch: London, pp. 248.

MacAllister, D., Bottomley, A. K. and Liebling, A. (1992) From Custody to Community: Throughcare for Young Offenders, Avebury: Aldershot, pp. 172.

Liebling, A. (1992) Suicides in Prison, Routledge: London, pp. 273.

Other recent book chapters

Crewe, B. and Liebling, A. (2017) ‘Reconfiguring Penal Power’, in A. Liebling, S. Maruna and L. McAra (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, in press.

Liebling, A. (2016) ‘High Security prisons in England and Wales: Principles and practice’, in Jewkes, Y., Bennett, J. and Crewe, B. (eds.) The Handbook on Prisons (second edition), London: Routledge.

Liebling, A. and Ludlow, A. (2016) ‘Suicide, Distress and the Quality of Prison Life’ in Jewkes, Y., Crewe, B. and Bennett, J. (eds) Handbook on Prisons (second edition), London: Routledge.

Liebling, A. (2012) ‘The Prison and the Performance Revolution: ‘Virtual’ or Virtuous Improvement?’, in R. Calne and W. O. Reilly (eds.) Scepticism: Hero and Villain, Nova Publishing, pp. 357-371.

Liebling, A and Crewe, B (2012) ‘Prison Life, Penal Power and Prison Effects’, in M. Maguire, R. Morgan and R. Reiner (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (5th edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 895-927.

Liebling, A. (2012) Vulnerability, struggling and coping in prison, in B. Crewe and J. Bennett (eds.) The Prisoner, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 53-66.

Liebling, A. (2008) 'Effects of Imprisonment', in Y. Jewkes and J. Bennett (eds) Dictionary of Prisons and Punishment.  Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, pp. 79-81.

Liebling, A. (2008) 'Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP)', in Y. Jewkes and J. Bennett (eds) Dictionary of Prisons and Punishment.  Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, pp. 134-136.

Morgan, R. and Liebling, A. (2007) ‘Imprisonment: An Expanding Scene’, in M. Maguire, R. Morgan and R. Reiner (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (4th edition).  Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, pp: 1100-1138.

Liebling, A. (2007) ‘Prison Suicide and its Prevention’, in Y. Jewkes (ed) Handbook on Prisons.  Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, pp. 423-446.

Liebling, A. (2007) ‘Why Fairness Matters in Criminal Justice’, in N. Padfield (ed) Who To Release? Parole, fairness and criminal justice.  Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, pp. 63-71.

Other recent articles

Liebling, A. (2016 forthcoming) ‘The meaning of ending life in prison’, Journal of Correctional Health Care.

Liebling, A. (2016) ‘The Dalai Lama, prisons, and prison research: A call for trust, a ‘proper sense of fear’, dialogue, curiosity and love’, Prison Service Journal. 225: 58-63.

Liebling, A and Crewe, B (2016, in press) ‘Prison Governance: Why Moral Values Matter’, in For Justice and Mercy. International Reflections on Prison Chaplaincy Wolf Legal Publishers in the Netherlands.

Grace, S., Page, G., Lloyd, C., Templeton, L., Kougali, Z., McKeganey, N., Liebling, A., Roberts, P. and Russell, C. (2016) ‘Establishing a ‘Corstonian’ continuous care pathway for drug using female prisoners: linking Drug Recovery Wings and Women’s Community Services’, Criminology and Criminal Justice: 1-20.

Page, G., Templeton, L., Grace, S., Roberts, P., McKeganey, N., Russell, C., Liebling, A., Kougiali, Z. and Lloyd, C. (2016) ‘Conspicuous by their abstinence: The limited engagement of heroin users in English and Welsh Drug Recovery Wings’, International Journal of Drug Policy, 1-8.

Crewe, B., Liebling, A., Padfield, N. and Virgo, G. (2015) ‘Joint Enterprise: The Implications of an Unfair and Unclear Law’, The Criminal Law Review, 4: 252-269.

Liebling, A. (2012) ‘Pentonville Revisited : An Essay in Honour of the Morris’ Sociological Study of an English Prison, 1958-1963’, Prison Service Journal, pp. 29-35

Liebling, A. (2011) ‘Perrie Lecture: The cost to prison legitimacy of cuts’, Prison Service Journal, No.198: 3-11.

Ross, M. W., Liebling, A., and Tait, S. (2011) ‘The Relationships of Prison Climate to Health Service in Correctional Environments: Inmate Health Care Measurement, Satisfaction and Access in Prisons’, The Howard Journal, 50(3): 262-274.

Liebling, A. (2006) ‘Prisons in Transition’, International Journal of Psychiatry and Law, 29: 422-430.

Cheliotis, L. and Liebling, A. (2006) ‘Race Matters in British Prisons: Towards a Research Agenda’, British Journal of Criminology 46(2): 286-317.

Recent professional reports

Liebling, A., Schmidt, B., Crewe, B., Auty, K., Armstrong, R., Akoensi, T., Kant, D., Ludlow, A. and levins, A. (2015) Birmingham prison: the transition from public to private sector and its impact on staff and prisoner quality of life - a three-year study, London: Ministry of Justice.

Liebling, A., Arnold, H and Straub, C (2011) An Exploration of Staff-Prisoner Relationships at HMP Whitemoor: Twelve Years On, London: National Offender Management Service

Liebling, A., Crewe, B., Hulley, S. and McLean, C. (2010) Values, Practices and Outcomes in Public and Private Corrections.  Report submitted to the ESRC.

Lanskey, C., Liebling, A., Harvey, J. and Drake, D. (2009) Opportunities for Staff in Two Secure Settings to Reduce Re-Offending Rates of Young Offenders.  Report submitted to the KPMG Foundation.

Liebling, A. (2009) Evidence to Justice Committee Inquiry on ‘The Role of the Prison Officer’, Report submitted to the Justice Committee Inquiry: January 2009.

Liebling, A (2007) A Report on the outcomes of the Acacia Prison Annual Performance Review, Western Australian Correction Services pp. 134.