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Elinor Lieber

Elinor Lieber

Ph.D Candidate


Elinor started her PhD in October 2018, and is being supervised by Professor Alison Liebling. Her research aims to explore forms of informal inter-prisoner caregiving. It suggests that communion and mutual support are fundamental features of the prison society, operating alongside some of the more commonly researched aspects of prison social life such as power hierarchies, violence, individualism and internal exploitative economies. While prisoner memoirs are often full of moving portrayals of kindness and friendship, these remain largely absent in academic accounts of imprisonment. In an environment filled with mistrust, this study sets out to investigate how care grows, and how is it regulated by prisoners, staff, and by the structural characteristics of the prison.

Elinor has recently completed fieldwork in HMP Warren Hill, where she spent five months conducting interviews, semi-ethnographic observations and social network analysis.

Previously, Elinor completed her MPhil in Criminological Research (distinction) at the Institute, and her undergraduate degree in Criminology and Anthropology (distinction) at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. She also continues to be involved with the Evaluation of Shared Reading Groups in Psychologically Informed Planned Environments project, working alongside Alison Liebling, Katherine Auty and Judith Gardom.

Key Publications

Liebling, A., Williams, R., and Lieber, E. (2020) ‘More mind games: how ‘the action’ and ‘the odds’ have changed in prison’, British Journal of Criminology.

 Laws, B. and Lieber E. (2020) ‘King, Warrior, Magician & Lover: Understanding expressions of care among male prisoners’, European Journal of Criminology.

 Liebling A, Laws B, Lieber E, Auty K, Schmidt B, Crewe B, Gardom J, Kant D, & Morey M. (2019). Are hope and possibility achievable in prison? Howard Journal of Crime and Justice 58(1): 104-126.


Awards and Funding:

2018–22    Full PhD studentship, Gates Cambridge Scholarship

2017          Proxime accessit for the Manuel López-Rey Graduate Prize, Institute of Criminology 

2017          The Boak Student Support Fund, Clare Hall College, Cambridge

Prisons Research at Cambridge University

The Prisons Research Centre (PRC) was founded in 2000, under the Directorship of Professor Alison Liebling. The Centre has received funding from a wide range of sources, including the Prison Service/NOMS, the Nuffield Foundation, the Leverhulme Trust, the ESRC, KPMG, the Home Office and UKDS (now Kalyx).

The Cambridge Institute of Criminology Prisons Research Centre aims to provide a stimulating research environment in which a coherent strategy of high quality research can be pursued, and integration between funded and non-funded, and applied and theoretical projects can be facilitated. We investigate how prisons operate, socially, morally and operationally, how they are experienced, and the relationship between these moral and social qualities, and their effects.

Members of the PRC team carry out, individually and collectively, methodologically rigorous and theoretically relevant field-based studies addressing problems of human and social values, punishment practices, and the organisation and effects of aspects of prison life. We strive to forge links with other prisons researchers, scholars in the broader fields of criminology and sociology, and with practitioners. Our vision is to develop a rigorous and person-centred model of social inquiry.

You can read more about the latest projects in our Annual Reports.