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Ellie Brown

Ellie Brown

Ph.D Student


Ellie is in the final few months of completing her PhD and is supervised by Professor Alison Liebling and Professor Nicola Padfield. As a qualified lawyer, Ellie is interested in how the law has shaped the experience of segregation and is adopting a socio-legal approach to her research.  

Ellie undertook her fieldwork in HMP Whitemoor, a high security prison. She spent four months conducting interviews with prisoners and staff, as well as observing prison practices. During her fieldwork she explored: (i) the processes involved in segregating individuals; (ii) how segregation was typically used; and (iii) the experience of segregation.  

Ellie's PhD focuses on three main areas of inquiry. First, it explores how segregation is and should be used, and how the law sets the parameters of such usage (in theory at least). Second, despite there being a language of law, she identifies how the functioning of law - in this particular unit - is impacted by the culture of those responsible for its implementation. Third, she examines how legal frameworks are not only capable of being overridden by the culture of people but also the culture of context; undermined and subverted by practical, psychological and procedural barriers. 

Last year, Ellie published her systematic review of the effects of prison segregation:

Ellie was also awarded the Cambridge Society for Applied Research prize. Alongside her PhD, Ellie directed the Cambridge Pro Bono Project and taught for the Learning Together programme in HMP Grendon, Whitemoor and Warren Hill. 



University of Cambridge (2017 to Present): PhD in Criminology

University of Oxford (2015 to 2016): MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice

University of Law (2011 to 2013): GDL and LPC (LLB)

King’s College London (2007 to 2010): BSc Business Management

During her time at Oxford, Ellie was awarded the Oxford Routledge Prize for best dissertation, for her research investigating radicalisation in prison.

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.