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Current Funded Research Projects

prisonHEALTH is an emerging group. It hosts four foundational research projects:

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Deaths in Prison Worldwide

Preventable prison deaths are common in every country, causing significant harms to families, prisons and societies. prisonDEATH brings together a multidisciplinary team from the University of Nottingham (UoN), National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Facilitated by the University of Nottingham Faculty of Social Sciences, this academic team are working in partnership with Penal Reform International and the international community, seeking to put the overlooked issue of prison deaths on the global penal reform agenda.

The team are working to examine definitions, trends and international standards on prison deaths, and to develop a research strategy on Reducing, managing and investigating (the harms of) prison deaths worldwide. Supported by prisonHEALTH and the Human Rights Law Centre at UoN, Dr Philippa Tomczak (UoN), Dr Roisin Mulgrew (NUIG) and Dr Catherine Appleton (NTNU) will work with experts, the wider research team, practitioners and policymakers across law, sociology, penology, human rights, public health and bioethics to provide the first in-depth analysis of (preventable) prison deaths, seeking to reduce the harms of deaths in prison and improve the quality of prison life globally.


prison door

SAFESOC: Prison Regulation for Safer Societies

Dr Philippa Tomczak has been awarded a £1.2 million grant through the prestigious UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowship programme to further her work into prison regulation for safer prisons and societies.

Over an initial four years, the fellowship will support Dr Tomczak, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham, to reconceptualise prison regulation by including a broader range of representatives from multiple sectors – operating across stakeholder groups, from local to global scales. This will enable a step change in prison regulation and boost the potential to improve prison safety.

View the latest SAFESOC newsletter.


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RECEDE: Regulating Criminal Justice Detention

Dr Philippa Tomczak has won £1.3m in European Research Council funding to develop the first ever model of criminal justice detention regulation, which could help to tackle the current prison and detention crises in England and Wales.

The study will encompass police, court and prison detention and escorted transport between detention sites, using England and Wales as a case study.

The project, called RECEDE, aims to highlight how detention regulation could improve health and safety in the criminal justice system, benefiting detainees and society more broadly.

Despite ‘world-renowned’ detention monitoring apparatuses, the UK has seen a dramatic decline in prison safety since 2012 and its imprisonment rates are amongst the highest in Western Europe.


Life Imprisonment book

Life Imprisonment Worldwide Revisited

Dr Catherine Appleton has been awarded a two-year research grant from the University of Nottingham Research Fellowship scheme to revise and update the global study on life imprisonment she has worked on with Emeritus Professor Dirk van Zyl Smit, published in 2019.

This research project, supported by Nottingham's Human Rights Law Centre, brings together an interdisciplinary team to examine life imprisonment on a global scale.


Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Indefinite preventive detention: The implementation and impact of the ULTimate PENalty in Norway (ULTPEN)

Catherine Appleton, Hilde Dahl and Richard Whittington (Institute of Mental Health, Norwegian University of Science and Technology) and partner Berit Johnsen (KRUS - University College of Norwegian Correctional Service).




University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD