Book Launch Tuesday: The Incarceration of Women Punishing Bodies, Breaking Spirits

We are pleased to share news of this launch of a new book by Linda Moore and Phil Scraton. Linda Moore is Senior Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy at the University of Ulster, UK.
Phil Scraton is Professor of Criminology and Director of the Childhood, Transition and Social Justice Initiative at Queen’s University, Belfast, UK. His recent books include Power, Conflict and Criminalisation, Hillsborough: The Truth and The Violence of Incarceration. Linda has shared guest posts with RightsNI in the past, while Phil delivered a presentation related to this topic as part of RightsNI Live! available at


The Incarceration of Women: Punishing Bodies, Breaking Spirits

Linda Moore and Phil Scraton

Tuesday 17th December 5-7pm, No Alibis, Botanic Avenue


‘The deplorable state of life in women’s prisons too often rests in the shadows of discussions focused entirely on men’s incarceration. In this extraordinary piece of investigative research, Phil Scraton and Linda Moore elevate that status to red-alert levels, revealing the overlooked conditions of imprisoned women as part of an urgent, top-to-bottom criminological and human rights crisis.’  Patricia J. Williams, Columnist, The Nation Magazine and Professor of Law, Columbia University School of Law, USA

‘A startlingly dark and profoundly disturbing analysis of women’s experiences of violence, neglect and resistance in prison in the North of Ireland. Uniquely situated within the legacy of paramilitary imprisonment and transition from political conflict, it speaks to concerns regarding the structural determining contexts of institutional violence and injustice in women’s prisons globally.’ Dr Bree Carlton, Monash University, Australia

‘Linda Moore and Phil Scraton’s book awakens our sensibilities and unlocks our minds to appreciate the massive harms prisons impose on a growing population of women. This important book draws upon the researchers’ political engaged ethnography of life inside a women’s prison as well as deeply detailed transnational and historical analysis of penal regimes for women. The authors bear witness to forms of ‘institutionalized’ abuse, intimidation, and neglect that create intolerable conditions for incarcerated women and make the strong case for an urgent and fundamental rethinking of use of punishment in modern societies.’ Kristin Bumiller, George Daniel Olds Professor of Economic and Social Institutions, Amherst College, Massachusetts, USA

‘This book combines key historical information with the authors’ narratives in a way that shines a light on issues that are too often kept hidden from the public gaze … the struggles of the women and girls they set out to study are the most significant and vital features of this book.  The book adds to the literature by further compelling the case for penal abolition.’ Kim Pate, Elizabeth Fry Societies, Canada and Debbie Kilroy, Sisters Inside, Australia

‘The Incarceration of Women: Punishing Bodies, Breaking Spirits is an historical, biographical and empirical account of the devastating institutional experiences which have besieged the lives of incarcerated women in Northern Ireland over decades. The powerful combination of methodological rigor, deliberate contextualisation, unambiguous narratives and an even-handed analysis has produced one of the most thorough and candid ethnographical works on women in prison of our time. Not only do Scraton and Moore reveal and stand against the harmful, oppressive conditions and disturbing realities of women’s imprisonment, they also stand up for a more humane, more ethical ‘criminology’ in the process.’ Lillian Artz, Assoc Professor, Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit, University of Cape Town, South Africa



This unique book adopts a rich theoretical, empirical and political perspective to explore the gendered incarceration of women and girls and the marginalization of their needs and rights within predominantly male penal systems.

Focusing on a decade’s research inside prisons in Northern Ireland, Moore and Scraton integrate in-depth interviews, focus groups, regime observation and documentary analysis to examine issues of equality, discipline, mental health, self-harm, abuse and suicide. The independent, primary research engages in controversies regarding the deaths of women in custody, a hunger strike concerning the status of politically-affiliated women prisoners, media revelations of sexual exploitation of women prisoners by male prison guards, and the use of punitive strip-searches and punishment cells for vulnerable women.

Telling the story of female incarceration through the voices and experiences of women, this book provides a rare insight into the destructive and debilitating impact of prison regimes, advancing feminist analysis of women’s incarceration and the criminalization of women. Moore and Scraton’s study raises questions over the potential and limitations of gender specific policies, the silencing of prisoners’ voices and agency, the significance of critical research in voicing prisoners’ resistance and the possibilities of decarceration through adopting an abolitionist agenda.