PRT are a leader in the small field of civil society organisations working to influence and reform penal policy. Their influence behind the scenes is unparalleled and they offered the opportunity to showcase some of my PhD findings both within a publication by them, and through the policy and advocacy work that would be based on it. I have seen other collaborations between them and academics and believe these partnerships produce important and valuable work.   

My PhD research gathered interview data on long-term imprisonment. Some themes in these were highly relevant to the PRT’s Lottery-funded Building Futures Programme, which aims to improve outcomes and experiences of imprisonment for people serving sentences which involve periods in custody of 10 years or more. We built impact and knowledge exchange using the PhD findings by developing a strand of work on sentence progression and parole, within the existing Building Futures programme. We reviewed findings from the PhD relating to long-term prisoners’ experiences of sentence progression and the parole process, and then used these to develop stimulus materials for a consultation on progression with the Building Futures Network, an established network of serving prisoners, former prisoners and family members who contribute to PRT’s consultations on questions of penal policy. We then analysed and wrote up the consultation responses, which will be used as the basis for PRT’s future work with other long-term prisoners, and which will shape the programme’s policy, influencing and advocacy work over the remainder of its five-year duration. 

Because of this fellowship I feel more confident about making speculative ‘pitches’ to potential non-academic partners.  When you work in a research centre among people who are all acknowledged experts, it is easy to forget how much you know, because what you know is the norm. When you find yourself in a different setting, this knowledge becomes clearer, but so too does your ability to think about a topic ‘outside the box’, simply by applying (without really thinking about it) a framework beyond that of official policy.  

I hope to take up an academic position after my PhD, but if I do I would prefer this to be one from which I can continue to venture outside academia and form partnerships similar to this one. Separately, I have made a set of professional friendships and contacts that I think, given my chosen field of academic work, I hope will continue to be useful in future when I move on to work on new projects. 

The main output of the fellowship was a draft consultation report authored by me and a colleague at PRT. It is currently under internal review and will be discussed with policy and practitioner stakeholders and long-term prisoners themselves at a series of roundtable events to be convened by PRT during the winter. A final report, incorporating feedback from these roundtable events to develop detailed policy recommendations, will be published by PRT in the new year. 

With thanks to the Prison Reform Trust. 

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