Howard, Pratt and beyond: assessing the value of carceral tours as a comparative method

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Prison visits by academics are controversial. While they can provide an insight into penal practice, prisoner researchers warn against such visits as spectacles of degradation. In this article I examine the value of a series of prison visits for comparative research. Drawing on my own experiences and those of, among others, John Howard and John Pratt, I argue that prison visits, if ethically conducted and reflectively considered, offer benefits for investigating comparative penal practice. They can consider the self-presentation of the prison, material conditions (including the sounds, smells and the sights), and possibly, where the script allows it, a glimpse beyond the façade of official prison discourse. As such, they have merit, in particular in the early stages of a comparative project.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0
Pages (from-to)265-276
Number of pages12
JournalThe Howard Journal of Criminal Justice
Issue number3
Early online date19 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2015


  • prison visits
  • carceral tours
  • John Howard
  • comparative criminal justice
  • comparative method


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