About the Australian Prisons Project
There has been no comprehensive national research and analysis on developments in Australian prison policy and practice over the last two decades. The Australian Prisons Project (APP) aims to fill this gap.
The APP was an Australian Research Council funded project being run out of the University of New South Wales between 2008 and 2010. The research addresses the continued growth in the Australian prison population over the last 25 years. It aims to identify changes in penal culture over the last 25 years that have led to a re-emergence of imprisonment as a frontline criminal justice strategy.
We use the term ‘penal culture' to refer to the law, policy and practice which frames the use of imprisonment throughout the states and territories of Australia, and to the broad system of meanings, beliefs, ideas and symbols through which people understand and make sense of the prison.
We seek to understand contemporary penal culture and how it has developed since 1970 across law, policy and practice.
The APP has the following aims:
- To produce a comprehensive documentation and overview of changes in penal law, policy and practice nationally and in states and territories over the past 30 years;
- To develop a theoretical model of ‘penal culture' that will serve as a tool for understanding changes in penal law and policy in Australia;
- To examine the continuities and changes in areas such as:
- the use of remand;
- ‘risk' based assessment;
- the post-release process;
- measures directed at special groups (including vulnerable populations such as women, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, as well as other specifically designated groups such as terrorists).
The research project involves interviews with people who have spent time in prison, people working in the prison system and community-based services.
The APP will have a significant social impact through the understanding and explanation of the reasons behind the increase in imprisonment and through stimulating public debate about the nature and costs of imprisonment.