City Research Online

Media, politics and penal reform: the problem of women's imprisonment

Birkett, Gemma (2015). Media, politics and penal reform: the problem of women's imprisonment. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


There has been limited empirical focus on the activities of the penal reform network in England and Wales, and less still concerned with those campaigning to reform women’s penal policy. Investigating the under-researched interrelationship between the women’s penal reform network, journalists, and policymakers at the crime-media nexus, this interdisciplinary study examines campaign strategies for women and how they have developed and augmented under changing governments and the media spotlight. While penal reform campaigners are able to rely on the discourse of vulnerability in relation to women offenders, this remains in the face of entrenched social constructions of the ‘ideal woman’ and a political climate that continues to talk tough on crime. Uncovering a number of inhibitors to their campaigning efforts, this study reveals that such actors operate on the periphery of both the media and policy agendas and campaign for a ‘lesser social problem’. Drawing on the work of Best (2013) and his research on social problems, claimsmakers and the policy agenda, this study also explores the agenda-setting models developed in the political sciences and media and communications. With unprecedented access to over thirty policy elites (including the Chief Executives of the major campaign organisations, former Prison Ministers, ex-civil servants from the Ministry of Justice, Members of the House of Lords and Commons, journalists, and a former Chief Inspector of Prisons) it integrates the viewpoints of key actors operating in this niche policy network for the very first time. With an explicit policy-focused orientation, it also provides a number of pragmatic and practical tips for those wishing to think more strategically about their ability to influence politicians, the media and the public.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
Doctoral Theses
School of Policy & Global Affairs > School of Policy & Global Affairs Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Birkett, Gemma.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (1MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login