The shadow of penal supervision

Pervasive Punishment: Day One

Welcome to Day One of Pervasive Punishment — a ten month project, funded by the British Academy, which aims to explore, analyse and promote debate about the emergence of ‘mass supervision’. Though my own work is focused on the UK (and more specifically in Scotland), I’ll be drawing on a recent European project (the EU funded COST Action on Offender Supervision in Europe) and on work by North American scholars too. My (very bold!) ambition is to help people interested in criminal and social justice — and punishment in particular — to look beyond the prison so that we can find better ways to both understand and moderate the expansion of penal control.

This blog aims to record and share the progress of the project. My main task over the next 10 months is to write a book — and I’ll be blogging both about the process of writing and the book’s evolving content. But Pervasive Punishment also involves some more innovative attempts to encourage public engagement with these issues and questions. To that end, I’ll be working with a Scottish charity — Vox Liminis — to find creative ways to represent and encourage dialogue about supervision. So, in due course, you’ll find not just blog posts but also images, songs and maybe other art forms on this site that, I hope, will make you pause for thought and question what you thought you knew about punishment and supervision…

To set the tone, the pictures on this site at the moment are all drawn from the Scottish part of ‘Supervisible’ project. That pilot study (which was part of the COST Action referred to above) worked with people with lived experience of supervision in England, Germany and Scotland , inviting them to take photographs that represented these experiences. You can find out more about Supervisible here

I hope you enjoy the blog — it’s going to be lonely if I can’t persuade a few of you to join me on the journey!


  1. Great stuff! I will be watching with interest as always with your work, Fergus. I have been trying to get back into NSW prisons with no luck as a sole ECR ( but old and experienced practitioner). My book “The Lived Sentence” is about the continuous nature of sentencing and the effect of the managerialist ethos on the achievement of the aims of sentencing , particularly rehabilitation. Little appetite for this kind of research here – they want administrative criminology, so I am so pleased to see your focus on people’s lived experience.

  2. Travail très intéressant, je souhaite vous suivre

  3. Looking forward to following this. Best of luck with the project, Fergus.

  4. What a great initiative, Fergus. I’m a big fan of the Supervisible project and think that many of us engage more deeply in all sorts of discussions through the medium of the creative arts. Looking forward to following this project.

  5. This sounds fascinating Fergus. I am looking forward to tagging along on the journey!

  6. A welcome addition to the conversation on our justice system. Looking forward to the next 10 months and the exposure of the more creative approaches, such as Vox Liminis.

  7. Carrie ann Rafferty

    How do I sign up for your blog or follow on Twitter?


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