Works-in-Progress on Prison Reforms and Prison Riots

On June 28, 2017, CRRC, ARISC and American Councils present the 15th talk of the Spring 2017 Works-in-Progress series on “Prison Reforms and Prison Riots: Exploring Resistance to Change in Post-Soviet Prisons” by Gavin Slade, University of Glasgow.

Criminological theory explains extreme breakdowns of prison order – riots – by reference to prison regime legitimacy. Compliance towards regimes breaks down when expectations about prison conditions are not met. Criminological theory tells us less about what happens to these expectations when prison systems are in the grip of major reform. Prisons in the former Soviet Union can be instructive in this regard presenting puzzles during reform that help to probe this issue. In the post-Soviet region prisoners often produce resistance precisely at times when they are being moved to new and often better penal facilities. Riots can be sometimes directed not at the regime but at other groups of prisoners. Instances of collective self-harming increase during riots. Moreover, the most significant disturbances usually occur in pre-trial facilities, where, we might suppose, prisoners have the most to lose. How do we explain these observations? Drawing on specific examples of prison riots from four post-Soviet cases – Georgia, Moldova, Lithuania and Kyrgyzstan – involving in depth interviews with prisoners and ex-prisoners this talk will explore that question.

Gavin Slade is a lecturer in legacies of communism at the University of Glasgow. He works on questions of criminal justice reform in the former Soviet Union. His current project involves a comparative case study of how penal reform produces violence and contention in Georgia, Moldova, Lithuania and Kyrgyzstan. His first book was published with Oxford University Press in 2013 entitled ‘Reorganizing Crime: Mafia and Anti-Mafia in Post-Soviet Georgia.’

W-i-P is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place at the new office of CRRC at Chkhikvadze St. 1. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.

The purpose of the W-i-P series is to provide support and productive criticism to those researching and developing academic projects pertaining the Caucasus region.

Would you like to present at one of the W-i-P sessions, please contact: