Detention is a pressing empirical, conceptual, and political issue. Detained populations, detention facilities, and industries have expanded globally. Developments in detention practices have not been given the academic attention they deserve and a multi-disciplinary approach can shed light on some of the most salient issues that detention expansion raises.

Over the past ten years, the size of the immigration detention population in the UK has grown steadily from a capacity of 250 in 1993 to more than 10 times that number today. Most detainees are held in one of ten Immigration Removal Centres, eleven if we include the so-called ‘pre-departure accommodation’ at Cedars with space for nine families, with about 100 individuals placed in short term holding facilities at ports. An undisclosed sum of others are held in prison post-sentence, in hospital or in police lock-up.  All removal centres are contracted out, either to the HM Prison Service or one of four private prison companies (currently Serco, G4S, Mitie and Geo).  They are typically located in the South of the country near Gatwick and Heathrow airports, although there is one centre in Scotland, IRC Dungavel.

By bringing together a range of established academics, early-career academics, postgraduates, practitioners, artists, activists and former detainees this seminar series will investigate the ways in which the UK experience of detention reflects and re-produces the contradictory logics inherent in modern global detention practices. Through five one-day workshop events the seminar series will span the academic disciplines of criminology, geography, politics and sociology in order to examine the phenomenon of detention as it relates to supporting detainees, penology and prisons, everyday experiences of detention and the politics of, and resistance to, detention practices. The seminars, to be held in London, York, Birmingham, Oxford and Lancaster will also reflect upon the ethical/methodological challenges that the study of detention produces and the tension, running throughout work in this area, between outright resistance to detention practices or a reformist approach based on working with the state on behalf of immigration detainees.


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