The SAFESOC project aims to reconceptualise prison regulation for safer societies. Reconceptualising prison regulation is a difficult multidisciplinary challenge, demanding academic innovation. Implementation requires sustained collaboration with local and (trans)national practitioners from different sectors (e.g. public, voluntary), regulators, policymakers, and prisoners.


Based at the University of Nottingham, SAFESOC is funded through Dr Philippa Tomczak’s £1.1 million prestigious UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowship, and sits within the ‘Prisons, Health and Societies’ Research Group. This is an innovative study, running from 2020-2027. We benefit from a cross-sectoral, expert Advisory Board.


Over 10.74 million people are imprisoned globally. Prison health and safety affects reoffending rates, so the consequences of unsafe prisons are absorbed by our societies. Prison safety in England and Wales has deteriorated rapidly since 2012. Record levels of suicide were experienced in 2016 and a new record high in self-harm incidents was seen in March 2020. Reoffending costs £18 billion annually.

SAFESOC has three aims:​

i) to theorise the (potential) participatory roles of prisoners and the voluntary sector in prison regulation​
ii) to appraise the (normative) relationships between multisectoral regulators from local to (trans)national​
iii) to co-produce (with multisectoral regulators), pilot, document and disseminate models of participatory, effective and efficient prison regulation in England and Wales (and then beyond)

Effective prison regulation is more urgent than ever before. Regulation (broadly defined) includes any activity seeking to steer events in prisons and is concerned with improving performance and holding key personnel responsible. The growing transnational significance of detention regulation was signalled by the 2006 Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture/OPCAT. Its 91 signatories, including the UK, must regularly examine treatment and conditions.

Deteriorating prison safety poses a major moral, social, economic and public health threat. More effective prison regulation, e.g. through prisoner and voluntary sector participation could reduce reoffending and save lives.

Punishment scholars have paid limited attention to regulation. Participatory networks of (former) prisoners are a relatively new formation but rapidly growing in influence. Agencies like the Prisons Inspectorate and Ombudsman have not yet been considered alongside voluntary sector organisations and participatory networks, nor have their (potential) collective influences from local to transnational scales.