Innovative research into the architecture and design of prisons from University of Bath criminology Professor Yvonne Jewkes has won this year’s ESRC’s Celebrating Impact Prize 2020 for outstanding societal impact.

The competition, now in its eighth year, recognises and rewards ESRC-funded researchers who have achieved impact through outstanding research, knowledge exchange activities, collaborative partnerships and engagement with different communities. Each winner is awarded a prize of £10,000 to be spent on furthering knowledge exchange, public engagement, or other communications activities to promote the economic and social impact of their research.

Professor Jewkes was shortlisted in recognition of her efforts in shaping the design of 15 prisons, including several in Australia and New Zealand, and a new women’s prison in Limerick, Ireland.

Drawing on her extensive research, she worked with the Irish Prison Service (IPS) to shift perceptions about female offenders. By helping to recast prisoners as individuals with complex emotional as well as clinical needs with considerable future potential, her research was instrumental in changing the IPS’ thinking and reframing their long-term strategic planning decisions.

The new prison in Limerick is designed as a healing environment for 50 women underpinned by a pioneering penal philosophy that focuses on humanity, hope and rehabilitation. It is influenced by best practice in prison design and rehabilitation and inspired by examples from Scandinavia. Professor Jewkes played a collaborative role with the IPS' Design Team in the design parameters and reviewed design submissions as part of the team for the New Limerick Prison Female facility.

Her involvement has helped to generate significant impact not just for the prison, the women prisoners or the Irish Prison Service, but more broadly impacts felt by wider society too. In just one area, by influencing design in such a way, the prison environment now offers much better opportunities for prisoners’ relatives and other visitors, especially children, to visit; another important step in helping to heal, rehabilitate and reintegrate individuals back into society following a sentence.

Commenting on her win, she said: "Winning the ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize is a huge honour. It is very gratifying to have my research recognised in such an important and prestigious competition. I am continuing my work on prison design with two concurrent ESRC-funded studies, and I hope to use the Impact prize money to return to Limerick prison when it opens next year to find out the difference that the new design is making to the prisoners and staff there."

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Bath, Professor Jonathan Knight, explained: "This is an excellent achievement for Professor Jewkes and a significant accolade for criminology at the University of Bath. To be recognised in this way by the ESRC really highlights the impact her work is having and the important links she is making between prison design and rehabilitation.”

Dean of the Faculty of Humanities & Social Science, Professor David Galbreath added: “My congratulations to Professor Jewkes on winning this year’s ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize. This is a fantastic achievement which speaks to the significant research contribution she has made at the University since her arrival and the important role she has played in shaping our new criminology course within the Department of Social & Policy Sciences.”  

Professor Jennifer Rubin, ESRC Executive Chair, said: “The winners and finalists in this year’s ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize competition have very clearly demonstrated the impact of their work including its relevance and importance to improving lives. All of these outstanding researchers are already contributing to policy debates in their specialist areas and their influence will likely be felt for many years to come.”