Life behind bars: can prison be better than this?

Anastasia Chamberlen is Assistant Professor in Sociology at the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick and is researching in the fields of prison sociology, feminist criminology and criminal justice.

English and Welsh prisons are undergoing one of their most challenging periods in decades. As I’m writing this piece, news emerges of yet another outbreak of violence in an English prison. This time, it’s the high security HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire, a prison described by the Ministry of Justice as ‘well-staffed’, which saw 81 prisoners take over a wing, raising once again concerns about safety and order in English carceral institutions.

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Time for Parliament to allow for job-sharing MPs?

rosie-campbell 150Rosie Campbell is Professor of Politics at Birkbeck, University of London. She has recently written on what voters want from their parliamentary candidates, attitudes to MPs’ roles, the politics of diversity and gender and voting behaviour. She is the principal investigator of the ESRC-funded Representative Audit of Britain.

sarah childs 150Sarah Childs is Professor of Politics and Gender at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research centres on the theory and practice of women’s representation, gender and political parties, and re-gendering parliaments.

Just because MPs don’t job-share at the moment doesn’t mean they never will. We think it’s worth asking why the practices of flexible working, which have helped many people access to the labour market, don’t yet apply to our democratic institutions.

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How to collaborate with local government – lessons from LARIA

Jasmin 150pxJasmin Fox-Skelly is a freelance science writer based in Cardiff. She writes for publications such as New Scientist, BBC Earth and Sky at Night.

Jasmin recently spoke to academics who attended the LARIA conference in May, asking them about their ‘tips for collaboration’ with local government.

Earlier this year the ESRC funded five academics from UK universities to attend the Local Area Research and Intelligence Association (LARIA) conference.

LARIA is a membership body for analysts and policy officers working in local government across the UK – the city, metropolitan and borough councils that deliver public services to citizens in a particular area. The LARIA annual conference is an opportunity for people working in the public sector (local government, local authorities and councils) to come together and talk about what research they are doing, what challenges they are facing, and share tips and guidance on best practice.

The ESRC-sponsored academics attending the conference were able to learn about how ‘the other side works’ – in other words, what research needs public sector organisations have, what sort of research they do, whether there are any differences or similarities in the way they work, and if there are any opportunities for collaboration. Continue reading

Propping up Parliament

Alexandra Meakin is a doctoral student at the University of Sheffield, where her research is on the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. She is a Research Associate on the Designing for Democracy project, led by the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics, an ESRC Knowledge Exchange Hub.

As the House of Commons returns this week from the summer recess, MPs will be adjusting to a temporary silence from the chimes of Big Ben. The repairs to the Elizabeth Tower, which contains the Great Bell, have led some politicians and parts of the media to protest that “the very heartbeat of our democracy is falling silent”. The House of Commons Commission is due to meet this month to reconsider the programme of work to address urgent problems with the clock mechanism and the structure of the tower. But while attention has been focused on Big Ben, an anniversary this week serves as a pressing reminder about the worrying state of the rest of the Palace of Westminster.

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How maternal depression affects mothers and children

bhalotra 150Sonia Bhalotra is Professor of Economics at the University of Essex. She is co-director of the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change (MiSoC) at the Institute for Social and Economic Research, and co-investigator on the ESRC-funded project on Human Rights, Big Data and Technology. Her research focuses upon health, gender and child development.

About 12-20% of women in richer countries and 20-35% in poorer countries suffer maternal depression, and 10-35% of children are exposed to this in their first year of life, according to estimate (PDF) . Maternal depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated, and in many cases is incorrectly perceived as a temporary condition. Continue reading