Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism
Law, Justice and Journalism

Gemma Birkett

PhD student

PhD title: 'Where are the Prams? Media, Politics and Penal Reform: A Case Study of Women's Imprisonment'.

School/Centre: Centre for Law, Justice & Journalism

Email: Gemma.Birkett.1@city.ac.uk

Gemma's research examines the interrelationship between the women's penal reform network, the media, and policy-makers at the crime-media nexus. The research focuses on reform group strategies and how they have developed and augmented under the media spotlight. Situating the policy problem of women's imprisonment in the context of the government's 'rehabilitation revolution', turned 'tough but intelligent' crime agenda, it investigates exactly how progressive lobby groups seek to influence penal reform in the face of 'penal punitivism', media proliferation and the politicisation of law and order. The research has unprecedented access to over thirty policy elites, including the Chief Executives of the major campaign organisations, former Prison Ministers, ex-civil servants from the Women's Policy Unit at the Ministry of Justice, Members of the House of Lords and Commons, journalists, a former Chief Inspector of Prisons, academics, a former prison governor and a Crown Court judge.

Prior to commencing her PhD, Gemma spent four years working as a researcher in the House of Commons. She has visited several prisons as part of her involvement with various organisations and provided research assistance for the Centre for Social Justice's Locked up Potential report. Gemma has a Master's in Public Policy & Management from Birkbeck, University of London.


Gemma's research interests include gender and crime, the politicisation of law and order, penology and penal reform, the sociology of punishment, public policy and policy transfer.


  • Book review - (2012) 'David Faulkner & Ross Burnett, Where Next For Criminal Justice?' Punishment & Society 14 634-636
  • Book review - (2013) 'Tessa West, The Curious Mr Howard, Legendary Prison Reformer' Punishment & Society (forthcoming)
  • Book chapter - 'Politics, Power and Gender: reflections on researching female policy actors in criminal justice' Reflexivity in Criminological Research: Experiences with the Powerful and Powerless (Routledge edited collection) (forthcoming)
  • Journal article - 'Avenues for women's reform: Interest groups, media templates and issue 'reframing' (forthcoming)

Conference Contributions

  • British Society of Criminology Conference 2012, Portsmouth University 'Where are the prams?'
  • European Society of Criminology Conference 2012, University of the Basque Country, Bilbao, Spain 'Where are the prams?'
  • Postgraduate Criminology Conference 2012, Sheffield University 'Where are the prams?'
  • Women and Justice Conference 2013, Newport Centre for Criminal and Community Justice, University of South Wales (keynote speaker)
  • British Society of Criminology Conference 2013, Wolverhampton University 'Politics, Power and Gender: reflections on researching female policy actors in criminal justice' (forthcoming)

University Teaching

  • Social Relations and Social Policy 2011-2012, Department of Politics, Birkbeck College, University of London
  • Sociology of Punishment 2011 - 2012, Department of Sociology, City University London

Gemma will be teaching Sociology of Punishment and Introduction to Criminology from October 2013.