Prisoner Society in an Era of Psychoactive Substances, Organised Crime, New Drug Markets and Austerity

Kate Gooch, James Treadwell

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Framed by the limited and now dated ethnographic research on the prison drug economy, this article offers new theoretical and empirical insights into how drugs challenge the social order in prisons in England and Wales. It draws on significant original and rigorous ethnographic research to argue that the ‘era of hard drugs’ has been superseded by an ‘era of new psychoactive drugs,’ redefining social relations, transforming the prison illicit economy, producing new forms of prison victimisation, and generating far greater economic power and status for suppliers. These changes represent the complex interplay and compounding effects of broader shifts in political economy, technological advances, organised crime, prison governance, and the declining legitimacy and moral performance of English and Welsh prisons.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1260-1281
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number5
Early online date31 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020


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  • Crime in Prison

    Gooch, K., Treadwell, J. & Barkham-Perry, G.


    Project: Central government, health and local authorities

  • Prison Bullying, Violence and Victimisation

    Gooch, K. & Treadwell, J.


    Project: Research-related funding

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