The paradox of the ‘green’ prison: Sustaining the environment or sustaining the penal complex?

Yvonne Jewkes, Dominique Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (SciVal)


This article examines the ways in which sustainability discourses intersect with carceral policies. Building new prisons to ‘green’ industry standards; making existing prison buildings less environmentally harmful; incorporating processes such as renewable energy initiatives; offering ‘green-collar’ work and training to prisoners; and providing ‘green care’ in an effort to reduce recidivism are all provided as evidence of ‘green’ strategies that shape the experience of prisoners, prison staff and the communities in which prisons are located. Although usually portrayed positively, this article proposes an alternative, potentially more contentious, interpretation of the green prison. In the context of mounting costs of incarceration, we suggest that green discourses perversely are fast becoming symbolic and material structures that frame and support mass imprisonment. Consequently, we argue, it may be the penal complex, rather than the environment, which is being ‘sustained’. Moreover, we suggest this is a topic worthy of attention from ‘green criminologists’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-469
Number of pages19
JournalTheoretical Criminology
Issue number4
Early online date30 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015


  • Environmental harm
  • green criminology
  • green prisons
  • mass incarceration
  • sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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