My research interests fall into the broad field of history, punishment and society in Australia. I am committed to producing innovative and critical criminological approaches to researching and writing against institutionally generated experiences of discrimination, harm and violence. A consistent theme in all my research is histories of resistance to punishment and institutional violence. I have published in the following areas:

High-Security Imprisonment

Women, Imprisonment and Post-Release

Deaths in Custody and Post-Release Deaths

Abolition, theory, politics and action

Current Projects

Reconfigurations of Resistance, Reform and the Dynamics of Penal Change

Project Team: Dr Bree Carlton

Summary: Through the use of documentary analysis of archives and semi-structured interviews I examine the relationship between feminist campaigns and Government women’s prison reforms from the 1980s through to the present. In order to draw historical lessons that inform contemporary practice I examine the nature of penal change; the ways specific reforms have sought to address campaign concerns and anti-discrimination laws; and the extent to which such reform has in various moments provided a just system for imprisoned women. The primary aim of this project is to document and analyse penal change in women’s prisons over time. The project will advance applied knowledge about the capacities for community advocacy and campaign strategies in conjunction with Government reforms to realise future system change in the Victorian criminal justice system in ways which meaningfully redress the rights and needs of criminalised women.

Dr Carlton recently presented findings from her research to two public forum events focused on the vexed issue of penal reform and it’s utility to abolition politics and strategy in London UK. The events were hosted by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies in conjunction with the Open University and the Reclaim Justice Network who are working together with Dr Carlton to develop an international coalition of scholars, activists, criminalised and concerned community members working to dismantle structural injustice and specifically criminal justice.  You can watch her presentation online via this link:

Completed Projects

Surviving Outside: Women’s Post-Release Experiences of Survival Victoria (2009-2011)

Project Team: Dr Bree Carlton and Dr Marie Segrave

Project Summary: Surviving Outside’ is a pilot research initiative documenting women’s post-release experiences of support, survival and death in Victoria. The project arose out of broader research concept devised by Carlton and Segrave Legacies of Imprisonment, driven by the idea of conducting a series of discrete  qualitative investigations documenting the inter-generational impacts of criminal justice processes on children, families and the community.

Based on semi-structured interviews with formerly imprisoned women and support workers in Victoria, Surviving Outside sought to produce contextualised and personal accounts of post-release life,death and near-death, specifically documenting lifestyle and service factors central to women’s survival and death. By documenting these experiences it was our aim to produce clear directives for monitoring, prevention and the possible extension of existing care and support services in Victoria. As a pilot project the research comprises a basis for conducting further qualitative inquiry into post-release mortality among men and young people at a time when the field has been dominated by quantitative research.

Victorian Parliamentary Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee, Inquiry into the Impact of Drug-Related Offending on Women’s Prisoner Numbers in Victoria (2010)

Project Team: Dr Bree Carlton

Project Summary: This project was a consultancy conducted on behalf of the Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee. On 2 September 2009 the Parliament of Victoria requested that the Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee inquire into and consider the impact of drug‑related offending on female prisoner numbers. The terms of reference that guided this inquiry were:

(a)  examine the impact of drug‑related crime on the female prisoner population;

(b) review the demographic profiles of women in custody for drug offences and the types of drug offences;

(c)  examine underlying causal factors which may influence drug‑related offending and repeat offending that result in women entering custody; and

(d) recommend strategies to reduce drug‑related offending and repeat offending by women, including strategies to address underlying causal factors.

The project involved a literature review, series of field visits and analysis of public submissions to investigate various factors and explanations for disproportionate and unprecedented increases in women’s prisoner numbers in Victoria. The report was tabled in parliament August 2010.

Melbourne City Mission Cairnlea Support Model for Women (2009)

Project Team: Dr Bree Carlton, Dr Marie Segrave and Dr Shelley Mallet (MCM)

Project Summary: The Cairnlea House Model: a long-term housing project for women released from prison was funded collaboratively developed with Shelley Mallet from Melbourne City Mission. Funded by by Melbourne Citymission, this was an 8-month project evaluating the impact of the provision of long-term housing within the lives of 6 women post-release. The method involved utilising network sampling to analyse the impact of long term housing on women’s post-release lives and particularly how it shaped their prospects for long-term desistance from offending. This report was publicly launched in early 2010.