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Prisons: the Rule of Law, Accountability and Rights (PRILA)

About the project:

Prisons: the rule of law, accountability and rights (PRILA) is a research project funded by the European Research Council, grant agreement 679362. The Principal Investigator is Dr Mary Rogan, School of Law, the University of Dublin, Trinity College, Ireland. The project commenced on April 1 2016 and will run until March 30 2021. 

Aims of the project (PRILA):

1. To find out whether accountability is a distinctive norm of the European legal system in the field of prisons;

2. To engage in comparative legal analysis on the topic of accountability in prisons by exploring European law and that of the United States and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights;

3. To find out how accountability is experienced by prisoners, prison staff and staff of bodies such as Ombudsmen, inspectors, and bodies which deal with complaints;

4. To create a typology of accountability bodies in European prison systems, and examine the relationship between the presence of such bodies and other indicators of prison regimes. 

The PRILA project will be organising conferences and seminars on its work, as well as developing briefing papers for policymakers and people affected by accountability, inspection and oversight of prisons.

The PRILA Team


Mary Rogan

Professor Mary Rogan

Professor Mary Rogan's research interests include prison law, human rights and imprisonment, and penal policymaking.

Sarah Curristan

Sarah Curristan

Sarah Curristan has a background in psychology and cognitive science. She has previously been involved in several research projects in the area of European security under the FP7 and Horizon 2020 European funding frameworks.

Sophie van der Valk

Sophie van der Valk

Sophie van der Valk previously conducted research in the field of counter terrorism, specifically examining issues concerning the prosecution and other measures used against foreign fighters.

Ray O'Keeffe

Raphael O'Keeffe

M.Litt student.

Three postdoctoral researchers will join the team in 2018.

Consultative Council

The PRILA project is grateful for the support and assistance of an international Consultative Council. Members of the Consultative Council provide guidance, suggestions and advice to the research team on the project. Members of the Consultative Council act in an advisory capacity.

The members of the Consultative Council are:

Niall Walsh

Niall is Manager of the Pathways Centre, and is involved with prison education and the education and support of prisoners post-release.

A graduate of the Trinity Access Programme at Trinity College Dublin, Niall holds a Degree in Social Science from Maynooth University, a Postgraduate Diploma in Adult and Community Education from Maynooth University, a Postgraduate Diploma in Education Management from Maynooth University and a Masters in Criminology from Dublin Institute of Technology. Niall is a founding member of the Prisoner Support Network and a member of the Irish Prison Service Research Panel.

Niall serves both on the board of directors of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) and also on the board of The Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders, (IASIO).

Kitty Calavita

Kitty Calavita is Chancellor’s Professor Emerita of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. She was President of the Law & Society Association in 2000-2001, and is a Thorsten Sellin Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. She received the Law & Society Association’s Harry Kalven award in 2015. She has published widely in the fields of immigration and immigration lawmaking, and more recently on prisons and legal mobilization. An early book, Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration, and the INS (1992), documented the internal dynamics of the INS in shaping the Bracero Program, and connected structural contradictions in the political economy to the details of agency decision making. Another book, Invitation to Law & Society, provides an accessible overview of the burgeoning field of socio-legal studies. Her most recent book (with Valerie Jenness), Appealing to Justice: Prisoner Grievances, Rights, and Carceral Logic (2015), focuses on the grievance process in California prisons, and explores the contradictions and intersections between the logics of rights and punitive control.

Valerie Jenness

Valerie Jenness is a Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society and in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on the politics of crime control and transformations in corrections and public policy. She is the author of four books, including, most recently, Appealing to Justice: Prisoner, Grievances, Rights, and Carceral Logic (with Kitty Calavita, University of California Press, 2015), and many articles published in sociology, law, and criminology journals. Her work has been honored with awards from the American Sociological Association, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, the Pacific Sociological Association, the Law and Society Association, the Western Society of Criminology, University of California, and Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America.

Her studies of sexual assault in prisons, the management of prisoners with mental health concerns, transgender prisoners, and the inmate appeals system in prison have informed public policy. She has served on the California Governor’s Rehabilitation Strike Team to assist with the implementation of legislation designed to provide rehabilitation services to tens of thousands of California prisoners (AB 900). More recently, she has worked with the Los Angeles Police Department, the United States Courts for the 9th circuit, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to develop and implement innovative policy

Christine Morgenstern

Visiting professorship for criminal law at the Free University of Berlin in summer semester 2017 and winter semester 2017/2018. Department of Criminology, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and Comparative Criminal Law and Justice

Main Research Interests; Human Rights and Criminal Law; Penal Law and Penology; foreigners in the criminal justice system; European harmonization criminal justice system; European and Comparative Criminology

Teaching; Criminal Law (basic and advanced), Criminal Procedure, European harmonization of Criminal Procedure, Criminal Sanctions and Sentencing Law, Criminology, Juvenile Justice


Ian Cameron

Ian joined Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland as an Inspector in May 2009.

CJINI is an independent, statutory inspectorate established in 2003 under s.45 of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002.  It is the only unified inspectorate in the United Kingdom or Ireland that can look at all the agencies that make up the criminal justice system apart from the judiciary. Organisations which CJI inspect include the police service, prison service, prosecution service, youth justice services, probation service and the courts.

Since joining CJINI, Ian has carried out a number of inspections of the three prisons in Northern Ireland, but has also undertaken a number of thematic prison inspections including Corporate Governance in the Northern Ireland Prison Service, the Management of Life and ICS Prisoners, the Safety of Prisoners held by the Northern Ireland Prison Service, and is currently engaged in an Inspection of Prisoner Resettlement.

In the wider criminal justice system he has carried out Inspections of Securing Attendance at Court, Mental Health, the Enforcement of Fines, Avoidable Delay, Domestic Violence and Abuse, Youth Offending Interventions and the Northern Ireland Courts Service Estate.  Most recently his inspection work was in relation to cyber-crime and business crime.

Our Research

Prisons: the rule of law, accountability and rights (PRILA) examines accountability, the inspection and oversight of prisons. It seeks to provide an understanding of how inspection, oversight and accountability operates from the point of view of prison staff, people in prison, and staff of accountability bodies. PRILA uses legal and socio-legal research methods to understand how inspection, oversight and accountability is regulated and experienced, as well as its effects. 

PRILA’s research questions:

PRILA will help us to understand: 

  1. How prisoners experience accountability structures, and rights;
  2. How prison managers and prison officers/guards experience monitoring and external scrutiny;
  3. How staff of bodies like Ombudsmen and inspectorates experience their work, and challenges in their work;
  4. How a visit from an inspection and monitoring body is experienced;
  5. What kinds of accountability structures exist in European prisons;
  6. How types of accountability structures are related to other indicators of penal regimes, such as prison overcrowding; and
  7. Whether there is a distinctive European way for accountability in prisons, by comparing European law with that of the United States and other jurisdictions.


There are five substantive work packages planned for the course of the project. The project runs from April 2016 to the end of March 2021. 

PRILA will conduct legal and comparative analysis with the United States and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to assess the requirements and distinctiveness of European law (Work Package (WP) 1). It will use this to inform the interview guides and design of the quantitative work. 

Under Prisoners' Experiences (WP2), the research team will examine and compare prisoners' experiences of accountability, inspection and oversight in Ireland and another European country. Sophie van der Valk is working with Prof Rogan on this part of the research.  

Under Experiencing Scrutiny (WP3), the research team will examine the experiences of prison staff of accountability, inspection and oversight. Sarah Curristan and Ray O'Keeffe are working with Prof Rogan on this part of the research. 

Under Accountability Work (WP4), the research team will examine the typology of systems, the effects of accountability, inspection and oversight. The research team will also examine how staff of accountability bodies experience their work.

In Experiencing Inspection (WP5), the research team will examine experiences of a visit from an international monitoring body.


PRILA Publications

All publications can be found at Professor Mary Rogan’s RSS feed.


Please read the latest post 'Reform of the Complaints Mechanism' at 

Conferences and Presentations

Research arising from PRILA topics has been presented at the following conferences and events;

Mary Rogan , Landmarks in Irish penal history, Parnell Summer SchoolAvondale, Co. Wicklow,

Mary Rogan, Inspection and monitoring of prisons, Ethics of Vulnerability Conference,  UCD Centre for Ethics in Public Life

Mary Rogan, Sarah Curristan, Ray O'Keefe, Sophie van der Valk, Submission from PRILA to the Irish Prison Service on the Code of Ethical Behaviours, Ireland

Mary Rogan and Sophie van der Valk, Ireland and OPCAT six years on: have things changed? URL

Mary Rogan, Revision of the commentary to the European Prison Rules: inspection and monitoring, Council for Penological CooperationStrasbourg, Council of Europe

Mary Rogan, The evolving role of imprisonment in Ireland, Law Society Annual Human Rights ConferenceDublin, Law Society

Mary Rogan, Sarah Curristan, Ray O'Keefe, Sophie van der Valk , Submission on the Proposed Inspectorate for Places of Detention 

All conference papers can be found at Professor Mary Rogan’s RSS feed.

News and Events

PRILA research presented to Council of Europe body

Professor Mary Rogan, PI on the PRILA project, presented the PRILA team's research on inspection and monitoring of prisons to the Plenary Meeting of the Council for Penological Cooperation on November 7 2017, a Council of Europe body which is an advisory body to the Steering Committee on Crime Problems. Prof Rogan presented recommendations arising from the PRILA project on how the commentary to the European Prison Rules could be revised and strengthened in the areas of inspection and monitoring.

The presentation can be accessed here (Link to presentation PPT) and the submission to the Council can be accessed here (link to submission).

A summary of the meeting can be found here

Agora building at the Council of Europe, Strasbourg

Presentation by Dr Kate O’Hara

On 20th September 2017 Dr Kate O’Hara presented “Interviewing CJS participants: challenges and strategies” to the PRILA team in preparation for gathering data next year.

Public Lecture by Professor Jules Lobel, University of Pittsburgh

"Solitary Confinement and the Role of the Courts in the USA and Ireland" was hosted on Monday 18th September 2017.

Solitary confinement is under increasing scrutiny by international human rights bodies, penal policymakers, medical professionals, lawyers and the courts. The seminar considered how the courts have acted to regulate the use of solitary confinement in the prisons of the United States and Ireland.

lobel & Rogan


On 8th September 2017 Sophie van der Valk and Professor Mary Rogan published a blogpost on wordpress.

During the latest session of the United Nations Committee Against Torture, Ireland’s second periodic report on its implementation of the Convention against Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment was under review. Read more here.


Presentation by Dr Colette Barry

On 7th September 2017 Collette Barry made a very informative and practical presentation to the group entitled “Researching Irish Prisons; Reflections from a Recent PhD”

The PRILA team had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss practical aspects of methodologies.

sophie sarah colette

Contact Us

Prisons: the Rule of Law, Accountability and Rights (PRILA),

TriSS; Trinity Research in Social Science,

Room 6001,

Arts Building

Trinity College

Dublin 2


T: +00353 87 700 4552

E: prila[at]


Twitter: @prila_tcd

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