Professor Judith Pallot has received recognition for her 2012 book 'Gender, Geography, and Punishment: The experience of women in carceral Russia', with the award of the 2013 Heldt Prize.
The book is particularly timely given the current international focus on Russian jails after the imprisonment of 28 Greenpeace activists in September. There has been sustained media attention surrounding their detainment with media headlines relating to the cold, cramped conditions in which they are being held.
Judith is one of the few people to have been granted access to Russia's correctional colonies where the Greenpeace activists are being held. Appearing on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour and writing for The Guardian newspaper earlier this month she described the conditions that she witnessed first-hand and gathered from interviews with former prisoners for her research.
Writing for The Guardian she says, 'The foreign prisoners have each been allocated a metal bunk in a small cell occupied by four or five other prisoners, in which there is a washbasin, a cold-water tap, a tepid radiator, a toilet only partly concealed by a low partition, and a table and bench screwed to the floor next to the toilet. This is where they spend 23 hours of the day, where they eat, wash and defecate in close proximity to one another.'
'They live in conditions that have much in common with isolation cells for hardened criminals. Russia joined the Council of Europe in 1996, which committed it to bringing its prisons up to European standards; yet last year, the European Court of Human Rights concluded that conditions in sizos systematically subject prisoners to inhuman and degrading treatment.'
Gender, Geography, and Punishment puts the experiences of today's prisoners into the context historical and cultural geographies. She provides an insight into a world otherwise very much hidden from public view. In addition, the current media frenzy surrounding the Greenpeace activists offers a unique opportunity to draw attention to the bad conditions that do exist in Russian correctional colonies and a chance for the victims to be heard.