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Dr David Scott

Profile summary

Professional biography

David Gordon Scott has worked at The Open University since September 2016. He has been a visiting scholar at a number of Universities around the world including in Italy, USA, New Zealand.  In 2019 he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto, Canada.

David gained an MA (with distinction) in Crime, Deviance and Social Policy from Lancaster University in 1996 and was awarded a doctorate in 2006 under the supervision of Professor Barbara Hudson from the University of Central Lancashire.

He is the founder of the 'Weavers Uprising Bicentennial Committee' which is working towards collective remembrance of the 1826 Chatterton Massacre and other avoidable and premature deaths in east Lancashire during the 1826-7 economic recession.  This remembrance work has included the naming of those who were killed by solidiers in the uprising and the names of children under the age of 5 who died in the following 12 months. 

Research interests

David's research interests include reflections on our collective ethico-political response-ability for the harms of the capitalist state; the historical relationship between socialist ethics and penal abolitionism; liberative justice and anti-carceral responses to poverty, state-corporate violence and social harm.



His books include Against Imprisonment (Waterside Press, 2018), Controversial Issues in Prisons (Open University Press, 2010) and Why Prison? (Cambridge University Press, 2013).  David is, with Michael Coyle, co-editor of the International Handbook of Penal Abolition (Routledge, 2021). His latest single authored book is For Abolition: Essays on Prisons and Socialist Ethics (published by Waterside Press in November 2020). 

David's most recent co-edited book, with Joe Sim, is entited Demystifing Power, Crime and Social Harm  (Palgrave, 2024) discussing the life and work of Steven Box.  He is editing two further books on the historical diversity of penal abolitionism for Bristol University Press. The first is entitled Abolitionist Voices and explores different abolitionist traditions. The second is entitled Envisioning Abolition (with Emma Bell) and is focused on socialist and anarchist visions of penal abolition, largely in the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries.

David has also champoined the idea of liberative justice.  As part of this work he is currently undertaking historical zemiological and archival researh on popular resistance/liberation movements, state killings and social murder in east Lancashire in the 1820s.  His forcus is on the importance of bearing historical witness and the ethics of remembrance. 

A full list of his publcations can be found here:

Selection of single authored articles and chapters (2006-2024)

Scott, D. (2024) "Libertarian socialism and the struggle for liberative justice" in Scott, D. (ed) Abolitionist Voices Bristol: BUP

Scott, D. (2023) "An unchristian insitution: penal abolition and the prison chaplain" in Phillips, E. R (ed) Prison Chaplaincy and Catholic Socialist Thought- London: Routledge 

Scott, D, (2022) "Escaping the logic of crime" in Piche, J (editor and translator) Pain in Vain Toronto: Red Quill Books 

Scott, D. (2021) “Could penal abolitionism work?” in Sociology Review (September, 2021)

Scott, D. (2020) “Do prisons work?’ in Sociology Review (September, 2020)

Scott, D. (2020) "Ordinary rebels, everyone: activist scholarhsip and the penal aboltionist as an insider-outsider" in Hart, E. (ed) (2020) Resisting the Punitive State London: Pluto

Scott, D. (2019) "Penal abolitionism as a philosophy of hope: an alternative futures for public engagement" in Henne, K. and Shah, R. (eds) (2019) ​The Routledge Handbook of Public Criminologies ​London: Routledge

Scott, D. (2018) "Saying NO to the mega prison" in Justice, Power and Resistance Volume 2, No. 1

Scott, D. (2018) “The ethics and poitics of criminological research” in Davis, P. and Francis, P. (eds) Doing Criminological Research London: Sage

Scott, D. (2017) "What is to be done? Thinking about abolitonist alternatives" in Prison Service Journal ​No 231, May 2017

Scott, D. (2016) “Hearing the voice of the estranged Other: abolitionist ethical hermeneutics” in Kriminolosches Journal (September 2016)

Scott, D. (2016) “Regarding rights for the Other: abolitionism and human rights from below” in Weber, L. (ed) The Routledge International Handbook of Criminology and Human Rights London: Routledge

Scott, D. (2015) “Walking among the graves of the living: reflections of an abolitionist on doing prison research” in Drake, D., Earle, R. and Sloan, J. (eds) Handbook of Prison Ethnography London: Palgrave

Scott, D. (2015) “Critical research values and the sociological imagination:lessons from researching prison officers” in Frauley, J. (ed) (2015) C. Wright Mills and the Criminological Imagination Aldershot: Ashgate

Scott, D. (2014) “Playing the get out of jail card for free: creating an abolitionist based consensus?” in Canning, V. (ed) (2014) Sites of Confinement London: EG Press

Scott, D. (2013) “The politics of prisoner legal rights” in Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 51, No 3 [July 2013]

Scott, D. (2013) “Visualising an abolitionist real utopia: principles, policy and praxis” in Malloch, M. & Munro, B. (eds) (2013) Crime, Critique and Utopia: Themes for a Critical Criminology London: Palgrave

Scott, D. (2012) “Guarding the ghosts of time: working personalities and the prison officer-prisoner relationship” in Prison Service Journal, Number 201 May 2012 pp 18-23

Scott, D. (2012) "Sympathy for the devil: human rights and empathetic construction of suffering" in Criminal Justice Matters, May 2012

Scott, D. (2011) “’That’s not my name’: prisoner deference and disciplinarian prison officers” in Criminal Justice Matters, June 2011

Scott, D. (2010) “Why didn’t prisoner rights come home?” in Criminal Justice Matters, December 2010

Scott, D. (2009) “Punishment” pp 83-102 in Hucklesby, A. & Wahidin, A. (eds) (2009) Criminal Justice Oxford: Oxford University Press

Scott, D. (2008) “Creating ghosts in the penal machine: the prison officer moral universe and the techniques of denial” in Bennett, J., Crewe, B., and Wahidin, A.(eds) (2008) Understanding Prison Staff Devon: Willan

Scott, D. (2007) “The changing face of the English prisons: a critical review of the aims of imprisonment” in Jewkes, Y. (ed) (2007) Handbook of Prisons London: Routledge

Scott, D. (2007) “New labour, New legitimacy: the ‘making punishment work agenda’ and the limits of penal reform” pp 71-81 in Roberts, R. & McMahon. W. (eds) (2007) Social Justice, Criminal Justice London: Harm & Society Foundation

Scott, D. (2006) "The caretakers of punishment: prison officers and the rule of law" in Prison Service Journal November 2006

Teaching interests

David has taught criminology to undergraduate and postgraduate students since 1994 and has worked previously at Edge Hill University, the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, the University of Central Lancashire and Liverpool John Moores University.

David was Chiar of DD105 Introduction to Criminology (Chair in production 2016-2020 and Chair in presentation, 2020-2021) and formerly Qualification Lead of Q57 Social Policy and Criminology.

Impact and engagement

David has undertaken interviews for BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 Live and a number of local radio stations such as BBC Radio Northampton, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Essex.  He has also featured on national television, including contributions to  BBC1 The Big Questions, BBC Wales Today and ITV News. He also recently contributed a viewpoint on prison abolition to BBC Ideas.

David is co-founder and former director of the independent publisher EG Press.  He has also made a number of short films and documentaries for The Open University.  His short film (made in collaboration with Hamlett Films) "Grenfell Tower and Social Murder" was nominated for Best Film at the Learning on Screen Awards (2018) and nominated for the Best Research Film at the AHRC Film Awards (2018) (for awards won by this film see below).  Another film made with Hamlett, 'Advertising, Brandalism and Subvertising', was nomited for Best Educational Film at the Learning on Screen Awards (2019) and in April 2019 his OpenLearn film ' Why we should abolish imprisonment for childtren and young people' launched a week of action calling for the abolition of child prisons.

David has submitted evidence to a number of Parliamentary Committees and Official Inquiries. His research has been cited in the House of Parliament (see Hansard, 25th Janaury 2017) and also in HoC Briefing Papers on Prisons and Punishment (November 2016). David presented the case for the abolition of child life sentences in the House of Commons in November 2017.

He was interviewed for the 2022 short documentary by True Level Media, 'The Chatterton Massacre' ,and is engaging with members of the local community in north east Lancashire  as part of his work towards the ethical witnessing and remembrance of the 1826 handloom weavers uprising. 

Recent blogs for the Harm & Evidence Research Collaborative (HERC) include:

His research has been highlighted by OU News on a number of occassions

David has contributed short papers to independent media forums such as Open Democracy and The Conversation.

He has also published articles in the national newspapers The Independent and The Guardian

David contributed to the 2017 documentary 'Injustice' and also participated in the groundbreaking documentary "Punishment: A Failed Social Experiment" (directed by Dale Hallat and first screened 2012).

External collaborations

David has worked with numerous external organisations over the last 30 years.  These include INQUEST, a national organising supporting bereaved families of those who die in state custody and lobby government for humanitarian interventions the protect human life; and JENGbA, which is campaigning to abolish child life sentences and the current interpretation of joint enterprise laws.

The film 'Grenfell Tower and Social Murder' (The Open University, 2018), which was made by David in collaboration with Hamlet Films, was awarded four major awards

2018 Life Changing Award, British Documentary Film Festival 

2019 Besr Edicational and Training Film, Evcom Gold Clarion Awards

2019 Best Social Welfare Film, Evcom Gold Clarion Awards

2020 World Gold Medal at New Yourk Film And TV Awards

David was the coordinator of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control from 2009-2012. He is a former editor / associate editor of the Howard Journal of Crime and Justice  and is the co-founding editor of the International Journal Justice, Power and Resistance.  


David is editor of the Routledge Book Series Penal Abolition and Transformative Justice


A Pre-Requisite of Progress? Prison Modernisation and New Prison Building in England and Wales (2024)
Jones, R.; Hart, E. and Scott, D.
Punishment and Society ((Early Access))

Sowing the Seeds of Change: Dissenting Voices, Subversive Knowledges and an Abolitionist Imagination for Our Time (2024)
Scott, David
Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, 114(450) ((In Press))

Could Penal Abolitionism Work? (2021-11-01)
Scott, David
Sociological Review Magazine, 31(2)

Do prisons work? (2020-09)
Scott, David
Sociology Review, 30(1) (pp. 18-21)

Saying NO To the Mega Prison (2018-04)
Scott, David
Justice, Power and Resistance, 2(1) (pp. 204-221)

Hearing the voice of the estranged Other: Abolitionist ethical hermeneutics (2016)
Scott, David
Kriminolosches Journal, 3

The Politics of Prisoner Legal Rights (2013)
Scott, David
The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 52(3) (pp. 233-250)

Sympathy for the devil: human rights and empathetic construction of suffering (2012)
Scott, David
Criminal Justice Matters, 88(1) (pp. 8-9)

Why didn't prisoner rights come home? (2010)
Scott, David
Criminal Justice Matters, 82(1) (pp. 36-37)

The caretakers of punishment: prison officers and the rule of law (2006)
Scott, D.
Prison Service Journal, 168 (pp. 14-19)

For Abolition: Essays on Prisons and Socialist Ethics (2020-11-05)
Scott, David
ISBN : 9781909976825 | Publisher : Waterside Press

Against Imprisonment: An Anthology of Abolitionist Essays (2018-02-28)
Scott, David
ISBN : 9781909976542 | Publisher : Waterside Press

Emancipatory Politics and Praxis: An anthology of essays written for the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control, 2013–16 (2016-07-26)
Scott, David; Bell, Emma; Gilmore, Joanna; Gosling, Helena; Moore, J. M. and Spear, Faith
ISBN : 978-1-911439-01-1 | Publisher : EG Press | Published : London

Questioning the logic of criminalisation and penal policy: abolitionist aspirations and the search for transformative justice (2025)
Coyle, M. and Scott, D.
In: Corda, A. ed. Research Handbook on Penal Policy ((In Press))
Publisher : Edward Elgar Publishing | Published : London

Abolitionism in red and black (2025)
Bell, Emma and Scott, David Gordon
In: Scott, David Gordon and Bell, Emma eds. Envisioning Abolition Socialism, Anarchism and Penal Abolitionism in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth centuries ((In Press))
ISBN : 978-1529234770 | Publisher : Bristol University Press

Libertarian socialism and the struggle for liberative justice (2025)
Scott, David Gordon
In: Scott, David Gordon ed. Abolitionist Voices ((In Press))
Publisher : Bristol University Press

The abolitionist rhizome (2025)
Scott, David Gordon
In: Scott, David Gordon ed. Abolitionist Voices ((In Press))
Publisher : Bristol University Press

"An unchristian institution": Christian prison chaplains and penal abolition (2024)
Scott, David
In: Phillips, Elizabeth and Stone-Davis, Férdia J. eds. Catholic Social Thought and Prison Ministry: Resourcing Theory and Practice. Explorations in Practical, Pastoral, and Empirical Theology
ISBN : 9781003290407 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

Demystifying murder: Open University pedagogy, social murder and the legacy of Steven Box (2024)
Drake, D.H. and Scott, D.G.
In: Scott, D.G and Sim, J. eds. Demystifying Power, Crime and Social Harm: The Work and Legacy of Steven Box. Critical Criminological Perspectives (pp. 531-556)
ISBN : 978-3-031-46212-2 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : London

Steven Box : 'A Realist of a Larger Reality' (2023)
Scott, D. and Sim, J.
In: Scott, D. and Sim, J. eds. Demystifying Power, Crime and Social Harm: The Work and Legacy of Steven Box. Critical Cr