This episode of Radio 4's Thinking Allowed series includes two segments. In the first Laurie Taylor speaks to Dr Laura Piacentini about her new research on imprisonment in Russia which took her to prison colonies where she lived, shared vodka with the prison officers and listened to recitations of Alexander Pushkin's poetry. There, she discovered that contrary to expectations, the Russian penal system allowed prisoners certain freedoms denied them in British jails.
The second segment looks at western imprisonment in light of this new research. Laurie Taylor questions what the West can learn from Russian styles of imprisonment. Nils Christie, Professor of Criminology at the University of Oslo, discusses the reality of work and prison labour, and the function prisons serve in the community.