Ben Laws

Ph.D Student


Ben is a doctoral candidate in his third year, supervised by Dr Ben Crewe. Over the past year he has been collecting data for his ESRC funded study of prisoner emotion (titled: 'Emotions in prison: an exploration of space, emotion regulation and expression'). He has been investigating the ways in which prisoners regulate and express their emotions under conditions of confinement by using a combination of research methods (through semi-structured interviews and prisoner shadowing). This involved spending six months in HMP Ranby (a Category C men's prison in Nottinghamshire) and HMP Send (a closed category women's prison in Surrey). He hopes that his findings will help us to learn more about the emotional 'survivability' of different prisons and to assist management and practitioners to ensure that prisons are positive, secure and safe environments for managing offenders.

Ben's MPhil dissertation won the Jon Sunley prize (2015) which celebrates 'excellence and impact of post graduate research into penal issues'.

Education and Background

Ben studied English (BA) at Leicester, Psychology (MSc) at St. Andrews and Criminology (MPhil) here in Cambridge. He has professional experience working in a range of mental health settings across the UK and US, mainly supporting those with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) and young adults diagnosed with conduct disorders.


  • Laws, B. (In progress). 'The return of the suppressed': Emotional suppression among male and female prisoners.
  • Laws, B. (2016). Fronting, masking and emotion release: An exploration of prisoners' emotional management strategies. The Howard League for Penal Reform.
  • Laursen, J., & Laws, B. (2016). Honour and respect in Danish prisons: Contesting 'cognitive distortions' in cognitive-behavioural programmes. Punishment & Society.

  • Laws, B., & Crewe, B. (2015). Emotion regulation among male prisoners. Theoretical Criminology.

  • Crewe, B. and Laws, B. (forthcoming) 'Subcultural adaptations to incarceration', in J. Wooldredge and P. Smith (eds) The Oxford Handbook on Prisons and Imprisonment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Awards and Funding

2014-2017ESRC Full award
2015John Sunley Prize, Howard League of Penal Reform
2014Joe Petty Prize for Criminology, Wolfson College
2014Proxime accesserunt for the Manuel López-Rey Graduate Prize, Cambridge.