Criminology in Wales: Explaining Western Europe’s Highest Imprisonment Rate

Dr Robert Jones1

1Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales

The single jurisdiction of England and Wales was established in the sixteenth century with one resounding aim: to create a unitary legal system between Wales and England.  Although the single jurisdiction remains formally intact some 450 years since its creation, executive and legislative devolution to Wales has drastically altered its position within the England and Wales system.

The sweeping changes that have been made to the UK’s constitution since 1999 have had a major impact on Westminster justice policy as practitioners, policy makers and politicians have been forced to acknowledge that Wales is now a distinctive part of the England and Wales system. Wales’ emergence as a standalone unit of criminological analysis represents a huge challenge for academics. While this task includes helping to uncover more about Wales’ largely hidden involvement in the England and Wales system, criminologists also have a vital role to play in discovering more about the ‘Welsh context’ of criminal justice.

In this paper I will discuss the crucial role that academics have to play in developing a Welsh criminology. By drawing upon recent research which revealed that Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe, the paper will be used to critically explore the contributions that criminologists have already made in helping to uncover and explain this trend as well their potential to inform policy and shape public debates in future.


Robert Jones is a Research Associate at the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University. His research interests are devolution and criminal justice; sentencing policy; and prisons.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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