Dr Sharon Shalev


Contact: S.Shalev@lse.ac.uk


Sharon Shalev is a human rights worker and a criminologist. She gained her first degree in Political Science and International Affairs at Tel Aviv University and later took a post with the human rights organisation Israeli-Palestinian Physicians for Human Rights. In 1995 she left her post to pursue an LLM in International Human Rights Law at Essex University. In 1998 she joined the LSE where she completed a PhD thesis on Supermax prisons in the United Sates, under the supervision of Professor Stan Cohen. In 2000 she took part in the making of a documentary film on Supermax prisons, filmed and broadcast in the United States. She is currently a research fellow at the Mannheim Centre for Criminology.


 Current research


A Handbook on solitary confinement


Funded by a grant from the Nuffield Foundation’s Access to Justice Programme, the ‘Handbook on solitary confinement’ seeks to provide a much needed comprehensive single point of reference on prison segregation for prison practitioners and other interested professionals. The handbook will review the health effects of solitary confinement and some of the professional, ethical and human rights guidelines and codes of practice relating to its use. It is hoped that the handbook will assist those concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of isolated prisoners, and encourage policy makers and prison managers to put in place safeguards and mechanisms to limit the use of solitary confinement and to mitigate its harmful consequences.

 See background document:

http://www. nuffield.org.uk/go/grants/accesstojustice/news_1819.html



-Shalev, S. (2007). ‘The power to classify: avenues into a supermax prison’ in: Downes, D., Rock, P., Chinkin, C. and Gearty, C. (Eds.) Crime, Social Control and Human Rights: From moral panics to states of denial, Devon: Willan Publishing, pp. 107-119.

-Shalev, S. and Guinea, D. (2004) ‘The Use of Solitary Confinement in England and Wales’. Translated into French and published as: LA DETENTION EN ISOLEMENT AU ROYAUME UNI, in: Zingoni-Fernandez M. et Giovannini, N. (Eds.) La detention en isolement dans les prisons Europeennes :les regimes speciaux de detention en Italie et en Espagne et les measures administratives en France et au Royaume Uni. Bruxelles: Bruylant, pp.63-96. 

-Contributor to chapter on ‘Doctors and Weapons’ in: The Medical Profession & Human Rights:  Handbook for a changing agenda (2001), British Medical Association, London: Zed Books. 


Unpublished research


-PhD thesis ‘Solitary control and punitive isolation: ‘new’ forms of solitary confinement in Supermax prisons of the USA’ LSE, 2005


The thesis examined the rise and proliferation of 'Supermax' prisons in the United States since the late 1980s. These are large prison facilities dedicated to holding prisoners in prolonged and strict solitary confinement. The empirical core of the thesis was based on visits to two Supermax facilities and on in-depth interviews with prison officials, prison architects, current and former prisoners, mental health professionals and legal experts. Given the historic uses of solitary confinement, the thesis also traced continuities and discontinuities in its use over the last two centuries and argued that rather than being an entirely 'new' form of incarceration, Supermax prisons draw on principles of architecture, surveillance and control which were set out in the early 19th century but are now enhanced by the most advanced technologies available to current day prison planners and administrators.

The thesis began by examining the origins of the Supermax phenomenon, its scale and some of the factors and agencies that have played a role in the creation of these prisons in the United States in the last two decades. Following a discussion of the goals of Supermax prisons, the thesis investigated how official justifications are translated into administrative categories and how these categories are applied in practice. It then explored the architectural design of Supermaxes, daily routines inside these prisons, and the psychophysical effects of solitary confinement. The final part of the thesis examined how the US courts and international human rights organisations view Supermax confinement, and concluded with an assessment of the costs and benefits of these prisons.