Lindsay Whetter

Dr Lindsay Whetter



Lindsay’s research is about prisons and those who dwell in them. She is interested in what empowers prisoners to reach their full potential as human beings and become who they are supposed to be. Lindsay’s motivation for her research stems from a long standing passion and commitment to working with offenders. Her introduction to prisons was in the 1990s as an Independent Representative for NIACRO in a juvenile detention centre in Northern Ireland. The encounters she had with the children and young people imprisoned there fired-up a life-long passion and dedication to doing something positive for those who find themselves in prison, their families and the victims of crime. To quote a fellow prisons researcher “my scholarship must have stakes in the greater good” (Shabazz, 2010).

Lindsay spent seven years living in Belfast, Northern Ireland working with mentally ill adults and with young offenders in custody. In 2000 Lindsay moved back to England where she worked for the Institute of Criminology, The University of Cambridge. She was a supervisor on the Wolfson Course and carried out research on two major studies:

  • The Home Office funded New English and Welsh Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (NEW-ADAM) Programme, a longitudinal study of the prevalence and patterns of drug use among arrestees on a national level.
  • The ESRC funded Peterborough Adolescent Development Study (PADS), part of the Social Contexts of Pathways in Crime (SCoPiC) Network which aims to identify individual and environmental factors of adolescent pathways into and out of crime.

Lindsay has carried out independent research projects for The Ex-prisoners Interpretative Centre (EPIC); The British Society of Criminology; Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Youth Offending Service, and she has facilitated on a number of courses in prisons including Art workshops; Social development courses; Restorative justice courses; and Bible study classes.

Lindsay has recently returned from New York having spent 8 months as a visiting scholar at the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY).


PhD: 'Faith Inside: An ethnographic exploration of Kainos Community, HMP The Verne': The University of Exeter (2016)

MSSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice: The Queen’s University of Belfast (2000)

BSc (Hons) in Psychology: The Queen’s University of Belfast (1996)

PhD Research

Supervisor: Professor Nick Gill.

In April 1997 Kainos Community in HMP The Verne, Dorset, England became the first faith-based prison unit to be established in the Western world. The foundations and ethos of Kainos are based on Christian concepts of ‘loving your neighbour’ and forgiveness. The community operates as a hybrid therapeutic community (TC) and cognitive behavioural programme (CBP). It is open to and inclusive of prisoners of all faiths and none. 

This research explores the Kainos community ethnographically, guided by the principles of grounded theory and thematic analysis, in order to investigate whether or not Kainos ameliorates some of the dehumanising aspects of prison, and if so, how it rehumanises the prison space. Theoretically, this study highlights the dehumanisation of imprisonment, and illuminates the role that a holistic, Christian-based approach can play in terms of making the prison environment ‘more human’. My findings reveal that on Kainos there are physical, liminal and spiritual spatial mechanisms, in which a family of sub-themes interact to enable flourishing to occur. Kainos has created a physical space in which spaces of architecture and design; sensory experience; movement; and home interact to enable flourishing, whereby prisoners feel ‘more homely’, ‘free’, safe, and calm. Kainos has created a liminal space in which spaces of atmosphere; identity; home; and creativity interact to enable flourishing, empowering prisoners in their self-expression; as a cathartic tool; and as a means of regaining or creating a new identity. Kainos has created a spiritual space in which spaces of Christian activism, love, and forgiveness enable self-worth, healing, transformation, and meaningful change. The implication is that Kainos has created spaces of flourishing, safety and peace within an otherwise dehumanising carceral space, and this plays an important role in the process of transformational change imperative in the desistance process. If society must have prisons, this study concludes that Kainos provides a model for how they should be.


Whetter, L. (2015) ‘To Thine Own Self Be True: Having Faith in the Prison Researcher’ in Drake, D., H., Earle, R. and Sloan, J. (2015) The Palgrave Handbook of Prison Ethnography: London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Whetter, L. (2014) 'The Little Acorn' in Feedback: HMP Grendon Magazine. Spring Issue.