John Pratt

School of Social and Cultural Studies

Teaching in 2020


LLB (Hons) Lond, MA Keele, PhD Sheff

Research specialties

Comparative penology and the History and sociology of punishment.


Professor John Pratt graduated in law from London University before studying criminology for graduate degrees at the universities of Keele and Sheffield in England. His fields of research are comparative penology and the history and sociology of punishment.

He has published in eleven languages and has been invited to lecture or speak at conferences at universities in South America, North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. His books include Punishment and Civilization (2002), Penal Populism (2007) and Contrasts in Punishment (2013).

He is currently undertaking research on the relationship between risk, populism and criminal justice.  An edited collection, Criminal Justice, Risk and the Revolt against Uncertainty, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2020. He is completing a book manuscript, Intolerable Risks: The Search for Security in an Age of Anxiety (provisional title), which is also under contract with Palgrave Macmillan.

From 1997, Professor Pratt was editor of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology.  He is currently a member of the editorial board or international advisory board of numerous journals including the British Journal of Criminology, Punishment and Society, the American Journal of Cultural Sociology and Theoretical Criminology.

Awards and fellowships

Professor Pratt is the recipient of the 2013 Mason Durie Medal which is awarded by the Royal Society of New Zealand and given 'to the nation's pre-emiment social scientist’. The award acknowledges outstanding contributions to the social sciences that, while originating in a New Zealand environment, have had an international impact.

In 2012 the Academy of the Royal Society of New Zealand elected Professor Pratt to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of New Zealand. The news release on the Royal Society website stated that he 'is internationally acclaimed for his research concentrating on the study of why penal policies change in modern societies and why the punishment of offenders takes particular forms at different times.'

He was the Royal Society of New Zealand James Cook Research Fellow July 2009 to June 2012. He was also a Fellow at the Straus Institute for Advanced Studies of Law and Justice, New York University 2010/ 2011. His book (with Anna Eriksson), Contrasts in Punishment: An Explanation of Anglophone Excess and Nordic Exceptionalism, was published in the Routledge Frontiers of Criminal Justice series, January 2013.

In 2009 he was awarded the Sir Leon Radzinowicz Prize by the Editorial Board of the British Journal of Criminology for his two-part article on ‘Scandinavian Exceptionalism’ which appeared in that journal in 2008. The prize is awarded for the article that ‘most advanced the discipline of criminology’ in its year of publication.

In 2000, 2002 and 2009 Professor Pratt received Victoria University of Wellington awards for Research Excellence; in 2005 he received a similar award for Teaching Excellence.

Recent publications

Pratt, J., & Anderson, J. (Eds.) (2020). Criminal Justice, Risk and the Revolt Against Uncertainty. Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-37948-3

Pratt, J. (2020). When Risk and Populism Collide. In J. Pratt & J. Anderson Eds.), Criminal Justice, Risk and the Revolt Against Uncertainty, (pp. 275-300). Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-37948-3

Pratt, J., & Miao, M. (2019). Risk, Populism and Criminal Law. New Criminal Law Review, 22(4), 391-433. doi: 10.1525/nclr.2019.22.4.391

Pratt, J., & Miao, M. (2019). The end of penal populism : the rise of populist politics. Archiwum Kryminologii | Archives of Criminology in Poland, XLI(2), 15-40. doi:10.7420/AK2019M

Zang, X., & Pratt, J. (2018). Are Street-Level Bureaucrats in China Hardnosed Cops or Consultants? An Institutional Account of Policing Behavior in Autocracy. Journal of Contemporary China. doi:10.1080/10670564.2018.1511394

Pratt, J. D., & Miao, M. (2018). From Protecting Individual Rights to Protecting the Public: The Changing Parameters of Populist-Driven Criminal Law and Penal Policy. In G. Fitzi, J. Mackert, & B. S. Turner (Eds.), Populism and the Crisis of Democracy. Volume 2: Politics, Social Movements and Extremism (pp. 47-63). Oxford: Routledge.

Pratt, J. D., & Melei, T. (2018). One of the smallest prison populations in the world under threat: The case of Tuvalu. In K. Carrington, R. Hogg, J. Scott, & M. Sozzo (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Criminology and the Global South (pp. 729-750). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-65021-0

Pratt, J. D. (2017). New Zealand Penal Policy in the Twenty-first Century. In A. Deckert, & R. Sarre (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Australian and New Zealand Criminology, Crime and Justice (pp. 347-361). Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-55747-2

Pratt, J. D., & Miao, M. (2017). Populismo Penal: El Fin de la Razon / Penal populism: the End of Reason. Nova Criminis, 9(13), 33-105

Pratt, J. D. (2016). The Prison Diary of A.C. Barrington. Dissent and Conformity in Wartime New Zealand. Dunedin: Otago University Press.

Pratt, J. D. (2016). Norbert Elias, the Civilizing Process, and Punishment. In Oxford Handbooks Online: Criminology and Criminal Justice. Oxford University Press.

Pratt, J., & Anderson, J. (2016). "The Beast of Blenheim', risk and the rise of the security sanction. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 49(4), 528-545.

Pratt, J. D. (2016). Risk Control, Rights and Legitimacy in the Limited Liability State. The British Journal of Criminology: an international review of crime and society.

Pratt, J. D. (2016). Penal populism: causes, transformations, vulnerabilities and immunities. In Y. F. Druzhinina (Ed.), Tendencies in Development of Legal Science at the Present Stage: Proceedings of the International Scientific and Practical Conference dedicated to the 40th Anniversary of the Faculty of Law of Kemerovo State University (pp. 511-523). Kemorovo, Russian Federation: Kemorovo State University.

Pratt, J. (2015). Immobilization in the age of mobility: Sex offenders, security and the regulation of risk. In Punishing the Other: The Social Production of Immorality Revisited. London: Routledge, pp. 208-229

Pratt, J., & McLean, T. (2015). Inspector Wallander’s angst, social change and the reconfiguration of Swedish exceptionalism. Punishment and Society, 17(3), 322-344.

Pratt, J. (2014). Civilizing and Decivilizing Characteristics of the Contemporary Penal Field. In T. Landini, & F. Dépelteau (Eds.), Norbert Elias & Empirical Research (pp. 64-81). New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Pratt J. (2013). A Punitive Society: Falling Crime and Rising Imprisonment in New Zealand. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books

Pratt J and Eriksson, A. (2013). Contrasts in Punishment: an explanation of Anglophone excess and Nordic exceptionalism. London: Routledge

Why do some modern societies punish their offenders differently to others? Why are some more punitive and others more tolerant in their approach to offending, and how can these differences be explained? Based on extensive historical analysis and fieldwork in the penal systems of England, Australia and New Zealand on the one hand, and Finland, Norway and Sweden on the other, this book seeks to address these underlying questions.

The book argues that the penal differences that currently exist between these two clusters of societies emanate from their early nineteenth century social arrangements. The Anglophone societies were dominated by exclusionary values systems, in contrast to the more inclusionary values of the Nordic. The development of their penal programmes over this two hundred year period, including the much earlier demise of the death penalty in the Nordic countries and the significant differences between the respective prison rates and prison conditions of the two clusters, reflects the continuing influence of these values. Indeed, in the early twenty-first century, these differences have become even more pronounced.

Anna Eriksson is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. In 2009, she was awarded the New Scholar Prize by the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology for best publication and , in 2012, was the recipient of one of only two Australian Research Councils Awards for early career researchers in criminology, funding a three year study on comparative punishment between Australia and Sweden.

Pratt, J., & Eriksson, A. (2013). Review Essay: John Pratt and Anna Eriksson (2013) 'Contrasts in Punishment: An Explanation of Anglophone Excess and Nordic Exceptionalism'. A response to David Brown, Russell Hogg and Mark Finnane. International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 2(3), 120-134

Pratt J. and A. Eriksson (2013): Was macht das Bestrafen in skandinavischen Ländern so anders [Why is punishment in Scandinavian countries so different]? In: Peter Rieker, Sven Huber, Anna Schnitzer & Simone Brauchli (Hg.): Hilfe! Strafe! Reflexionen zu einem Spannungsverhältnis professionellen Handeln [Help! Punishment! Reflections on a Dilemma for Professional Action]. Weinheim/Basel: Beltz Juventa, S. 80-100

Pratt J. (2013). 'Punishment and 'The Civilizing Process''. In R. Sparks and J. Simon (Eds.). The Sage Handbook of Punishment and Society , London: Sage, pp. 90-113

Pratt, J. (2013). Cultura, emociones y castigo penal. Nova Criminis Visiones Criminologicas de la Justicia, 5, 53-135

Pratt J. and A. Eriksson (2012), 'Penal Policy and the Social Democratic Image of Society', in K. Carrington et al (Eds), Crime,Justice and Social Democracy , London: Macmillan, pp's 51-69

Pratt J. (2011). 'Penal excess and penal exceptionalism: welfare and imprisonment in Scandinavian and Anglophone societies'. In Adam Crawford (Ed.). International and Comparative Criminal Justice and Urban Governance , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 251-275.

Pratt J D. (2011). 'The Power and Limits of Populism: An Illustration from Recent Penal Developments in New Zealand'. In S. Karstedt, I. Loader & H. Strang (Eds.). Emotions, Crime and Justice, Oxford: Hart Publishing, pp. 331-346.

Pratt J D. and Eriksson A. (2011). 'In defence of Scandinavian exceptionalism'. In Jane Dullum and Thomas Ugelvik (Eds.). Nordic Prison Practice and Policy - Exceptional or Not?: Exploring Penal Exceptionalism in the Nordic Context, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 235-260.

Pratt J. (2011). 'Norbert Elias, the civilizing process and penal development in modern society', The Sociological Review, 59: 220–240.

Pratt J. (2011). 'The international diffusion of punitive penality: or, penal exceptionalism in the United States? Wacquant v Whitman', Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 44(1), pp. 116-128. .

Pratt J, Eriksson A. (2011). ''Mr. Larsson is walking out again'. The origins and development of Scandinavian prison systems', Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 44(1), pp. 7-23.

Pratt J D. (2009). 'From abusive families to internet predators? the rise, retraction and reconfiguration of sexual abuse as a social problem in Canada', Current Sociology, 57(1), pp. 69-88.

Pratt J D, Eriksson A. (2009). 'Den skandinaviska exeptionalismen i kriminalpolitiken', Nordisk Tidsskrift for Kriminalvidenskab, 96(2), pp. 135-151.

Pratt J D. (2008). 'Scandinavian exceptionalism in an era of penal excess. Part 1: the nature and roots of Scandinavian exceptionalism', British Journal of Criminology, 48(2), pp. 119-137.

Pratt J D. (2008). 'Scandinavian exceptionalism in an era of penal excess. Part 2: does Scandinavian exceptionalism have a future?', British Journal of Criminology, 48(3), pp. 275-292.

Pratt, J. (2008). Penal populism and the contemporary role of punishment. In T. Anthony, & C. Cuneen (Eds.), The Critical Criminology Companion (pp. 265-277). Annandale: Hawkins Press.

Pratt, J. (2008). Penal populism in New Zealand and its future: is penal populism inevitable?. In Globalized Penal Populism and its Countermeasures (pp. 39-59). Kyoto: Japanese Sociological Criminology Association.

Pratt, J. (2008). When penal populism stops: Legitimacy, scandal and the power to punish in New Zealand. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 41(3), 364-383.

Anderson, S,. & Pratt, J. (2008). Prisoner memoirs and their role in prison history. In H. Johnston (Ed.), Punishment and Control in Historical Perspective (pp. 179-198). London: Palgrave.

Pratt, J. (2008). Penal populism and penal scandal in New Zealand. In Penal Populism, Sentencing Councils and Sentencing Policy (pp. 31-44). Cullompton: Willan

Pratt, J. (2008). New Punitiveness. In Y. Jewkes, & J. Bennett (Eds.), Dictionary of Prisons and Punishment (pp. 181-184). Cullompton: Willan.

Pratt, J.D. (2008). Introducing Comparative Penology. In J. Yewkes (Ed.). Prisons and Punishment. Volume 1: The meaning of the prison. London: Sage

Pratt, J. (2008). Penal populism in New Zealand and its future: is penal populism inevitable? Japanese Journal of Sociological Criminology, 33, 30-44.

Pratt, J. (2007). Retribution and retaliation. In S. Giora Shoham, O. Beck, & M. Kett (Eds.), The International Handbook of Penology and Criminal Justice (pp. 379-410). Boca Raton: CRC

Pratt, J. (2006). Penal Populism. London: Routledge

Pratt, J. (2006). Penal populism: Influential but not inevitable. Prison Service Journal, 168, 3-10.

Pratt, J. (2006). The dark side of paradise. Explaining New Zealand's history of high imprisonment. British Journal of Criminology, 46(4), 541-560.

Pratt, J., Brown, D., Brown, M., Hallsworth, S.,& Morrison, W. (Eds.). (2005). The New Punitiveness: Trends, theories, perspectives. London: Willan Publishing.

Pratt, John (2005). 'Elias, punishment and decivilization', in Pratt, John., Brown, David., Brown, Mark., Hallsworth, Simon. and Morrison, Wayne (Eds), The New Punitiveness: Trends, theories, perspectives, London: Willan Publishing, pp. 256-271.

Pratt, John and Clark, Marie (2005). 'Penal populism in New Zealand', Punishment and Society, 7(3), pp. 303-322.

Pratt, John (2005). 'Child sexual abuse: purity and danger in an age of anxiety', Crime, Law and Social Change, 43(3), pp.1-25.

Pratt, John (2005). 'Explaining the History of Punishment'. In B. Godfrey and G. Dunstall (Eds), Crime and Empire 1840 - 1940, Cullompton: Willan, pp. 25-42.

Pratt, John (2005). 'Beyond evangelical criminology' in I. Aertson, T. Daems, and L. Robert (Eds), Institutionalizing restorative justice, Cullompton: Willan

Pratt, John, 'Review of Fairweather, L. and McConville, S. (eds), Prison architecture: policy, design, experience, in Punishment and Society, 7, 1 (2005), pp. 98-100.

Pratt, J. (2004). Elias and modern penal development. In S. Loyal & S. Quilley (Eds.). The Sociology of Norbert Elias (pp. 212-228) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Gilligan, George and Pratt, John (Eds). (2003). Crime, truth and justice: official inquiry, discourse, knowledge, Cullompton: Willan Publishing

Pratt, John. (2003). 'Introduction', in G. Gilligan and J. Pratt (Eds), Crime, truth and justice: official inquiry, discourse, knowledge Cullompton, Willan, pp. 1-7.

Pratt, John. (2003) 'The acceptable prison: official discourse, truth and legitimacy in the nineteenth century'. In G. Gilligan and J. Pratt (Eds), Crime, truth and justice: official inquiry, discourse, knowledge Cullompton: Willan, pp. 71-88.

Pratt, John. (2003). 'The decline and renaissance of shame in modern penal systems'. In B. Godfrey, C. Elmsley and G. Dunstall (Eds), Comparative Histories of Crime, Cullompton: Willan, pp. 178-194.

Pratt, John. (2003). 'Norbert Elias and the Civilized Prison'. In Dunning, E. and Mennell, S. (Eds), Norbert Elias. London: Sage

Pratt, John. (2003). 'The Disappearance of Prison: an episode in the Civilizing Process'. In C. Strange and A. Bashford (Eds), Isolation: Places and Practices of Exclusion. London: Routledge, pp. 23-39.

Pratt, John. (2003). 'Theories of Law, Criminology and Penal Reform'. In Claeys, G. (Ed), Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Thought London: Routledge, 2003

Selected publications

Pratt, John (2002). Punishment and Civilization London: Sage

Pratt, John (2002). 'The Abusive Society: a review essay', Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 35(3), pp. 383-402.

Pratt, John (2002). 'The Globalization of Punishment', Corrections Today, 64, pp. 64-68.

Pratt, John. (2002). Critical Criminology and the Punitive Society: some new "Visions of Social Control" . In K. Carrington and R. Hogg (Eds), Critical Criminology. London: Willan, pp. 168-184.

Pratt, John. (2002). 'Corporatism: the third model of juvenile justice', in E. McLaughlin and J. Muncie (Eds), Youth Justice: Critical readings London: Sage, pp. 404-412.

Pratt, John (2001). 'Beyond 'gulags Western style'? A reconsideration of Nils Christie's 'crime control as industry'', Theoretical Criminology, 5(3), pp. 283-314.

Pratt, John (2001). 'Dangerosite, risqué et technologies du pouvoir', Criminologie, 34(1), pp. 103-121.

Brown, M. and Pratt, J. (Eds). (2000). Dangerous Offenders: Punishment and Social Order London: Routledge

Pratt, John. (2000). 'Introduction', in M. Brown and J. Pratt (Eds), Dangerous Offenders: Punishment and Social Order London: Routledge, 1-14.

Pratt, John. (2000). 'Dangerousness and Modern Society', in M. Brown and J. Pratt (Eds), Dangerous Offenders: Punishment and Social Order London: Routledge, pp. 35-48.

Pratt, John (2000). 'The Return of the Wheelbarrow Men; or, the Arrival of Postmodern Penality?', British Journal of Criminology, 40(1), pp. 127-146.

Pratt, John (2000). 'Emotive and ostentatious Punishment: its decline and resurgence in modern society', Punishment and Society, 2(4), pp. 417-439.

Pratt, John (2000). 'Civilization and Punishment', Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 33(2), pp. 183-201.

Pratt, John (2000). 'Sex crimes and the new Punitiveness', Behavioural Sciences and the Law, 18(2-3), pp. 135-151.

Pratt, John (1999). 'Norbert Elias and the Civilized Prison', British Journal of Sociology, 50(2), pp. 271-296.

Pratt, John and Priestley, Zoe. 'The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology Thirty years on', Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 32(3), pp. 315-324.

Pratt, John. (1999). 'Governmentality, Dangerousness and Neoliberalism', in R. Smandych (Ed), Governable Places: Readings on Governmentality and Crime Control. Aldershot, Dartmouth, pp. 133-162.

Pratt, John. (1999). 'Assimilation, Equality, Sovereignty. The Maori and the Criminal Justice and Welfare Systems'. In P. Havemann (Ed), Indigenous Peoples' Rights in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Auckland, Oxford University Press, pp. 316-328.

Pratt, John (1998). 'The rise and fall of homophobia and sexual psychopath laws in postwar society', Psychology, Law and Public Policy 4(1-2), pp. 25-49.

Pratt, John (1998). 'Towards the Decivilizing of Punishment', Social and Legal Studies, 7(4), pp. 487-515.

Pratt, John. (1998). 'Dangerousness, Risk and Technologies of Power', in P. O'Malley (Ed), Crime and the Risk Society Bristol: Ashgate, pp. 300-327.

Pratt, John. (1997). Governing the Dangerous Sydney: Federation Press

Pratt, John and Dickson, Marny (1997). 'Dangerous, Inadequate, Invisible, Out: Episodes in the criminological career of habitual criminals', Theoretical Criminology, 1(3), pp. 363-384.

Memberships, appointments and other work

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand
  • Member of the International Editorial Board for the journal of Theoretical Criminology
  • Member of the International Editorial Board for the journal of Punishment and Society
  • Member of the International Section Board: Contemporary Politics and Society for the journal Social Sciences
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the series Palgrave Studies on Norbert Elias

Teaching in 2020