Dr. Kimberley Brownlee


Kimberley Brownlee holds a Canada Research Chair in Ethics and Political & Social Philosophy at the University of British Columbia. Her current research focuses on loneliness, belonging, social human rights, freedom of association, and punishment. She is the author of Being Sure of Each Other (Oxford University Press, 2020) and Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience (Oxford University Press, 2012). 

Kimberley has advised Her Majesty’s Prison Stafford (in the UK) on their citizenship program. After reading my (2017) article ‘Stop Calling People Who Commit Crimes “Criminals”’ in Aeon, the Senior Management Team of HMP Stafford invited Kimberley to visit the prison (a national hub for men who have committed sexual offences) to advise them on their citizenship-focused rehabilitation program, which eschews the reductionist language that she cautions against in her work. Kimberley advised the management team on how to expand the culture change they were effecting by changing the terminology they use. People held in the prison are now called ‘residents’ not ‘prisoners’ and their duties are not that of ‘bin man’ or ‘greeter’, but ‘maintenance technician’ and ‘information ambassador’. The staff no longer talk about moving ‘bodies’ or doing the ‘feeding’ now, but of taking so-and-so (addressed by their preferred name) to some place, and 'serving lunch’. To help the management team further, Kimberley linked the essentialist language the team now avoids with other dehumanizing practices they still use (which don’t appear to reduce recidivism anyway), such as segregation and a carrot-and-stick approach to family visits. If you would like links to the research / academic articles in which Kimberley has develop her ideas, please let her know. In other work, Kimberley fleshes out a ‘hope standard’ for punishment, arguing that one test for a legitimate punishment (and a legitimate criminal justice system) is whether it is compatible with a reasonable person retaining hope about their future after punishment. Going forward, among other things, Kimberley would be interested to know how people in prison are described / spoken about in Canada and what kinds of informal segregation / alienating methods are used. 

First Nations land acknowledegement

We acknowledge that the UBC Point Grey campus is situated on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm.

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