In memory of Thomas Mathiesen


It was with a heavy heart that I heard of Thomas’ passing last Saturday.

Sacha Darke, University of Westminster, London

I had thought of him many times over the past year and hoped to see him again at the next KROM conference in Storefjell. My colleague Andy Aresti and I spoke at the conference three times between 2014 and 2018.

Andy and I were invited by Thomas to attend the conference due to the work we are developing with prisoners in the UK. Since 2013, we have taken our criminology students from the University of Westminster to study in three prisons in and around London. Many of our ‘inside learners’ have also studied for criminology degrees. Three are now studying for PhDs.

The last time we visited KROM, Thomas kindly agreed to us re-publishing the chapter on the history of KROM from his autobiographical book Cadenza in a special edition of the Journal of Prisoners on Prison that Andy and I were guest-editing in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the prisoner-led academic movement Convict Criminology. Two of the other articles we published were written by our prison-based students. We were looking forward to presenting Thomas with a copy signed by our students. 

Thomas remains an inspiration for our prison education projects. Together, we have studied Prison on Trial and The Politics of Abolition. Dave, one of our prison-based students, rang me only yesterday to speak about ‘the great man’. He had no idea Thomas was no longer with us. Dave had just finished reading Silently Silenced and is writing a paper provisionally titled Silent Censorship and the Challenges of the Prison academy. Dave will also study for a PhD.

Thomas has also been a personal inspiration to me throughout my professional career. I remember as a law student in 1990 reading about the ‘conference in the mountains’. 25 years later I got to go there. I even learnt how to ski! Well, almost. I spend most of the time lying on my back with my feet in the air!  At the conference, I saw with my own eyes just how unique KROM was. Where else in the world do you find just as many prisoners as academics presenting papers? I’m sure the conference will continue for many years to come in Thomas’ memory. I will see you there again for sure.