Dr Maria Adams

Associate Professor in Criminology
09 AD 03

Academic and research departments

Centre for Criminology.



Research interests


Postgraduate research supervision



This article examines the importance of intersectionality; and how this has been influential to analyzing my (the author’s) research journey as a Black Minority Ethnic (African and Asian descent) female researcher, using ethnographic approaches to collate data in three Scottish prisons. Intersectionality is a powerful tool to capture; and to interrogate the realities of fieldwork. It enables researchers to reflect on their social position, in response to the relational dynamics which occur in the field ( Bochner, 1997 ; Ellis & Bochner, 2006 ). Inspired by intersectional scholars, this paper will capture the nuances and complexities of the day to day realities in the field by exploring the importance of social identity. Furthermore, this paper will extend the discussion on social identity by analyzing the lived experiences and emotions occupied in certain spaces in the penal system; and how this has steered the narrative to collating data on the lived experiences of families of prisoners. This paper will capture the pleasantries, celebrations and complexities in conducting research in the waiting rooms of prisons by narrating on three themes: Power; Emotions in the field; and the Outsider within.

Emily D. Williams, Anna Cox, Jemima Onih, Kylie Rolle, Maria N. Adams, Heather Caudle, Jill Maben (2023)Melting the Snowy White Peaks: The needs, expectations and experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic student nurses to support equitable nursing education and career progression, In: Nurse Education Today128105897 Elsevier

Background There is an under-representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic nurses in senior positions within the UK's national healthcare system. Objectives To understand student nurses' perspectives on the role of race and ethnicity on career expectations, course learning and delivery, and areas for additional training and skill development for all nurses in understanding structural inequalities in healthcare. Design Qualitative study involving semi-structured interviews. Settings University in south-east England, UK. Participants 15 nursing students (14 women, one man) from a range of ethnic backgrounds, age-groups and nationalities. Methods Interviews lasting 30–60 min were conducted with nursing students and thematic analyses undertaken. Results Four inter-related themes were constructed: altered career expectations, lack of understanding, absent discussion of racism and missing representation. Experiences of racism were not uncommon for students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds and these experiences affected these students' career expectations. Students described a lack of understanding about racism and that it was a taboo topic on their course and in placements. Conclusions Findings highlight an urgent need for universities to challenge existing nursing curricula to ensure inclusive, anti-racist educational provision that works equitably for all future nurses. The importance of representation was highlighted among those who deliver courses, in the content of nursing curriculum through inclusive education, decolonised curricula and with student voices embedded to enable the development of culturally-competent nursing graduates.

Maria Adams (2022)Prisoners' Families, Emotions and Space Policy Press

In this ethnographic study Maria Adams turns a geographical and feminist lens on prisoners’ families. She captures the testimonies of families as they navigate the sociological and social challenges of the imprisonment of loved ones, exploring key concepts including inequality, penal power and vulnerability. She also measures the impacts on many aspects of families’ emotions, relationships and identities, and considers the sources of support and resilience they draw on. With original research and fresh insights, the book deepens our understanding of carceral geography and how families experience spaces, both inside prison and beyond the bars.

Daniel McCarthy, Maria Adams (2023)The Impact of Youth Imprisonment on the Lives of Parents Routledge

It has long been argued that families play a crucial role in helping support prisoners during and beyond their time in prison. Through harnessing material and emotional support offered through family, prisoners can have a stronger commitment to move towards prosocial pathways via these important social ties. Yet, often overlooked are the experiences of families themselves in providing support for prisoners. This book focuses on parents whose adolescent male children are sent to prison. Charting many of the adversities which parents face - from violence, psychological stress, to stigma and shame - the book provides one of the first empirical assessments of the ways parents manage the consequences of serious crime and navigate relationships with their children in prison.As well as documenting major social hardships of imprisonment, the book will also assess the heterogeneous impacts on relationships between parents and their male children, including cases where relationships may improve or worsen over the sentence. With sensitivity to issues of gender, ethnicity and inequality in families, this book sheds new light on many of the problems of youth crime and presents a highly topical insight into the effects of imprisonment on parents. An accessible and compelling read, this book will appeal to students and scholars of criminology, youth justice, sociology and all those interested in the role of families in supporting prisoners.

Maria Adams, Noreen O'Meara, Daniel McCarthy (2020)The Joint Enterprise Appeals Project: a crucible for student empowerment and activism?, In: Student Empowerment in Higher Education Logos Verlag
Daniel McCarthy, Maria Adams (2017)"Yes, I can still parent. Until I die, he will always be my son": Parental responsibility in the wake of child incarceration, In: Punishment & Society21(1)pp. pp 89-106 Sage Publications

This paper examines what parental responsibility means when an adolescent child is sent to prison, where the traditional parenting relationship seemingly ends and parens patriae or penal control comes into full force. Paradoxically, we argue that even in these restricted spaces of contact, parenting continues, albeit in a form which runs into frequent tension with the care/control modalities of the prison itself. Our data further demonstrate the importance of addressing a constellation of social adversities experienced by caregivers, in conjunction with the collateral consequences of offending and incarceration. Data are drawn from interviews with primary caregivers with young men in prison (n=61).

Maria Adams, Daniel McCarthy (2019)Race and Parenting in the Context of Youth Incarceration, In: Ethnic and Racial Studies43(16)pp. 175-192 Taylor & Francis

This article examines the experiences of ethnic minority caregivers related to young men in prison. Focusing on how parenting was shaped through ethnic identity, we show that caregivers (especially mothers) developed a strong protectionist stance towards their children – a response partly conditioned by the pressures of crime and policing in their neighbourhoods. Reflections on parenting also encompassed specific forms of cultural shame, which were interpreted as responses to actual and perceived judgements about parenting competence. The role of faith as a means of coping with the ordeals of criminal justice contact were also identified. These findings are examined through the literature on race and parenting in explaining the consequences of crime and imprisonment in shaping family lives.

Daniel McCarthy, Maria Adams (2017)Visitation as Human 'Right' or Earned 'Privilege' for Prisoners?, In: Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law39(4)pp. pp 403-416 Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

Prison visitation has been widely recognised as an important feature of a just and humane prison system, providing important benefits for prisoners and their family in maintaining ties. However, emphasis on maintaining prisoner–family ties over the sentence has remained a low priority for the prison service in England and Wales, with prison visits ideologically framed as a ‘privilege’ rather than a ‘right’ for prisoners. This paper contrasts England and Wales with Scotland where a diverging approach to supporting visitation and family contact has been implemented. In Scotland, a strong focus on human rights as a justification for these policies has occurred, in tandem with more palatable historical context of penal welfarism. This paper assesses differences between the two governmental approaches to prison visitation, situated in discussion of some of the broader resettlement outcomes which may be garnered via these policy responses.

Daniel McCarthy, Maria Adams (2019)Assessing the deployment of informal support networks for mothers of incarcerated young men, In: European Journal of Criminology Sage Publications

The stigma and disruption caused by a close relative’s offending and imprisonment can impact heavily on the informal support networks that caregivers commonly utilise to cope with the aftermath of such events. In the study of family–prisoner relationships, scarce research has examined how caregivers draw on informal support networks and the extent to which these networks can facilitate various modes of support. This article focuses exclusively on mothers (n = 37) related to adolescent/young adult men in prison. We analyse who caregivers turn to after the offence, and the extent to which these networks operate as a means of delivering emotional (and sometimes material) support. Our conclusions raise questions about the informal support offered by family and friends, and offer suggestions on service responses to these issues.

Lucy Hanson, Chris Holligan, Maria Adams (2016)'Looked-after' young people's voices an actor-network theory analysis, In: Children's Geographies14(5)pp. 603-616 Taylor & Francis

This article offers an empirical case study of ways in which ‘looked-after’ young people responded in focus groups about taking part in a survey task. These research participants are deemed by the state as in need of protection. We demonstrate that despite their vulnerable status, they are immensely resilient and capable of contributing to debates about research participation. Through the application of actor-network theory, we outline conglomerations of actor-networks involved with the materiality of their agency.

Daniel McCarthy, Maria Adams (2019)Can family-prisoner relationships ever improve during incarceration? Examining the primary caregivers of incarcerated young men, In: British Journal of Criminology59(2)pp. 378-395 Oxford University Press (OUP)

How incarceration affects the lives of prisoners’ family members has received a growing level of interest amongst scholars during the past decade. The majority of research has pointed to the negative affects that incarceration wreaks on family lives. Yet, far less attention has been paid to the countervailing effects of incarceration, and in particular, cases where prisoner–family relations may improve during the sentence. Focusing on primary caregivers maintaining relations with young men in prison, we examine how and why these improvement dynamics exist, and consider what role incarceration may play in helping some families to rebuild relationships with prisoners in the restricted physical context of the prison.

Maria Natasha Adams, DANIEL MCCARTHY (2022)The Needs and Experiences of Prisoners’ Families during Long Sentences, In: Prison Service Journal261 Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
Chris Holligan, Lucy Hanson, Gillian Henderson, Maria Adams (2014)The 'Care' of Children in Need in Contemporary Scotland The Role of Positivism and Performance Indicators in Official Imaginings of Childhood and Wellbeing, In: Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care13(1) CELCIS, the Centre for Excellence for Children's Care and Protection

Improving the wellbeing of children is an ambition of governments worldwide. This has led to increased activity to measure the implementation of policies intended to achieve this. In this paper, we argue that this is currently limited through the reliance on statistically-driven methods and that there needs to be a fundamental change in how policies are assessed. We examine this within the current policy context for vulnerable children in Scotland.