Dr Maria Adams

+44 (0)1483 689674
09 AD 03



I have graduated with a PhD titled: “We are living their sentence with them…” - How prisoners' families experience life inside and outside prison spaces in Scotland. I have also completed a BA degree and MA in Sociology. Before, being appointed as a lecturer in criminology, I was a research assistant on an ESRC funded project called 'Parenting Young Offenders' at the University of Surrey. My main teaching interests are centred on punishment and penology.

Research interests

My main research interests are centred on penology. My research interest has primarily focused on the effects of incarceration exploring the familial perspective. I had undertaken a PhD adopting an ethnographic study on the lived experiences of families of prisoners in the West of Scotland. As a research assistant on an ESRC project, I collected data on parents who have a young person in prison. My research interests also lie in exploring the effects of joint enterprise. With other colleagues, we led an appeals project in partnership with a grassroots organisation called JENGba. The project was called Joint Enterprise Appeals Project. The project was delivered by students from sociology and law, where they carried out a case review of several live cases.


Crime and Society (SOC1034)Punishment and Society (SOC2073)Prisons and Prisoners (SOC3055)Crime, Justice and Power (SOC2063)


I am Principal Investigator on research on race, fatherhood and prison which is funded by the University of Surrey Research Pump Priming (Present).


Member of the self-assessment team for the Race Equality Charter Mark.Member of the British Society of Criminology.Member of the European Society of Criminology.

My teaching

My 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).
McCarthy D, Adams M (2017) Visitation as Human ?Right? or Earned ?Privilege? for Prisoners?, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
McCarthy Daniel, Adams Maria (2019) Can family-prisoner relationships ever improve during incarceration? Examining the primary caregivers of incarcerated young men, British Journal of Criminology 59 (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.
Hanson Lucy, Holligan Chris, Adams Maria (2016) ?Looked-after? young people's voices an actor-network theory analysis, Children's Geographies 14 (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.
Holligan Chris, Hanson Lucy, Henderson Gillian, Adams Maria (2014) The ?Care? of Children in Need in Contemporary Scotland The Role of Positivism and Performance Indicators in Official Imaginings of Childhood and Wellbeing, Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care 13 (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.
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.