I am a lecturer in Criminology. I graduated with a PhD in 2017 titled: “We are living their sentence with them…” - How prisoners' families experience life inside and outside prison spaces in Scotland. Prior to my PhD, I completed my Master of Arts in Sociology at City University and Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Sociology at the University of Leicester.
My research and teaching are centred on issues surrounding prisons, including food in prison and the effects of imprisonment on families of prisoners. Also, my research interests stem to exploring the effects of the ‘controversial’ doctrine-Joint Enterprise.
I am one of the lead programme co-ordinators with colleagues from Department of Sociology and School of Law working in partnership with a grassroots organisation called JENGba on a project called Joint Enterprise Appeals Project. The project is delivered by students from the Department of Sociology and School of law, where they carried out a case review of several live cases.
I am also one of the lead programme co-ordinators for the Learning Together programme in partnership with HMP Send. I am responsible for the design and the implementation of the course. We began this new initiative in Spring 2019 and taught a new module entitled ‘Opening Criminology’. This is a eight week programme. We are developing a range of other modules for the next few years to encompass a range of topics to reflect the Department of Sociology.
My recent work on Doing Porridge: Understanding women’s experiences of food in prison is funded by the Economic Social Research Council. Please see 'Research' for further details.
I am very interested in research surrounding issues related to the prison system. I conducted a PhD on the experiences of families of prisoners in Scotland. After this, I was appointed as a research assistant on an ESRC funded project called ‘parenting young offenders’ at the University of Surrey. The principal investigator for this project was Dr Daniel McCarthy . There are several publications associated to this project under ‘publications list’.
- Food in Women’s prisons
I am a principal investigator for an ESRC funded project called Doing Porridge: Understanding women’s experiences of food in prison. This is a two year project from September 2021-September 2023. This project aims to analyse the experience of food in women’s prisons using an intersectional approach. It adopts an innovative suite of mixed qualitative methods in order to gain valuable insight into women’s experiences of this aspect of prison life. The study will open up wider conversations about food in prisons through an exhibition of prisoners’ art run in partnership with Koestler Arts. This project will make a significant contribution to understanding issues related to food, gender and ethnicity, and will provide an invaluable insight into how food forms part of women’s identities and experiences in prison.
Please see website for further details: Doing Porridge: Understanding women’s experiences of food in prison | University of Surrey
- Families, food and visiting rooms in a women’s prison
I am a principal investigator for a BA small grants called Food, families and visiting rooms in a women’s prison. This will be a two year project. We will explore how food contributes to improving the quality of visits; and more importantly, how this may strengthen the ties between women and their loved ones. The interview sample will be ten women in prison and ten family members (over the age of 18 only). Family members can be considered as ‘partner’, ‘child’, ‘parent of prisoner’ or siblings. Additionally, interviews will take place with three members of staff within the visiting room who can provide insightful observations in relation to food and visits over time. These interviews will be combined with observations of the role that food plays in the interactions between the women, their families and prison staff in the visiting room.
Aims of this study:
- To understand how food is utilised in the visiting room to strengthen familial ties between women in prison and their loved ones.
- To explore the preparation of food in the visiting rooms of a women’s prison.
- To examine the consumption food as a tool to strengthen social interactions between women, family members and their children.
- To explore how food can contribute to women adopting their familial roles to bond with their relatives in the visiting room.
- To reflect on how food is utilised to celebrate special events, i.e. birthdays, religious events; and how women and their families practise this in the visiting rooms.
- To identify policy and practical recommendations to improve the quality and experience of food in visiting rooms.
Please see website for further details: Food, families and visiting rooms in a women's prison.
Postgraduate research supervision
I am pleased to accept applications for PhD supervision in the field of penology including issues surrounding prison culture, social identity and the effects of incarceration.
My teaching in the department is devoted to the BSC Criminology and BSC Criminology and Sociology degrees. I teach on the following modules:
SOC1034 Crime and Society (Year 1)
SOC2073 Punishment and Society (Year 2)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).