Prisons, punishment and policing

Our research in this area develops a critical knowledge of penal policies with cross-cutting expertise on regulation and governance and criminalisation, social fairness and social justice.

Our research has a focus on three main topics:

  • punishments and more specifically extreme forms of punitive treatments (the death penalty and life imprisonment);
  • the means employed to control certain groups of individuals;
  • the mechanisms implemented to incite offenders to desist from crime.

Our research privileges local and granular explorations as well as comparative and multidisciplinary methodologies.

To develop systematic and critical knowledge of the key empirical and theoretical discussions about punishments and the penal policies brought forward to control and reintegrate offenders.

Research projects

Learning Criminology Inside

The Learning Criminology Inside project started in September 2017 at HM Risley Prison.

Drawing on the model of other prison-university partnerships (eg “Inside Out” at Durham and “Learning Together” at Cambridge), this pilot project involved 3rd year BA Criminology students studying weekly with prison-based students.

Together, in the prison, they had seminars, discussing the course content for ‘From Imprisonment to Rehabilitation’, facilitated by university staff and invited experts. This project aimed to provide higher educational opportunities to those who do not usually have easy access to it, to give University of Manchester students an enriched learning experience and to strengthen links between The University of Manchester and the criminal justice system. 

Funding by CHERIL provided the opportunity to research the outcomes and impacts participating in the course had on all students and staff who took part in the course. The main findings were that taking part in the course enhanced learning for both sets of students. Both prison-based students and university-based students reported experiencing transformational personal benefits as a result of the project. 

Following the completion of the project, the Learning Criminology Inside module continues to run on our BA Criminology course for final year students (Field trips have been put on hold due to COVID-19). 

Civic Innovation in Community: safety, policing and trust with young people

Principle Investigator: Reka Solymosi, 01/10/19 – 30/05/20 
The Civic Innovation In Community: Safety, Policing and Trust with Young People project worked with university students and police to re-establish trust between the two groups. 

Understanding changing demand for police during the coronavirus pandemic

Principal Investigator - Reka Solymosi, 05/10/20 - 04/10/21

COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges in the UK and globally. Police have seen new tasks emerge, such as enforcement of restrictions on public gatherings or shielding of vulnerable staff. At the same time, changes in people’s routine activities altered by government restrictions on movement meant changing patterns of crime. The early days of lockdown saw much speculation about these effects on crime and policing, however, not always supported by data. For example, the United States saw no significant changes in the frequency of serious assaults in public, contrary to the concerns of media and policy makers.

Other changes have been supported, such as shifts in the types of locations where crimes were happening (e.g. reductions in residential burglary but little change in non-residential burglary). An evidence-based understanding of how demand on police changed in time, place, and nature is important to provide guidance for forces as new restrictions are imposed to control the spread of COVID-19. 
To achieve this, we will analyse how demand for policing, as measured by calls for service, changed during the different stages of the pandemic in the UK, including the pre-lockdown period, the full lockdown beginning on 23 March 2020 and the progressive relaxation of restrictions over time.

While previous studies have looked at changes in crime associated with coronavirus, only a minority of calls for service result in a crime being recorded and so much police time is spent servicing non-crime demand. This includes dealing with mental health incidents, anti-social behaviour, missing people and traffic collisions, all of which were influenced by the pandemic. These calls are particularly important because they relate to protecting vulnerable people, who may have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and government responses to it (e.g. the suspension of some services, potentially displacing demand onto police).

More information on the project

Find out more

News and highlights

  • Surviving Death Row event brings home gravity of miscarriages of justice - A special event presenting the stories of two people whose wrongful convictions cost them a combined 32 years in prison, has proved popular with students and brought home the seriousness of miscarriages of justice. 
  • Learning Criminology Inside wins at Making A Difference Awards - Criminology academics Dr Emily Turner, Dr Rose Broad and Dr Caroline Miles took home the prize for Outstanding Teaching Innovation in Social Responsibility for their successful Undergraduate programme Learning Criminology Inside, which gave a student cohort the chance to participate in teaching sessions with inmates at HMP Risley.