Legal gavel and scales

Social work & social policy Criminal & social justice

Our researchers produce applied research and consultancy on issues of criminal and social justice, penal and social policy and practice.

We bring together expertise in:

  • sociology
  • criminology
  • social work
  • social policy
  • youth & migration studies

We've strong links with the Scottish Government, Scottish Prison Service, Criminal and Youth Justice Social Work Services, and related voluntary sector and penal reform organisations.

Our researchers work closely with the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice (CYCJ), the Centre for Law, Crime & Justice (CLCJ) and the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS).

Research topics

Crime & desistance

Pathways into and out of crime; youth transitions; co-offending: peer groups and gangs; relational contexts of crime and desistance; gender, crime and desistance; supporting desistance: policy implications and practice innovations.

Risk, regulation & reintegration

Multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) – youth and criminal justice; risk assessment and management; reintegration and risk: change and control.

Prisons, imprisonment & re-entry

Institutional cultures and governance structures; violence and victimisation in penal institutions; needs and experiences of families of prisoners; visiting conditions and visitor centres; prisoner and through-the-gate councils; throughcare in youth and criminal justice.

Punishment & penal practices

Evidence-based practices and effective supervision in early intervention, diversion, community and post-release supervision; experiences of punishment; consent, compliance and cooperation in community supervision; women’s community justice centres.

Co-production in community justice

User Involvement, personalisation and co-production; through-the-gate social cooperative structures of employment; mutual aid and peer support groups; participatory and strengths-based practices in youth and criminal justice.

Ethnicities, migration & social justice

The role of technology in mitigating marginalisation; social justice and inequalities among marginalised, migrant and ethnic minority groups; inclusion, identity and civic participation; national citizenship regimes; multiculturalism, interculturalism and superdiversity; Muslim civil society and forms of governance; race, equality and political participation.

Children, young people & crime & justice

The impacts, effects and dynamics of loss, grief and trauma; youth transitions; the interconnections between residential child care, youth offending and youth justice; victimisation and offending; young people’s use of technologies and the technological divide; gender, vulnerability and violence.

Knowledge mobilisation, transfer & exchange

Uses of evidence; maximising research impact; strategies in knowledge exchange; co-production of knowledge; evidence informed practice and policy.

Our staff

Claire Lightowler is the director of the CYCJ. She specialises in supporting the use of knowledge, evidence and research across policy and practice. This involves finding different ways to bring people together, to share knowledge, reflect and improve.

Nasar Meer is a reader in comparative social policy and citizenship and a Royal Society of Edinburgh Research Fellow (2014-2019). His research takes an over-arching approach to the study of citizenship, and he is especially interested in areas of political participation, education policies, approaches to anti-discrimination, public and media representation, and the ways in which collective membership is conceived and operationalised.

Laura Piacentini is Professor of Criminology and a punishment and society scholar. Her research is rooted in sociology and the social sciences and shaped around the disciplines of criminology, human geography, Russian Area Studies, history, human rights and political science. She has been researching and publishing in the area of contemporary Russian imprisonment for over 20 years, having lived and conducted research in numerous prisons. She is currently PI on a new Leverhulme study on rights consciousness in Russian prisons that runs until 2017. She is Co-Editor-in Chief of Criminology and Criminal Justice with Professor Michele Burman and Dr Sarah Armstrong at Glasgow University.

Daniela Sime works in the areas of social justice and inequalities, with a focus on children’s education, participation in society and equal opportunities. She is an expert in research, policy and practice in relation to child poverty, migrant and ethnic minority children and children’s access to services.

Nina Vaswani is a research fellow and research lead in the CYCJ. She has a particular interest in the experience of loss and grief in children and young people. Her research has focused on the increased likelihood of loss and grief among disadvantaged young people, especially those involved in offending.

Beth Weaver is a senior lecturer in the school and a research consultant for CELCIS. Her research interests and current projects are in the areas of desistance; user involvement and co-production; the regulation and governance of post-release and community supervision; experiences of punishment; and the management of those classified as high risk of serious harm.

Our PhD students

Fern Gillon: topic - the Scottish youth justice system, its processes and interventions; and young people’s experiences of them.

Nazirah Hassan: topic - children and young people’s experiences of penal institutions.

Dorota Szpakowicz: topic - social inequalities and social exclusion, especially in relation to children and youth, children’s rights, corporal punishment and gendered crime against women and children.