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Professor Laura Piacentini

Social Policy

Personal statement

Laura Piacentini PhD, FRSE, Fellow Academianet

BA Sociology (2:1 Honours), MA Criminology (First Class, University of Keele), PgDip Russian Language (University of Strathclyde) and PhD Criminology & Sociology (University of Wales, Bangor).

I am a Criminologist with a background in Sociology and Russian Area Studies. My work, broadly defined, is concerned with punishment and society studies. I joined the University of Strathclyde in 2006 and was based in the Law School. In January 2016 I moved to the School of Social Work and Social Policy (established in 2014).

I am Associate Director of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research and University of Strathclyde Lead with Dr Beth Weaver.

I am the Co-Ed-in-Chief of the leading Criminology journal, Criminology & Criminal Justice with Dr Sarah Armstrong and Professor Michele Burman of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research.

In 2014 I was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Fellow of Academianet, which is the EU Research Fellowship established by the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel to recognise and support the research leadership of European Women Scholars. 



Employment and Employability in Scottish Prisons : A Research Briefing Paper
Piacentini Laura, Weaver Beth, Jardine Cara
The virtual reality of Russian prisons : the impact of social media on prisoner agency and prison structure in Russian prisons
Piacentini Laura, Katz Elena
Oñati Socio-Legal Series, (2018)
Carceral framing of human rights in Russian prisons
Piacentini Laura, Katz Elena
Punishment and Society, (2016)
"Get in, get out, go back?" : transitioning from prison ethnography to prison policy research in Russia
Piacentini Laura
The Palgrave Handbook of Prison EthnographyPalgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology, (2015)
Architecture and attachment : carceral collectivism and the problem of prison reform in Russia and Georgia
Piacentini Laura, Slade Gavin
Theoretical Criminology Vol 19, pp. 179-197, (2015)
Punishment and parade : the cultural form of penal exile in Russia
Piacentini Laura
Transnational Penal CulturesSOLON: Explorations in Crime and Criminal Justice, (2014)

more publications


I have taught Criminology for over twenty years and have developed interest and expertise across a wide range of criminological subject areas at under-graduate and Masters levels. I have supervised dozens of post-graduate students in Criminology.

In the School of Social Work & Social Policy, Criminology is an integrated part of the first and second year social policy modules and gives students an opportunity to see if this is a subject of interest. From 2017/2018, Criminology will be offered as a third year module (L5328 Emotions, Criminology and Criminal Justice).

Launching in 2018/2019 is the first MSc Criminology (Research Methods) at the School of Social Work and Social Policy:

I can supervise Criminology PhDs and applications for a PhD are welcomed in the following areas: criminology, sociology, prison sociology, international criminal justice systems, Russian criminal justice policy and gender and criminal justice.

Research interests

Research: I am a Criminologist and a highly proficient Russian speaker. I have been publishing in the area of contemporary Russian imprisonment for nearly twenty-five years, having lived and conducted research in numerous prisons. All of my work is multi-disciplinary (involving human geography, Russian Area Studies, history, human rights and political science). I am committed to radical, feminist, creative and theoretically informed research methods. I am the first Westerner to conduct theoretical and empirical research in Russian prisons and my research is recognised as world leading in Criminology.


Research grants

I have been PI or Co-I on many grants and have completed two major ESRC studies on Russian prisons: Prison Labour in Post-Soviet Prisons (1997-2001), and the first major study into women’s imprisonment in Russia in 2011, funded by the ESRC (with Professor Judith Pallot (Oxford) and Dr Dominique Moran (Birmingham)).


ESRC 2018 - 2021 Principal Investigator (circa £735k). The study, 'In the Gulag's Shadow: Producing, Consuming and Perceiving prisons in the Former USSR', is the first study of its kind in world Criminology.  The team includes Dr Gavin Slade (Lead Co-I and Associate Professor, University of Nazarbayev, Astana, Kazakhstan); Professor Elena Olmenchenko (Professor of Sociology, Higher School of Economics, St Petersburg), and Professor Alexei Trochev (Professor of Criminology, University of Nazarbayev, Astana, Kazakhstan).


AHRC and MRC      2018 - 2020 Co-Investigator (circa £180k): 'The Right to Health in Brazilian and Scottish Prisons' (AHRC and MRC), Professor Sally Haw (PI).


Leverhulme    2015 -2017 Principal Investigator (circa £45k): ‘Towards a Sociology of rights consciousness amongst Russian prisoners’ with Dr Elena Katz at the University of Oxford. See


ESRC 2012 – 2014 Co-Investigator (circa £206k): ‘Regulating Justice: The dynamics of compliance and breach in criminal justice social work in Scotland’ with Dr Monica Barry (Law, PI) and Dr Beth Weaver (Social Work and Social Policy, Co-I).


ESRC 2006-  2010 Co-Investigator (circa £253k): 'Women in the Russian Penal System: The role of distance in the theory and practice of imprisonment in late Soviet and post-Soviet Russia' with Professor Judith Pallot (Oxford, PI) and Dr Dominique Moran, University of Birmingham, Co-I).


Knowledge Exchange: I have advised the United Nations and NGOs on subjects that include forced labour in prisons and Russian political prisoners and asylum seekers. I have advised the Scottish Parliament on rehabilitation in prisons. I have given papers at diverse Universities including the Universities of Harvard, The Higher Education Institute of Smolensk and Moscow State University. In 2012, I taught at the Central European University, Budapest.

Book Awards: My first book, Surviving Russian Prisons: Punishment, Politics and Economy in Transition won the British Society of Criminology Book of the Year award in 2005. My second book (co-authored with Professor Judith Pallot (Oxford) titled Gender, Geography and Punishment: the Experience of Women in Carceral Russia, won the Heldt Prize for book of the year at the American Association of Slavonic Studies and was nominated for the Book of the Year 2013 by Pushkin House London and the Davis Centre at Harvard University

Article Awards: Theoretical Criminology with Gavin Slade, Article of the Year, 2016, 'Architecture and Attachment: Carceral Collectivism and the problem and prison reform in Russia and Georgia.

In preparation is Prison Netnography and Human Rights in Russian Prisons. Routledge (co-authored with Dr Elena Katz).

Professional activities

Assocation for Slavic, East European & Eurasian Studies, USA
"Who is saying what to whom and for what purpose?": Prisoners as web users in Russian prisons
Sociological and Criminological Understandings of Human Rights in Russian Prisons
The Virtual Reality of Russian Prisons:The Impact of Social Media on Prisoner Agency and Prison Structure in Russian prisons
External Examiner, Masters in Criminology, Edinburgh Law School
External Examiner
Social Sciences Now and Then: Celebrating 50 Years of Social Sciences at Bangor University

more professional activities


In the Gulag's Shadow: Producing, Consuming and Perceiving Prisons in the Former USSR
Piacentini, Laura (Principal Investigator)
This a major (circa £735k), new comparative study of two of the largest penal systems of the former Soviet Union: Russia and Kazakhstan. It advances knowledge of one of the most extraordinary systems of penal power, the Gulag, and seeks to understand it's legacies today in policy, in practice and in feelings and attitudes to punishment in this udner-researched world region.
Period 01-Jul-2018 - 01-Jul-2021
In the Gulag's Shadow: Producing, Consuming and Perceiving Prisons in the Former Soviet Union
Piacentini, Laura (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Sep-2018 - 31-Aug-2021
AHRC - Doctoral Training Partnership Scotland | Gavin, Mhairi
Piacentini, Laura (Principal Investigator) McDiarmid, Claire (Co-investigator) Gavin, Mhairi (Research Co-investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2014 - 01-Jul-2018
An Evaluation of the Hamilton Youth Court Pilot
Piacentini, Laura (Academic)
Funded by The Scottish Executive (£220,000)
Period 01-Jan-2003 - 02-Oct-2006
An Evaluation of the Youth Court in Airdrie, Scotland, February 2004 – September 2005.
Piacentini, Laura (Academic)
Funded by the Scottish Executive (£49,000).
Period 01-Sep-2004 - 02-May-2005
Rehabilitation in Scottish Prisons
Piacentini, Laura (Principal Investigator)
Research Evaluation into Rehabilitation in Scottish Prisons
Period 03-May-2004 - 01-Jun-2005

more projects