Biography

Sophie Ellis

Research Assistant


Biography

My background is as a practitioner and I have worked for nine years in the Prison Service, in forensic psychological roles. My work included delivery of cognitive-behavioural rehabilitation programmes to adult male prisoners. For the last three years my main client group was males with a repetitive history of violence who were classed as high risk of harm and serving either indeterminate or extended determinate sentences. I also conducted psychological assessments for both general violence and intimate partner violence, to establish nature of risk and suitable rehabilitation pathways.

I completed my MSc. in Forensic Psychology at Coventry University. I have conducted research on prison violence from a desistance perspective, exploring the desistance pathways of prisoners who began their custodial sentences with violence and reduced/ceased this behaviour over their time in prison. My research explored what distinguished these men from their counterparts who continued violent behaviour, and how they achieved this within an environment that is often dangerous and contains many cultural norms that encourage violence.

During my time in the Prison Service I held a position on the regional Research Board, reviewing research proposals for HMPPS research and providing consultancy for researchers wishing to conduct studies in a secure setting. I have also lectured on conducting prison based research studies, psychological theories of offending and on the role of a prison psychologist.

My work has given me a deep interest in offender rehabilitation and desistance. I am particularly interested in the interplay between psychological, social, economic and environmental influences on desistance; how these same factors affect engagement in rehabilitation, how prison culture (particularly the culture and language of psychology) helps or hinders desistance, the effectiveness of offending behaviour interventions (particularly those utilising the Good Lives approach), and the use of the arts in supporting rehabilitation.

I am also interested in the psychological effects of the recent rise of the risk-based model of criminal justice; how to better assess protective factors, and how to enhance dynamic protective factors that can be developed in the presence of risk. I am particularly interested in the relative neglect of acquisitive offenders (as opposed to violent and sex offenders) within the existing suite of assessment tools and interventions.

Currently I am interested in the experiences of prisoners sentenced to an Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP), particularly their experiences upon transfer to open conditions and release into the community. I am also interested in furthering understanding of how individual, staff and programme factors interact to influence engagement in offending behaviour programmes. My current role is on the Families and Imprisonment Research Study which is investigating resilience processes in families of released prisoners. I am particularly interested in whether the Good Lives Model can offer any insights into how families maintain resilience or otherwise.

Publications

Papers:

Articles:

Conference Presentations:

  • Ellis, S. and Bowen, E. (2017, June). Factors associated with desistance from violence in prison: An exploratory study. Paper presented at the 26th Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference, Bristol: United Kingdom.