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Institute of Criminology

 

Biography

I am a fourth year PhD student, supervised by Professor Ben Crewe. My PhD explores the history of psychological practices in English prisons, and the sociology of prison psychologists.

Before arriving at Cambridge, I spent nine years working in forensic psychological practice for the Prison Service. I conducted assessments of risk, need and ability, and delivered a range of psychological interventions. Latterly I specialised in working with men convicted of serious and repetitive violence. Much of my work was with men serving indeterminate sentences.

During my time in the Prison Service, I conducted research on the psychosocial characteristics of men who behaved violently in custody, and desisted over the course of their sentence. I was interested in how people managed to desist in an environment that typically has elevated levels of violence. This MSc thesis was later published as a paper entitled ‘Factors associated with desistance from violence in prison’.

In 2017, I moved to a Research Assistant post at the Institute of Criminology. For two years, I worked on the Families and Imprisonment Research (FAIR) Study: a nine-year mixed methods longitudinal study of imprisoned fathers, their partners and their children. I published a methodological paper exploring the role of time and space in longitudinal participant retention, and co-authored an evidence review for criminal justice charity Clinks, on supporting the families of people in prison and on probation. Other co-authored publications are listed below.

In 2019, I began my PhD with the Prisons Research Centre, exploring applied psychology practice in prisons and the social and moral lives of prison psychologists. During the course of the study I interviewed 104 psychologists with experience spanning nearly 60 years of practice in English prisons. I am particularly interested in the social and moral climate of prison-based psychology, the socialisation process that prison psychologists undergo, how psychology contributes to the broader moral norms of imprisonment, and how psychologists make complex value-based decisions. I am presently writing up my thesis.

Between September 2022 and February 2023, I held a research internship at the Prison Reform Trust. I completed a consultancy project consulting prisoners serving indefinite sentences, about their views and experiences of completing psychologically-based offending behaviour programmes. A report is currently being finalised.

I have a significant interest in indeterminate sentencing. I have been active in campaigning work to overturn the Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence; a sentence given out between 2005 and 2012 in England and Wales before being abolished by the European Court of Human Rights, but not retrospectively, leaving around 6,000 people still serving it. I have written several evidence summaries to support parliamentary activity on this issue, and loosely coordinate collective activity by academics and practitioners seeking to influence in this area.

More broadly, I am interested in the points of intersection between the ‘psy’ disciplines and imprisonment, and the impact of these intersections on the imprisonment-related experiences of staff and prisoners, as well as the role of psychology in prison-related policymaking. I coordinate a network called Critical Conversations in Forensic Psychology, which aims to unite forensic psychologists with their crime-interested neighbours in other disciplines, to foster a socio-critical approach to psychological practice which is fully engaged with matters of power, politics and policy.

Research

Project title: The social and moral landscape of prison psychologists.
Position: PhD Researcher
Status: Ongoing.

Project title: Doing offending behaviour programmes while serving an indefinite prison sentence.
Position: Researcher (at Prison Reform Trust).
Status: Ongoing.

Project title: The Families and Imprisonment Research (FAIR) study.
Position: Research Assistant.
Status: Completed www.fair.crim.cam.ac.uk

Publications

Key publications: 

Peer-Reviewed Journals

  • Ellis, S., Lanskey, C., Markson, L., Souza, K., Barton-Crosby, J. & Lösel, F. (2022). Retaining participants in longitudinal studies: Trekking the timescape of fieldwork. International Journal of Social Research Methodology. DOI: 10.1080/13645579.2022.2056993
  • Souza, K., Lanskey, C., Ellis, S., Markson, L., Lösel, F., & Barton-Crosby, J. (2021). The mental health trajectories of male prisoners and their female (ex)partners from pre- to post-release. Criminal Behavior and Mental Health, early access, 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1002/cbm.2223
  • Ellis, S. & Bowen, E. (2017). Factors associated with desistance from violence in prison: An exploratory study. Psychology, Crime and Law, 23, 1-19. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1068316X.2017.1290090
Other publications: 

Evidence Summaries


Articles and Blogs


Book Reviews

  • Ellis, S. (2018). Book review: The Routledge International Handbook of Forensic Psychology in Secure Settings. J. Ireland, C. Ireland, N. Gredecki and M. Fisher (Eds.). Forensic Update.
  • Ellis, S. (2018). Book review: The Forensic Psychologist’s Report Writing Guide. S Brown, E. Bowen and D. Prescott (Eds.). Forensic Update, 127, 40-41.

Chaired Seminars


Presented Conference Papers

  • Ellis, S. (2022, September). “The only answer I could give felt really wrong”: The moral world of prison psychologists. Paper presented at the European Society of Criminology Annual Conference, University of Malaga: Spain.
  • Ellis S. (2022, June.) Too (il)liberal? Penal politics, political consciousness and professional practices of prison psychologists. Paper presented at the British Society of Criminology Annual Conference, University of Surrey: UK.
  • Ellis, S. (2022, June). A professional project? Psychologists in English prisons 1954-2021. Paper presented at the Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference, Solihull: UK.
  • Ellis, S. (2022, June). Decolonising forensic psychology. Paper presented at the Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference, Solihull: UK.
  • Ellis, S. (2021, June). The racial history of forensic psychology in Britain and its former colonies: An archival analysis. Paper presented at the Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference, Online: UK.
  • Ellis, S., Lanskey, C., Souza, K., Markson, L., Löesel, F., & Barton-Crosby, J. (2020, March). Families after prison: What are they like, and how do they experience probation? Paper presented at the Probation Institute Conference, London: UK.
  • Ellis, S., Lanskey, C., Loesel, F., Markson, L., Souza, K., & Barton-Crosby, J. (2019, June)Families affected by paternal imprisonment in the UK: Ethnic and cultural perspectives. Paper presented at the Families and Imprisonment Research Conference, Cambridge: UK.
  • Markson, L, Ellis, S., Lanskey, C., Barton-Crosby, J. & Losel, F. (2018, November). Long-term experiences of addiction for previously imprisoned fathers. Paper presented at the American Society of Criminology Annual Conference, Atlanta.  
  • Ellis, S., Losel, F., Lanskey, C., Markson, L & Barton-Crosby, J. (2018, August). Transience, transition and trust: Themes from participant retention in the Families and Imprisonment Research Study. Paper presented at the European Society of Criminology Annual Conference, Sarajevo.
  • Ellis, S., Losel, F., Lanskey, C., Markson, L & Barton-Crosby, J. (2018, June). Transience, transition and trust: Themes from participant retention in the Families and Imprisonment Research Study. Paper presented at the Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference, Newcastle.
  • Ellis, S. (2018, June). Violence prevention in prisons: The gap between theory, practice and lived experience. Paper presented at the Center for Violence Prevention Annual Conference, Worcester.
  • Ellis, S. & Bowen, E. (2017, June). Factors associated with desistance from violence in prison: An exploratory study. Paper presented at the Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference, Bristol.

 

Teaching and Supervisions

Teaching: 
Institute of Criminology, Cambridge:

2020-2023: HSPS Tripos: Foundations of Criminology and Criminal Justice: Risk Assessment & Algorithmic Justice lecture. 

2019-2023: MPhil Criminology/MSt Penology: Criminological Research Methods: NVivo workshop.

University of Suffolk:

2018 - 2022: Forensic Psychology - guest lecturer. 

University of Lincoln:

2021-2023: Forensic Psychology – guest lecturer.

Supervisions:

2021-2022: PBS Tripos: Criminology, Sentencing and the Penal System.

2021-2023: PBS Tripos: Developmental Psychopathology: Prisoners’ Families.

Research supervision: 

I provide ad-hoc consultancy to forensic psychology trainees completing research as part of their qualification portfolio. 

Other professional activities:

2020-2023: Co-opted member of the Division of Forensic Psychology committee: British Psychological Society. 

2019-2023: Public talks on prison to local community groups. Received Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Impact in the Local Community Award.

Ph.D. Researcher
 Sophie  Ellis

Affiliations

Colleges: 
Darwin College
Classifications: