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Research Projects

Current Research Projects



'A good life in prison?’ Everyday ethics in a prison holding young men

The proposed research project, which is funded by an ESRC New Investigator Grant, is an ethnographic study of how young adult male prisoners (those aged between 18 and 24, as per the House of Commons Justice Committee, 2016) define and pursue a ‘good life’ while they are incarcerated.

Prisoner Emotions at the Margins: Understanding the pathways to destruction and healing among prisoners in solitary confinement

This project will explore the emotional dimensions of segregation units in England and Wales.



Deaths under community Supervision

With colleagues Jake Phillips (Reader, Sheffield Hallam University, and former PhD student at the Institute) and Professor Nicky Padfield (Faculty of Law), Loraine Gelsthorpe continues to investigate deaths under community supervision.  Deaths in police custody and deaths in prison custody have received a lot of attention over the years, but deaths under community supervision much less so.  Their publications include:

Life imprisonment from young adulthood: a longitudinal follow-up study

In April 2020, the project team began working on their new ESRC-funded study of life imprisonment from a young age, building on findings from their earlier research, Experiencing Very Long-Term Imprisonment from Young Adulthood.  The current study adopts a longitudinal perspective to follow-up more than 140 men and women interviewed between 2013-14 about their experiences of being given very long custodial terms (minimum tariffs of 15 years or more) at a young age (25 years or younger). While most of the follow-up interviews will be conducted within prisons, we also hope to re-interview the 30 men and women from our original sample who have been released into the community on life license.

FAIR: The Families and Imprisonment Research Study

The Families and Imprisonment Research (FAIR) study is investigating processes of resilience in families who have experienced the imprisonment of the father. The research is a prospective longitudinal study of 54 families. It is using semi-structured interviews, standardised assessments and informal observations to collect qualitative and quantitative data from fathers, mothers and children about their experiences. The study aims to inform criminal justice, social welfare and education policy and practice on how best to support convicted parents, partners and children during and after imprisonment and how to minimise criminal justice-related hardships they experience.

Zurich Project on the Social Development from Childhood to Adulthood

The Zurich Project on the Social Development from Childhood to Adulthood (z-proso) is an on-going longitudinal study of 1,675 children since their admission to the first year of Zurich’s primary schools in the autumn of 2004. It aims at understanding the developmental dynamics involved in aggressive behaviour and victimisation during childhood and adolescence.

The São Paulo Project on the Social Development of Children

Brazil has exceptionally high levels of interpersonal violence, including youth violence and victimisation. Most of the evidence on risk and protective factors in research literature comes from high-income countries. However, risk and protective factors may vary in different settings with distinct cultural norms, social organisation and violence levels. This projects aims to conduct a cross-sectional school-based survey with a representative sample of 14-15 year-old adolescents in São Paulo, Brazil.

Evidence for Better Lives Study (EBLS)


The Evidence for Better Lives Study (EBLS) is an innovative global birth-cohort study in eight cities across the world.  In December 2015, a group of researchers, philanthropists, and representatives from WHO, UNICEF, UNODC Office of Research – Innocenti, and the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children identified three priorities that have remained at the heart of EBLS: to launch a pioneering multicentric birth cohort study focused on low and middle income countries; to focus on medium-sized cities and to collaborate with international, national and local stakeholders to support sustainable city-wide change; and to contribute to capacity-building by creating an interdisciplinary network of research teams that encourages mutual learning.

Mental Health Challenges and Compromised Quality of Life among Offenders

This is a programme based on international coordinated research among Principal Investigators of prospective longitudinal studies from across the world.

Covid-19 and the Psychological Wellbeing of Police Officers and Health Workers in Ghana

This research project aims to explore the psychological well-being of these front-line professionals in Ghana. It will involve repeated surveys and in-depth interviews over 12 months to track changes in well-being and coping strategies during these difficult times. The study promises crucial data on the effects of responding to Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, on response groups, providing evidence for early interventions to improve the well-being of these individuals.

The i-Gov Project: Illegal Governance of Markets and Communities

The Illegal Governance (i-Gov) Project aims to identify and explore instances of illegal governance in local communities across the United Kingdom.

Crime & Networks Group

The Crime & Networks Group at the VRC is a group of researchers working on the application of social network analysis techniques to model and understand the mechanisms underpinning a range of illegal phenomena including violence, organised crime groups and illegal markets (e.g. drugs, human trafficking, migrant smuggling).

Legitimacy and Counter-terrorism Policing

The project seeks data on people’s understanding of ‘terrorism’, how they experience – personally or vicariously – police counter-terrorism activities, their normative expectations of counter-terrorism policing and their perceptions of their legitimacy. It is part of a larger project – Modelling the recruitment PROcesses leading to organized crime and TerrOrism Networks (PROTON) – co-ordinated by Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Milan, Italy).

Cyberaggression and Cybervictimisation in Canada

This project is investigating cyberbullying in different contexts, including:

  • individuals who are bullied online via threats for sharing private sexual content/materials (i.e. issues of sextortion or sextism)
  • victimized individuals due to their sexual orientation (homophobic victimization)
  • wider bullying victimization in the school or university setting via social network sites.

Crime during the Covid-19 Crisis: A Global Analysis

This project aims to document and analyse crime levels before, during and on the way out of the emergency regimes in a large number of cities or urban provinces/districts worldwide, with a focus on large cities because they are more likely to be comparable and have up-to-date police data. They plan to examine the timing of changes in crime patterns, the differences in trends between types of crimes and the extent to which cities differ in their patterns.

Recently Completed Research Projects

This study examined the way in which notions of friendship and group violence are conceived by young people in their everyday lives and by criminal justice practitioners involved in cases of joint enterprise. It also considered young people's understanding of the legal consequences of group violence. The primary aim of the study was to make a theoretical and empirical contribution to the debate on ‘joint enterprise’ as a legal response to serious group violence involving young people, to inform policy makers, criminal justice practitioners and young people.