Prof Chris Holligan

Professor (Education)

University of the West of Scotland


I have been a teacher for a short period in List D schools and secure units. It has always been an interest of mine regards why some individuals become excluded/exclude themselves. My current study is on young offenders in Polmont prison. I’m exploring their life histories in terms of the construction they make of them. The group have committed serious knife crime, including murder. I’m aiming to throw light on what holds their ‘life world’ together making it the case that so many of them return to prison. I’m drawing upon theory which recognises the interplay of human and non-human factors structuring their lives and sense of place in society. The scholarship which I’m presently engaging with is about male violence, masculinity and knife crime in the UK.

My other topic of current interest is the imprisonment of parents and its effect on the family, children and community. I have a PhD student working in this area whom I plan to work with over the coming two years. We are interested in processes which relate to desistence, such as maintaining contact while the relative is in prison. We are hoping to undertake qualitative fieldwork in the context of two prison communities in Scotland within the next few months. My student is Maria Adams and I’m encouraging her to apply to join this network. I’ve volunteered with Families Outside and visited fathers in prison recently. Also, Maria is a volunteer in Toybox based in the visitor centre within Barlinnie. She works with the children of relatives who are visiting their incarcerated partner/friend. This general field also interests me from the point of view of how the criminal justice system takes account of the children of those being sentenced, if it does at all, and the link to the human rights of the child.

My proposal to research the views of the existing judiciary about this topic was almost successful – at the last hurdle I was informed by the research committee they were “uneasy” about being interviewed, and so this project has not gone ahead.

A personal life history interest led me into this subject: whilst research youth gangs in Glasgow some years ago a boy told me his father was in jail. That knowledge and seeing how he seemed to feel about the loss of his father stayed with me to surface in this as an active research interest.

I do not have formal academic qualifications in criminology. My university education was in philosophy, psychology and sociology at the universities of York, St. Andrews, and Aberdeen.

Keywords: Knife crime, violence, prison, children of prisoners.



University of the West of Scotland

Faculty of Education,
Social Science and Health,
University of the West of Scotland,
University Avenue,
Ayr, KA8 OSR.

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