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Richard Sparks, a founding co-director of SCCJR, is Professor of Criminology at the University of Edinburgh. He was formerly Professor of Criminology at Keele University and in his early career also worked at the Open University and the University of Cambridge.

Richard’s research concerns relationships between crime control, especially penal policies, and democratic politics. I am involved in debates in the sociology of punishment; public responses to crime and punishment; and the uses of criminological knowledge in shaping public discourse and policy on crime and punishment.

Much of his work has concerned prisons, and especially legitimation problems with respect to power and control in prisons, in the Uk and internationally. My other main interest – and focus of my current work – is on questions of everyday security in twenty-first century Britain. This is the subject of an ESRC-funded study, in collaboration with Evi Girling, Ian Loader, Ben Bradford, Gosia Polanska and Ryan Casey: https://securityinplace.org/.

He interested in comparative and international dimensions of all these questions. Maximo Sozzo (UNL, Argentina) and I have started an online monthly workshop, co-hosted by SCCJR and UNL to discuss questions of penal policy and politics across global North/South boundaries: https://www.sccjr.ac.uk/news-events/news/new-workshop-series-launched/


Relevant publications

Richard Sparks (2020) Crime and justice research: The current landscape and future possibilities, Criminology and Criminal Justice DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1748895820949297 https://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/crime-and-justice-research(9589a5c7-f348-4509-bab4-4cfed161cf8e).html

Richard Sparks (2019) Beyond the rendez-vous: Criminology, critique, connection DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azz060

Richard Sparks and James Gacek (2019) Persistent puzzles: The philosophy and ethics of private corrections in the context of contemporary penality Criminology and Public Policy, vol. 18, pp. 379-399 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-9133.12445



University of Edinburgh


School of Law,
Old College,
University of Edinburgh

Research Themes

Globalisation, Harm and Social Justice

Courts and Sentencing

Punishment, Citizenship and Communities

Law, Policy and Practice

Knowledge Exchange and Engagement

Research Methods and Criminological Theory

Criminal Justice Process and Institutions


A Review of Interventions, Innovation, and the Impact of Covid-19 in the Scottish Prison System within a Comparative Analytical Framework

This is the final report from the project ‘A Review of Interventions, Innovation, and the Impact of Covid-19 in the […]

The Politics of Imprisonment

The Handbook on Prisons, Second edition is a key text for students taking courses in prisons, penology, criminal justice, criminology and related […]


Research knowledge and criminal justice policy: The Scottish experience


Public Criminology?

What is the role and value of criminology in a democratic society? How do, and how should, its practitioners engage […]


Crime and Social Change in Middle England: Questions of Order in an English Town

Crime and Social Change in Middle England explores the centrality of questions of crime and disorder in the lives of […]


The Politics of Imprisonment

This is the most comprehensive and ambitious book on prisons to have been published, a key text for anybody studying […]


Contemporary Landscapes of Crime, Order and Control: Governance, Risk and Globalization

The most comprehensive and authoritative single volume guide to criminology Brings together contributions from leading academics detailing the relevant theory, […]


Introduction:`What Lies Beyond? Problems, Prospects and Possibilities for Life after Punishment

Interest in the topics of the ‘resettlement’, ‘re-entry’ and ‘reintegration’ of people after they have undergone a criminal sanction has […]


Is there life after imprisonment? How elderly men talk about imprisonment and release

Based on findings from a two-year study in four UK prisons, this article discusses the prison experiences and release expectations […]


Legitimacy and Imprisonment Revisited: Notes on the Problem of Order Ten Years after

This text is an evidence-based, comprehensive examination of the cause, prevention, and control of prison violence. The authors examine the […]

21st May 2010

Incarceration, social control and human rights.

This project formed part of the International Council on Human Rights Policy’s inquiry on Social Control and Human Rights. The […]

3rd May 2023

Covid-19 in Scottish Prisons and Globally

7th September 2021

New Workshop Series Launched

29th February 2016

SCCJR academics contribute to Handbook on Prisons

21st October 2015

SCCJR contributes to Crime, Justice and Society in Scotland

Video Available

Workshop: Penalities of the Global South: An Indian Case Study

29th September 2022