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Personal profile


Richard Sparks is Professor of Criminology at the University of Edinburgh.

From 2014-17 he was Head of the School of Law. He was from 2006-16 a founding Co-Director of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research http://www.sccjr.ac.uk/

He is a member of the editorial boards of several journals including Punishment & Society, of which he was editor-in-chief 2000-2004.

Richard has also edited a number of books. The most recent of these are: Democratic Theory and Mass Incarceration (with Albert Dzur and Ian Loader) (Oxford, 2016); four volumes on Punishment (with Richard Jones) in Routledge's Critical Concepts in Criminology series (2015); The SAGE Handbook of Punishment & Society (with Jonathan Simon) (SAGE, 2012); Travels of the Criminal Question (with Dario Melossi and Máximo Sozzo) (Hart, 2011) and Escape Routes: Contemporary Perspectives on Life After Punishment (with Farrall, Hough and Maruna), Routledge, 2010.

Click on the link below to listen to a discussion, recorded in 2011, on the roles of criminological theory and research in public life. The participants include Richard Sparks and Ian Loader (Oxford), Jonathan Simon (Berkeley) and Sarah Armstrong and Fergus McNeill (Glasgow): http://www.iriss.org.uk/resources/public-criminology-academics-engaging-public-life

Richard welcomes enquiries from prospective doctoral applicants in his fields of interest - the sociology of punishment and penal politics, prisons, expertise and policy-formation and also welcomes enquiries from prospective postdoctoral candidates.

Research Interests

Richard's main research interests lie in the relationships between penal policies and democratic politics; the sociology of punishment (especially imprisonment); public responses to crime and punishment; and the uses, abuses and non-uses of criminological knowledge in shaping public policy on crime and punishment.

Earlier research projects have included studies (with Marion Smith and Evi Girling) of nine-year old children's conversations about justice and punishment and (with Elaine Crawley) of older men in English prisons. Richard is the author of Television and the Drama of Crime (1992) and co-author (with Tony Bottoms and Will Hay) of Prisons and the Problem of Order (1996) and (with Evi Girling and Ian Loader) of Crime and Social Change in Middle England (2000). 

Current Research Interests

Richard's current work principally concerns the relationships between policies, discourses and practices of crime control and punishment and democratic politics. He is currently working, in collaboration with Ian Loader (University of Oxford), towards a book provisionally entitled A Better Politics of Crime. This extends their earlier work in their book Public Criminology? (Routledge, 2010) which focused on the place of criminology in debates on the public roles of the social sciences. See further: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415445504/

 You can read more about Loader and Sparks's current activities at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/content/better-politics-crime-0



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