Dr Serena Wright

Personal profile

My research on prisons and penology has focused chiefly on long-term, life imprisonment, but also extends to short-term sentences and ‘frustrated desistance’, particularly among women.

I am particularly interested in the intersection between trauma, addiction, and criminalisation, and between health, gender and criminal justice, and have just been awarded a large ESRC grant as Co-Investigator, with Professor Ben Crewe and Dr Susie Hulley (University of Cambridge), to conduct longitudinal research with almost 150 life-sentenced prisoners. You can read about the new study on its dedicated project page here.

The current (2020-2022 study represents a follow-up to our earlier ESRC-funded cross-sectional design study on long-term imprisonment from young adulthood, undertaken between 2012 and 2016. You can read about the study here. The findings from that study have been widely reported in respected journals such as the British Journal of Criminology, Theoretical Criminology and Justice Quarterly, and were the subject of a recently published monograph entitled 'Life Imprisonment from Young Adulthood: Adaptation, Identity and Time'. The book launch event, which took place in October 2020, was held online and attended by more than 300 practitioners, academics, students and members of the public across the world. The launch event drew on reflections from Erwin James (author, Editor-in-Chief of Inside Time newspaper and Guardian columnist), Peter Dawson (Director, Prison Reform Trust), Rachel O'Rourke (Lead Psychologist, Long-term High Secure Estate) and Dr Giles McCathie (Lead Psychologist, Youth Custody Esttate), chaired by Professor Nick Hardwick (Royal Holloway, University of London). You can watch the launch event in its entirety here.

As part of our ongoing commitment to making our findings publically accessible, my co-author Ben Crewe recently discussed key findings from the book and their implications on the flagship BBC Radio 4 programme 'Thinking Allowed' (available here). In the coming months, we will also be discussing the findings of the study on the highly respected lived experience podcast, The Secret Life of Prisons, produced in colaboration with Prison Radio Association, and on the Locked Up Living podcast later in the summer. We are also working with an artist, Ryuuza, to create a graphic-novel style depiction of key findings from the study about the lived experience of serving life imprisonment from a young age for distribution within the youth custody estate. 

Research interests

Trustee
The Griffins Society

Postgraduate Lead and Steering Committee member 
Prison Research Network (British Society of Criminology)

External Research Fellowship Supervisor
The Griffins Society 

Member
European Society of Criminology
British Society of Criminology

Teaching

Since 2016, I have taught various facets of undergraduate criminology, across core and optional modules at all levels for students taking BSC Criminology & Sociology, BSC Criminology and Psychology, and LLB Law with Criminology, including:

CR2013 - Key Perspectives and Debates in Criminology (Level 5, core). Course Convenor
CR3023 - Prisons (Level 6, optional). Course Convenor
CR3027 - Drugs, Crime & Society (Level 6, optional). Course Convenor
CR2017 - Youth and Crime/Criminalising Youth (Level 5, optional). Course Convenor
CR2011 - Research Methods/Data Analysis for Social Scientists (Level 5, core).
CR1011 - Introduction to Criminology (Level 4, core).


I am also the Departmental Lead for Royal Holloway's Learning Together partnership modules with two of our local prisons, HMYOI Feltham and HMP/YOI Bronzefield. Each course brought university students together with students based at one of our partner sites to learn alongside each other in a tailor-made eight-week course:

- Thinking Criminologically. Royal Holloway and HMPYOI Feltham. Course Convenor.
- Pioneering Women (funded by the College's 2018 Suffrage scheme). Royal Holloway and  HMP/YOI Bronzefield. Course Convenor.
- Contemporary Criminological and Social Issues. Royal Holloway, University of Westminster and HMPYOI Feltham.

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