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Hope, legitimacy and carceral citizenship: using walking methodologies to understand peoples’ experience of probation supervision

A new research project exploring peoples' experience of probation supervision, in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Nottingham, funded by Research England.

Hope, legitimacy and carceral citizenship: using walking methodologies to understand peoples’ experience of probation supervision

About the project

The criminal justice system in England and Wales has failed to help people transition away from offending, with data suggesting that 33 per cent of adults who have served a community or custodial sentence are reconvicted within 12 months of release/completion. Research has shown that hope can be a driving force behind individuals’ efforts to desist from offending (Laursen 2022; Farrall et al 2014; Burnett and Maruna 2004). However, little research has sought to understand what people on probation or released from prison hope to get from their sentence, nor how probation services might work to support people who occupy the position of ‘carceral citizen’ (Miller and Stuart, 2017).

In recognition of the inherent power imbalances in traditional, interview-based research in criminal justice settings, this study will employ peer researchers as well as using walking and photo elicitation methodologies to generate data with people on probation, probation staff, and external stakeholders.

The aim of the research is to develop our understanding of hope in this context and how this may translate into effective probation practice.


Burnett, R. and Maruna, S. (2004) So ‘Prison Works’, Does It? The Criminal Careers of 130 Men Released from Prison under Home Secretary, Michael Howard The Howard Journal Vol 43 No 4. September 2004 pp. 390–404

Farrall, S. Hunter, B. Sharpe, G. and Calverley A. (2014) Criminal Careers in Transition: The Social Context of Desistance from Crime, Oxford University Press

Laursen, J. (2022) Radical hope and processes of becoming: Examining short-term prisoners’ imagined futures in England & Wales and Norway, Theoretical Criminology 2023, Vol. 27(1) 48–65

The research team

Professor Stephen Farrall, University of Nottingham

Stephen is a Professor of Criminology in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Nottingham, having held similar posts at the universities of Derby and Sheffield. As well as studying the role of hope in desistance, he has explored probation supervision and desistance longitudinally.

Dr Jake Phillips, Sheffield Hallam University

Jake is Reader in Criminology at Sheffield Hallam University. His research focuses on the intersection between policy and practice in the field of probation and community sanctions. He is interested in how probation services can meet the needs of people on probation and wider communities in a way that undoes some of the harm caused by our criminal justice system and wider systems of inequality.

Additional team members

  • Anita Dockley, Research Director, Howard League for Penal Reform
  • Dr Helen Churcher, Research and Project Officer, Howard League for Penal Reform
  • Peer researchers (to be recruited)

This research is funded by Research England.

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