Skip to content

Dr Alisa Stevens

Senior Lecturer

Email:
stevensa9@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0)29 2087 6638
Location:
Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision

My research and teaching interests revolve around understanding experiences of imprisonment for, and the potential for the rehabilitation of, people in prison. I am particularly concerned with the prospects for positive change among people serving long sentences for violent or sexual offences, both through the prison’s provision of an enabling social milieu and through treatment programmes. I enjoy using qualitative methods, and draw upon a range of psychosocial theories and humanistic approaches to understanding offending behaviour and personal change.  To date I have researched:

  • prison-based therapeutic communities for serious offenders who present with personality disorders and psychopathic traits
  • imprisoned sexual offenders participating in a new treatment programme in Scotland
  • consensual and coercive sexual activity in prison, on behalf of The Howard League for Penal Reform

I hold a DPhil in Law and MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice, both from the University of Oxford. I joined Cardiff University as a Senior Lecturer in Criminology in January 2018, having previously worked at the Universities of Southampton and Kent.

Education and qualifications:

  • 2011: Postgraduate Certificate of Higher Education, University of Kent
  • 2009: DPhil in Law, University of Oxford
  • 2005: MSc Criminology and Criminal Justice, Distinction, University of Oxford
  • 2004: BSc (Hons) Social Policy, First Class, Open University

Honours and awards

  • Faculty Teaching Award for innovation and excellence in teaching, University of Southamton (2017)
  • Faculty Staff Achievement Award for excellence in improving student experience, University of Southampton (2015)
  • Brian Williams Prize for best article - ‘“I am the person now I was always meant to be”: Identity reconstruction and narrative reframing in therapeutic community prisons’, Criminology and Criminal Justice 12 (5): 527-47 - joint winner, British Society of Criminology (2013)
  • Sara A. Burstall Centenary Scholarship for best doctoral reserch, British Federation of Women Graduates (2008)
  • Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Scholarship, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford (2006)
  • Faculty of Law Graduate Assistance Fund Award, University of Oxford (2005)
  • Roger Hood Prize for best result on the MSc Criminology and Criminal Justice, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford (2005)

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • Member of the British Society of Criminology
  • Fellow of the Howard League for Penal Reform 

Academic positions

  • 2018 onwards: Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Cardiff University
  • 2013-17: Lecturer in Criminology, University of Southampton
  • 2009-12: Lecturer in Criminal Justice and Criminology, University of Kent
  • 2006-09: Law Faculty Graduate Teaching Assistant and Oriel College Tutor for Criminal Justice and Penology, University of Oxford
  • 2006-07: Research Assistant, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford

Speaking engagements

Academic conferences:

  • 'Revisiting "involuntary celibacy" and "latent homosexuality": Sexual relations in prisons, Invited presentation, The Society of Captives Today: Celebrating the 60th Anniversary, University of Leicester (2018) 
  • ‘Nothing like America’?: Sex in English prisons, American Society of Criminology, Washington DC (2015)
  • Recovering lost voices: Accessing the subjugated knowledge of former prisoners, Invited presentation, Hearing the Hidden Voice: Researching Prisoners’ Lives and Perspectives, University of Dundee (2015)
  • Sex in English prisons: What we know, do not know, and need to know, European Society of Criminology, Porto (2015)
  • Thinking the ‘unthinkable’: Why British prisons should introduce conjugal visits, British Society of Criminology, University of Plymouth (2015)
  • Therapeutic treatment of violent female offenders in England, Invited discussant, Why Gender?, WomEx, University of Applied Social Sciences, Frankfurt-am-Main (2014)
  • 'A hidden issue in a hidden world’: Findings from the Commission on Sex in Prison, British Society of Criminology, University of Liverpool (2014)
  • Researching sex in prison: Pragmatism, politics, and possibilities , British Society of Criminology, University of Wolverhampton (2013)
  • 'Serious therapy' for serious female offenders: Experiences of the prison-based democratic therapeutic community for women, Women and Justice conference, University of Wales, Newport  (2013)
  • Desistance in prison: The case of democratic therapeutic communities, British Society of Criminology, University of Portsmouth (2012)

Selected other speaking engagements:

  • The sexual health needs of prisoners, Invited presentation, Health Inside and Out: The health and well-being of prisoners and their families,Sussex Prisoners’ Families, Brighton (2015)
  • Sex in English prisons, Invited presentation, British Society of Criminology Southern Branch, London School of Economics (2015)
  • Sex in Prison, Behind Closed Bars: Sex in Prison symposium, Howard League for Penal Reform, London (2015)
  • Progressing towards change and desistance from crime: Residents’ experiences, Invited presentation, HMP Grendon (2013)
  • The progress of a prisons researcher, Invited presentation, British Federation of Women Graduates, London (2012)

Committees and reviewing

  • Grant reviewer, ESRC and The Leverhulme Trust
  • Journal reviewer: Aggression and Violent Behaviour, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Criminal Behavior and Mental Health, Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, Journal of Social Policy, Mental Health Review Journal, Policing and Society, Qualitative Inquiry, Sociological Forum
  • Member of the Editorial Advisory Panel for Criminology, Oxford University Press, 2015-16
  • Member of the Research Advisory Group, HMP Grendon, 2013 onwards

2019

2017

2016

  • Stevens, A. 2016. Therapeutic communities. In: Jewkes, Y., Bennett, J. and Crewe, B. eds. Handbook on Prisons.. Routledge, pp. 497-513.

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2007

I have been teaching topics in penology, criminology, and criminal justice for over a decade. My undergraduate and postgraduate teaching experience includes the creation of new modules; the re-design or ongoing continuous improvement of existing modules; delivering lectures, seminars, workshops, and tutorials; running fieldtrips to prisons; and providing individual supervision for undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations and doctoral research. I hold a postgraduate teaching qualification (PGCHE) and am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).

At Cardiff, I continue to contribute wide ranging teaching, at all levels of tertiary education, and particularly enjoy providing research-led teaching on prisons and prisoners.

Prisons, as the ultimate form of punishment in the United Kingdom, are fundamental to our criminal justice system. If we are to make best use of them, they must be effective in helping people who have offended against others and against society to change for the better. These concerns – around prisons, prisoners, offender rehabilitation, and desistance from crime – underpin and inspire my research interests.

My passion for prisons and penal reform was initially sparked through voluntary work in prison, which led me to question the purpose and use of imprisonment, and the rehabilitative needs of people who live in prison. This led directly to my DPhil research (University of Oxford, 2005-9) at the therapeutic communities at HMPs Grendon and Gartree for men and HMP Send for women. Prison-based therapeutic communities offer serious (typically indeterminate sentenced, violent or sexually violent) offenders the opportunity to engage with an atypically humane, supportive, and pro-social environment while undertaking prolonged group psychotherapy. My research, conducted through ethnographic observation and interviews with residents (prisoners) and operational and clinical staff, produced a number of publications, notably an award winning article (‘I am the person now I was always meant to be’, Criminology and Criminal Justice 12 (5): 527-47) and a research monograph (Offender Rehabilitation and Therapeutic Communities, Routledge, 2013).

More recently, I was the academic consultant to the Howard League for Penal Reform’s Commission on Sex in Prison. Over two years, the Commission investigated the extent and nature of, issues raised by, and policy implications of, sexual activity in our prisons. Controversially, research access to serving prisoners was denied but I was able instead to interview former prisoners about their sexual experiences behind bars.  My findings attracted media interest (BBC, The Guardian, The Independent) and were published in the British Journal of Criminology in 2017 (‘Sexual activity in British men’s prisons', 57 (6): 1379-1397). There remains a pressing need for substantial, mixed methods research on sex in prison.

I am currently writing up my findings from research with men undergoing in-prison treatment for sexual offending in Scotland, for which I observed treatment sessions and conducted life history interviews.

I am currently co-supervising (with Kirsty Hudson) Faye Vanstone's research on imprisoned sexual offenders. Faye, who is ESRC funded, transferred with me from the University of Southampton. 

I warmly welcome enquiries from prospective PhD researchers on all aspects of penology and offender rehabilitation:

  • The use and experience of prisons and imprisonment
  • Comparative penology
  • Offender rehabilitation, especially psychosocial approaches for violent and sexual offenders
  • Desistance from crime and resettlement

Past projects

  • Co-supervisor (33%) for Caroline Andow - An ethnography of everyday life in a Secure Children's Home (awarded 2016)

During my time at the Universities of Southampton and Kent, I have also contributed supervision to projects on:

  • The social world of a long term prison
  • Prisoner health