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Sophie Ellis

Biography:

I am a second year PhD student, supervised by Ben Crewe, looking at how psychology is practised in English prisons. 

Before arriving at Cambridge, I spent nine years working in forensic psychological practice for the Prison Service. I conducted assessments of risk, need and ability, and delivered a range of psychological interventions. Latterly I specialised in working with men convicted of serious and repetitive violence. Much of my work was with men serving indeterminate sentences.

During my time in the Prison Service, I conducted research on the psychosocial characteristics of men who behaved violently in custody, and desisted over the course of their sentence, compared to those who persisted. I was interested in how people managed to desist in an environment that typically has elevated levels of violence. This MSc thesis was later published as a paper entitled ‘Factors associated with desistance from violence in prison’ (see Publications). 

In 2017, I moved to a Research Assistant post at the Institute of Criminology. For two years, I worked on the Families and Imprisonment Research (FAIR) Study: a 9 year mixed methods longitudinal study of imprisoned fathers, their partners and their children. Publications in progress include a methodological paper exploring contextual factors in longitudinal retention, and a paper exploring the narratives of ethnic minority families who have experienced paternal imprisonment.

In 2019, I began my PhD with the Prisons Research Centre, looking at how psychology is practiced in prisons. I am interested in the social features of prison-based psychology (and psychologists), in how psychology contributes to the moral climate of imprisonment, and in how psychologists make complex decisions. 

My fieldwork will comprise an ethnographic exploration of psychology teams at work. Whilst awaiting access, I am exploring psychology in prisons through historical analysis of institutional archives and media, which reveal how psychologists talk about themselves, the  evolution of moral frameworks for their practices, and their patterns of institutional remembering and forgetting. 

More broadly, I am interested in the social, cultural and institutional factors that influence prisoners’ experiences of risk management and rehabilitation. Currently I am particularly interested in experiences of, and institutional responses to, the Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP).

Key Publications

Ellis, S. and Bowen, E. (2017). Factors associated with desistance from violence in prison: An exploratory study. Psychology, Crime and Law, 23, 1-19. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1068316X.2017.1290090

Other Publications

Conference Presentations:

Ellis, S., Lanskey, C., Loesel, F., Markson, L., Souza, K., & Barton-Crosby, J. (2019, June). Families affected by paternal imprisonment in the UK: Ethnic and cultural perspectives. Paper presented at the Families and Imprisonment Research Conference, Cambridge: UK.

 

Markson, L, Ellis, S., Lanskey, C., Barton-Crosby, J. & Losel, F. (2018, November). Long-term experiences of addiction for previously imprisoned fathers. Paper presented at the American Society of Criminology Annual Conference, Atlanta.  

 

Ellis, S., Losel, F., Lanskey, C., Markson, L & Barton-Crosby, J. (2018, August). Transience, transition and trust: Themes from participant retention in the Families and Imprisonment Research Study. Paper presented at the European Society of Criminology Annual Conference, Sarajevo.

 

Ellis, S., Losel, F., Lanskey, C., Markson, L & Barton-Crosby, J. (2018, June). Transience, transition and trust: Themes from participant retention in the Families and Imprisonment Research Study. Paper presented at the Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference, Newcastle.

 

Ellis, S. (2018, June). Violence prevention in prisons: The gap between theory, practice and lived experience. Paper presented at the Center for Violence Prevention Annual Conference, Worcester.

 

Ellis, S. and Bowen, E. (2017, June). Factors associated with desistance from violence in prison: An exploratory study. Paper presented at the 26th Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference, Bristol: United Kingdom.

 

Articles:

Ellis, S. (2018). Why the public needs to force a conversation with the Government about prisons. i. Retrieved from  https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/uk-government-prisons-self-harm-assault/

 

Ellis, S. (2018). Prisons will only improve if the public demands change. The Conversation. Retrieved from  http://theconversation.com/prisons-will-only-improve-if-the-public-demands-change-93157

Ellis, S. (2017). Psychologists call for research into Universal Basic Income. Retrieved from https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/psychologists-call-research-universal-basic-income

Ellis, S. (2017). No alternative facts, just alternative hypotheses. (Coverage of the March for Science event in April 2017). Retrieved from https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/no-alternative-facts-just-alternative-hypotheses

Ellis, S. (2008). The contribution of the study of visual illusions to our understanding of the processes involved in visual perception. Psych-Talk, 61, 21-27.

 

Prisons Research at Cambridge University

The Prisons Research Centre (PRC) was founded in 2000, under the Directorship of Professor Alison Liebling. The Centre has received funding from a wide range of sources, including the Prison Service/NOMS, the Nuffield Foundation, the Leverhulme Trust, the ESRC, KPMG, the Home Office and UKDS (now Kalyx).


The Cambridge Institute of Criminology Prisons Research Centre aims to provide a stimulating research environment in which a coherent strategy of high quality research can be pursued, and integration between funded and non-funded, and applied and theoretical projects can be facilitated. We investigate how prisons operate, socially, morally and operationally, how they are experienced, and the relationship between these moral and social qualities, and their effects.


Members of the PRC team carry out, individually and collectively, methodologically rigorous and theoretically relevant field-based studies addressing problems of human and social values, punishment practices, and the organisation and effects of aspects of prison life. We strive to forge links with other prisons researchers, scholars in the broader fields of criminology and sociology, and with practitioners. Our vision is to develop a rigorous and person-centred model of social inquiry.


You can read more about the latest projects in our Annual Reports.