Criminologists use art and play to question ideas of justice

Criminologists use art and play to question ideas of justice

LJMU academics work alongside artist to create a board game that brings the experiences of life on probation to the general public. 

Playing Probationary board game

Exhibiting work in one of the country’s leading modern art galleries is not a typical experience for criminologists, but academics from within LJMU's Criminal Justice and Criminology departments can now add this to their list of achievements. Alongside artist Hwa Young Jung, the team revealed a thought-provoking, interactive art piece – a board game entitled, Probationary: The Game of Life on Licence – at the Tate Modern for The Production of Truth, Justice and History exhibition hosted by the University of Warwick.

Produced through workshops with men on licence, Probationary explores the lived experience of being on probation. The board game format enables players to follow the journey of four characters as they work through the complexities of the probation process.

Board games, from Monopoly to the Game of Life, contain the structures and values of the society in which they are produced – presenting back to us the world in which we live. Taking this as a starting point, Probationary reflects real experiences of being subject to the criminal justice system and presents an opportunity to collectively play, understand and discuss such systems within contemporary society.

Playing Probationary board game

The game allows players to begin to understand the experience of those on licence to probation and to learn more about how the current probation system operates. It provides ‘view from below’ and in doing so, it not only gives voice to those experiencing life on licence, but enables players to follow their journey and share their experiences. Through the medium of play, the game seeks to change attitudes about probation and, ultimately, contribute to the process of changing policy.

"Exhibiting the game at the Tate Modern enabled us to engage with an arts audience to explore the potential of both the game and this novel way of working for criminology. The feedback we got from visitors who played the game was overwhelmingly positive and we are now seeking to engage a wider public audience through a series of forthcoming events."
– Dr Will Jackson, CCSE

A collaboration between The Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion (CCSE) at LJMU, the Foundation for Creative Technology (FACT), and the Howard League For Penal Reform, the project seeks to explore the ways in which knowledge exchange via the medium of art can lead to a different perspective on individuals’ lived-experience of the criminal justice system. The ultimate aim of the project is to explore the possibilities of this model of collaborative and interdisciplinary work to inform campaigns for penal reform.

By taking the academics outside of their usual approaches to research, the Probationary project provided an opportunity to test an ‘alignment model’ enabling the team to identify the focus of the project, co-develop the artist brief, appoint the artist(s), and contribute to the production and dissemination activities.

As part of these dissemination activities, the team are seeking to take the game into very different spaces to be experienced by a diverse range of players. In addition to the Tate Modern exhibition, Probationary has been presented at the British Society of Criminology Conference at Birmingham City University. The game will also be the focus of an event at the Howard League in London where policy makers will be invited to play and reflect on the impact the game has on their understandings of the current probation system. For information on forthcoming events, visit the Probationary website

Find out more about this project by visiting the The Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion (CCSE) at LJMU.

If you're interested in studying criminal justice or criminology, take a look at courses within the School of Law or the School of Humanities and Social Science.


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