Creative Justice

Creative Justice: Innovation and engagement

The Creative Justice learning stream endeavours to move away from normative and traditional approaches of conceptualising justice. In doing so, it seeks to imagine and realise innovative ways of engaging individuals within the wider context of justice. At the heart of this stream is a belief that pushing the boundaries of justice can lead to greater empowerment for those who come into contact with the criminal justice system. This often takes the form of collaborative interdisciplinary work and the fusion of criminal justice with the fields of criminology, education and art. As a result we are able to construct novel approaches to how we as a society understand and respond to crime and deviance, whilst envisaging pioneering mediums through which we might assist desistance. 

Recent bodies of work and projects within this stream include:

  • Criminology in Residence: Veterans and Participatory Art
  • Enterprise, Entrepreneurialism and Innovation in (and with) Criminal Justice
  • Learning Together
  • Probationary
  • Reimagining the Veteran
  • Resolution
  • Transnational Justice

Find out more about some of these projects

Find out more about some of these projects

Learning Together

Since September 2016, Dr Helena Gosling and Professor Lol Burke have led an opportunity for people with lived experience of the criminal justice system to study alongside postgraduate students from LJMU. Based on principles of Learning Together, the programme actively works alongside criminal justice services to create opportunities for people who, ordinarily, would not meet, to learn alongside each other. Through the creation of a community of practice the initiative provides a safe space for local people with academic, professional and lived experience of the criminal justice system to come together, as students, and work through a series of criminological issues.

The programme consists of 15 two-hour face-to-face sessions, taught across the academic year. Each of which is led by a subject expert and focuses on a contemporary penological issue. In parallel, students have the opportunity to attend creative response sessions, directed by Sarah MacLennan, that encourage reflective narration as well as the development of critical consciousness. The creative response curriculum explores topics such as: observation and discovery; constructing the self; places of (un)belonging; a day in the life/a past life; stereotypes and archetypes. In doing so, the programme creates a pedagogically informed space for students to explore personal stories, emotional reactions to (and from) people, places and events to enhance creative capital (MacLennan and Gosling, 2020)

In her recently published monograph Dr Gosling says:

“Learning Together provides a vehicle through which the unknown can be embraced and acknowledged to bring about change. It has provided more than an opportunity for students and staff to engage in a thought-provoking educational activity. It has created a discrete site of resistance between two separate but interconnected sectors that challenges the status quo.”

The cross-disciplinary foundations of the initiative facilitates the production of a creative pedagogical activity that promotes compassion and commitment amongst all involved, enhancing understanding of people as well as their experiences beyond the classroom. As a result, students often share hidden experiences and stories that undermine/enhance/explain the labels they have been given or that they themselves have adopted. This insight has subsequently provided a catalyst for Helena’s work in and around the university experience of students with experience of the criminal justice system.

“The higher education sector must do more to remove unnecessary barriers to university for people with experience of the criminal justice system. To date, conversations have focused on access to higher education. This is, of course, an important issue, but so is sustained, productive and meaningful participation in university life. We need to do more to demystify ‘who’ goes to university and engage in active attempts to dismantle politicised systems of inattention which characteristically surround people with experience of the criminal justice system in higher education.”

To download a complimentary copy of Dr Gosling’s monograph, please visit here

Criminology in Residence: Veterans and Participatory Art

At the end of 2014, the Ministry of Justice announced that every prisoner entering into custody in the UK must now be asked if they have previously been a member of the armed forces. It was also announced that prisons will be given new guidance about helping these offenders during their sentence. This was in response to growing concerns about ex-service personnel serving sentences, either in custody or within the community.

Starting from the premise that the lived experiences of ex-service personnel in the criminal justice system required new forms of thinking and analysis, Dr Emma Murray developed a research partnership with FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) and their long-term creative programme for military veterans – Veterans in Practice. This work seeks to critically engage with their understanding and experience of the world, both within the criminal justice system and beyond. A central tenet of this multidisciplinary exchange is to place the creative agency of veterans at the centre of knowledge production and artistic production.

“This partnership has very much been established through working directly with Dr Emma Murray, with whom we have developed a genuine understanding of each other’s practice and identified a mode of collaboration which brings our disparate disciplines together. Dr Murray has been dedicated to this necessarily slow process, giving time to really understand the ethos and aims of our programme. In doing so we are in a strong position to move forward on collaborative projects, with a unique opportunity to collide languages, contexts and methodologies in order to gain new perspectives on the experiences of military veterans within the criminal justice system.”

– Emily Gee, former Communities Programme Manager at FACT


Emerging from previous collaborative work with FACT, Dr Emma Murray is leading the academic research strand of FACT’s artistic programme, Resolution. The three-year project was funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and worked to develop the work of FACT’s Learning Team, with ex-service personnel in the criminal justice system.

Through deep engagement between artists and participants, Resolution produces artistic commissions that explore identity and the notion of contemporary citizenship. Art is presented as a platform for voices that are rarely heard to explore their status in society. Alongside the artistic programme Dr Murray leads an ‘aligned model’ of research practice between the cultural sector, educational sector and the criminal justice sector. The focus will be on how knowledge can be exchanged within the intersections of social policy, cultural studies, politics and social theory by providing a platform with political currency.

The artworks produced through this process are shared with diverse audiences to encourage conversations and understanding of the criminal justice system. This partnership has already contributed to academic knowledge about veteran offenders, through three artistic commissions and widened stakeholder participation. By aligning participatory art with criminology, the programme engages art in policy debates.

Commission: Melanie Crean

Artist Melanie Crean was commissioned to work with participants to explore identity and access to knowledge through the design and production of a publicly available Knowledge Library. Melanie’s work with a group of military veterans within HMP Altcourse and HMP Liverpool has created materials related to the idea of ‘hero’ and how this stands up to society’s view of military veterans. 

“Resolution gives FACT the opportunity to design a model of embedded research not focused purely on evaluation. Dr Emma Murray has inspired the artwork through research material and work with the policymakers. As a team, we are extremely excited about the exchange between criminology and art practice to present a better understanding of the ex-forces men's experience within the criminal justice system. These voices should be heard.”

– Lucia Arias, Learning Manager at FACT

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