Studying - criminal justice research

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

Learning Together

Learning Together was originally co-produced by Dr Amy Ludlow and Dr Ruth Armstrong of the Institute of Criminology (University of Cambridge) and governing staff at HMP Grendon. The aim of the scheme is to provide an opportunity for university students to learn alongside people serving a custodial sentence. The initiative promotes learning amongst and between people who ordinarily would not meet in person or have an opportunity to learn from one another – through the co-creation of learning spaces within custodial environments. Learning Together creates learning communities that are able to address deficits in current education provision in prison, whilst simultaneously challenging the exclusivity that surrounds the educational experience of many university students. Although the Learning Together initiative is delivered primarily throughout the custodial estate, it has become a springboard for promoting inclusive learning environments both within and beyond the prison gates.

Since September 2016, Dr Helena Gosling and Professor Lol Burke of LJMU have designed and delivered the first and only university-based Learning Together programme for those who have experience of the criminal justice system, to learn alongside postgraduate students from LJMU. This is a significant development for the sector, as the initiative provides a unique educational opportunity for people with experience of the criminal justice system to access higher education within their local community. It is also the first Learning Together initiative based within a university that actively works alongside local criminal justice services to create a community of practice, populated by local people with academic, professional and lived experiences of criminal justice.

Learning Together at LJMU consists of 15 two-hour sessions taught across the academic year from October to April. Each taught session explores a contemporary penological issue through a series of accessible questions, such as ‘how do we explain crime and criminality?’ and ‘why do people stop offending?’ 

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 current status quo.”

To read more about Learning Together take a look at the Journal of Prison Education and Reentry.

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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