Senior Lecturer in Criminology

BA, MSc, PhD
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Dr Anna Souhami is Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the School of Law, Head of the Criminology subject area and Associate Director (Edinburgh) of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR). Her research focuses on the sociology of criminal justice organisations, in particular in the areas of youth justice and policing, and she specialises in ethnographic methodologies. Her current research is an ethnography of policing in the remote Northern islands of Scotland. Through extended fieldwork in two remote archipelagos, her research explores how order is maintained in remote island communities and the role and culture of police work within it.

Anna previously conducted a study of policy making in central government through an extended ethnographic study of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (YJB), the public body responsible for the oversight of the English and Welsh youth justice system. Her previous research in youth justice explored the formation and operation of Youth Offending Teams (YOTs), the multi-agency organisations which deliver youth justice services throughout England and Wales. She is the author of Transforming Youth Justice: occupational identity and cultural change (Willan, 2007) and (with Janet Foster and Tim Newburn) of a major Home Office research study of policing in England and Wales after the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. 

Anna's most recent grants include a Carnegie Trust Research Incentive Grant (2016-17), and a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust small grant (2016-17). She has previously been awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2013-14) and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Award (2004-2007). She has a PhD from the Department of Criminology, University of Keele, an MSc in Social Policy and Administration from LSE and a BA in Literae Humaniores (Classics) from Oxford University.   Anna is a member of the British Journal of Criminology editorial board. From 2009-2014 she was external examiner on the Professional Doctorate in Leadership in Children and Young People's Services at the University of Bedfordshire, and in 2016 the external examiner for the Youth Justice programme at the Open University. She is currently external examiner for the Department of Criminology at the University of Leicester.

Anna teaches on a number of criminology undergraduate and postgraduate courses, including those on the MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Her current PhD students include Emily Mann, Daniela Rodriguez Guttierez and Estelle Clayton, and she welcomes applications from prospective PhD students.


Dr Anna Souhami's Homepage at Edinburgh Law School

Courses Taught

Criminal Justice and Penal Process (MSc)

Introduction to Criminal Justice (Ordinary)

Introduction to Criminology (Ordinary) (Course Organiser)

PhD Supervisees

Daniela Rodríguez Gutiérrez  'Penal transformations: The case of the Chilean youth justice system'

Books and Reports

Anna Souhami, Transforming Youth Justice: Occupational Identity and Cultural Change, (Willan, 2007)
Abstract: In 1997 the newly modernized Labour Party swept into power promising a radical overhaul of the youth justice system. The creation of inter-agency Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) for the delivery of youth justice services were the cornerstone of the new approach. These new YOTs were designed to tackle an `excuse culture' that was alleged to pervade the youth justice system and aimed to encourage the emergence of a shared culture among youth justice practitioners from different agencies. The transformation of the youth justice system brought about a period of intense disruption for the practitioners working within it. The nature and purpose of contemporary youth justice work was called into question and wider issues of occupational identity and culture became of crucial importance. Through a detailed ethnographic study of the formation of a YOT this book explores a previously neglected area of organisational cultures in criminal justice. It examines the nature of occupational culture and professional identity through the lived experience of youth justice professionals in this time of transition and change. It shows how profound and complex of the effects of organisational change are, and the fundamental challenges it raises for practitioners' sense of professional identity and vocation. Transforming Youth Justice makes a significant contribution not only to the way that professional cultures are understood in criminal justice, but to an understanding of the often dissonant relationship between policy and practice.

Anna Souhami, Janet Foster, Tim Newburn, Assessing the Impact of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, (Home Office, 2005)


Anna Souhami, 'The Central Institutions of Youth Justice: Government Bureaucracy and the Importance of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales', (2015), Youth Justice, Vol 14, pp 209-225
Abstract: The government’s recent ‘bonfire of the quangos’ put at issue the future of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (YJB). Drawing on research with YJB staff, ministers and civil servants, this article argues a central body like the YJB is crucial for youth justice. The institutions of government bureaucracy are an important part of the penal field in which policy is produced. An ‘arm’s length’ body outside the civil service allows central decision making to be directed by expertise and child-centred principles. However, the same features that make the YJB important also make it both high risk for ministers and difficult to defend.

Anna Souhami, 'Creating the Youth Justice Board: Policy and policy making in English and Welsh Youth Justice', (2015), Criminology and Criminal Justice, Vol 15, pp 152-168
Abstract: Despite continuing interest in English and Welsh youth justice policy there has been little critical engagement with the nature of policy itself. Instead, analyses share a common methodological position whereby ‘policy’ is equated with policy ‘products’ (such as legislation or ministerial speeches). This article argues that to understand youth justice policy a wider view is required of what constitutes policy, and where and by whom it is made. It explores how policy is produced in the complex arena of social practice which, following the establishment of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (YJB), now constitutes the central operation of the system. Through the creation of the YJB the central youth justice system became essentially undefined. This not only gave YJB officials significant influence in shaping the direction of the youth justice system, but a broad and flexible arena in which to act. Moreover it enabled them to do so according to values and objectives potentially unconnected to ministerial outcomes. Drawing on an ethnographic study of the operation of the YJB, this article explores the policy-making work of YJB officials through the transformation of the role and activities of the YJB itself, comparing the initial parameters of its operation to the way it was defined in action. The article discusses the implications for understanding New Labour’s English and Welsh youth justice policy, and the nature of ‘policy’ itself.

Anna Souhami, 'Institutional Racism and Police Reform: An Empirical Critique', (2014), Policing and Society, Vol 24, pp 1-21
Abstract: Institutional racism became a potent mobilising concept in police reform in the UK following the publication of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry in 1999. Yet while it continues to be used to highlight problematic police/community relationships, little attention has been paid to whether it actually works as a conceptual instrument for change. The explanatory value of the concept has long been contested due to its inherent ambiguities. However, reflecting the noted lack of empirical research in this area, there has been little exploration of how the concept is interpreted and applied by those charged with responding. Drawing on ethnographic research in the aftermath of the Inquiry, this paper puts in question the continuing use of the concept as a lever for reform. Empirical exploration reveals that the conceptual limitations of the term have important operational implications. While the concept provoked an urgent reaction, its central ambiguities confronted police services with profound difficulties in responding. At the same time, it inadvertently focused attention on internal police culture. Consequently, despite the Inquiry's intention that the term would divert attention away from a preoccupation with overt racism among police staff, this is precisely where reform activity was directed. Moreover, the concept not only failed to direct attention to the dynamics of institutional discrimination but, through the activity it elicited, in fact sustained them. However, despite these limitations, the mobilising power of the concept may have instigated a more subtle and pervasive series of shifts in organisational norms. A new approach grounded in practice and giving primacy to conceptual accuracy is now needed.

Anna Souhami, Rod Earle, Enver Solomon, Stephen Case, Kevin Haines, 'Was the Reprieve of the Youth Justice Board a Good Thing? ', (2012), Criminal Justice Matters, pp 38-40

Anna Souhami, 'Inside the Youth Justice Board: Ambiguity and Influence in New Labour's Youth Justice', (2011), Safer Communities, Vol 10, pp 7-16
Abstract: The YJB was established in 1998 as a central part of the Labour government’s radical programme of youth justice reform. Yet while it has had a central role in directing the culture, organisation and activities of youth justice in England and Wales, it is poorly understood. As its future hangs in the balance, this article draws on a unique empirical study of the operation of the YJB to explore what it is, what it does, and why it is so difficult to describe. Drawing on an 18 month, ethnographic study of the operation of the YJB, this article argues that the YJB is an inherently ambiguous organisation. This ambiguity has made it simultaneously highly insecure and extremely productive, enabling it to extend its influence and activities beyond those initially envisaged in New Labour’s reforms. However, the difficulty in defining the YJB also suggests the full effect of its activities will only become clear once it has gone.

Anna Souhami, 'After the Inquiry: Reactions to Institutional Racism in the Police Service', (2007), Prison Service Journal, Vol 169, pp 3-8


Anna Souhami, 'Youth Justice ' in Anthea Hucklesby, Azrini Wahidin (ed.) Criminal Justice (Oxford University Press 2013) 222-46

Anna Souhami, 'Multi-agency practice and professional identity ' in Martin Robb, Rachel Thomson (ed.) Critical Practice with Children and Young People (Policy Press 2010) 141-156

Anna Souhami, 'Doing Youth Justice Beyond Boundaries?' in Monica Berry, Fergus McNeill (ed.) Youth Offending and Youth Justice (Jessica Kingsley 2009) 176-93

Anna Souhami, 'Multi-agency Practice Experiences in the Youth Justice System' in Simon Green, Elizabeth Lancaster, Simon Feasey (ed.) Addressing Offending Behaviour (Willan Publishing 2008) 208-25

Anna Souhami, 'Understanding Institutional Racism The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and the Police Service Reaction' in Michael Rowe (ed.) Policing Beyond Macpherson (Willan 2007) 66-87

Anna Souhami, Tim Newburn, 'Youth Diversion ' in Nick Tilley (ed.) Handbook of Crime Prevention and Community Safety (Willan Publishing 2005) 355-84

Anna Souhami, 'Social Work Practice in the Criminal Justice System ' in Lesley-Anne Cull, Jeremy Roche (ed.) The Law and Social Work (Palgrave Macmillan 2000)