Richard Sparks is Professor of Criminology and Co-Director of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research http://www.sccjr.ac.uk/
Richard's main research interests lie in the sociology of punishment (especially imprisonment); penal politics; public responses to crime and punishment; and the uses, abuses and non-uses of criminological knowledge in shaping public policy on crime and punishment.
Richard's current work, in collaboration with Ian Loader (University of Oxford), concerns the competing claims of autonomy and advocacy in crime and justice research, and the place of criminology in debates on the public roles of the social sciences. Loader and Sparks have recently published the first major outcomes of this work in their book Public Criminology? (Routledge, 2010) see further: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415445504/ Loader and Sparks are currently working on a new phase of this broad project, under the working title Crime Control and Democratic Politics.
During 2013 Richard is convening an ESRC seminar series on comparative aspects of crime control in the devolved polities of the contemporary UK.
Earlier research projects have included studies (with Marion Smith and Evi Girling) of nine-year old children's conversations about justice and punishment and (with Elaine Crawley) of older men in English prisons. Richard is the author of Television and the Drama of Crime (1992) and co-author (with Tony Bottoms and Will Hay) of Prisons and the Problem of Order (1996) and (with Evi Girling and Ian Loader) of Crime and Social Change in Middle England (2000).
Richard has also edited a number of books. The most recent of these is: The Sage Handbook of Punishment and Society, co-edited with Jonathan Simon (Sage, 2012)
He is a member of the editorial boards of several journals. These inclue: Punishment & Society, of which he was editor-in-chief 2000-2004; Crime, Media, Culture; Theoretical Criminology; Sociological Review; Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology.
Click here to listen to Richard's lecture 'The trilemma of penal reform', originally delivered to the Howard League for Penal Reform Scotland in April 2006.
What is the role and value of criminology in a democratic society? How do, and how should, its practitioners engage with politics and public policy? How can criminology find a voice in an agitated, insecure and intensely mediated world in which crime and punishment loom large in government agendas and public discourse? What collective good do we want criminological enquiry to promote?
In addressing these questions, Ian Loader and Richard Sparks offer a sociological account of how criminologists understand their craft and position themselves in relation to social and political controversies about crime, whether as scientific experts, policy advisors, governmental players, social movement theorists, or lonely prophets. They examine the conditions under which these diverse commitments and affiliations arose, and gained or lost credibility and influence. This forms the basis for a timely articulation of the idea that criminology’s overarching public purpose is to contribute to a better politics of crime and its regulation.
This text offers a new way of looking at contemporary debates on the fear of crime. Using observation, interviews and documentary analysis it traces the reactions of citizens of one very ordinary town to events, conflicts and controversies around such topical subjects of criminological investigation as youth, public order, drugs, policing and home security in their community. In doing so it moves in place from comfortable suburbs to hard pressed inner city estates, from the affluent to the impoverished, from old people watching the town where they grew up change around them to young in-comers who are part of that change.
This book presents a substantial new statement on the character of social life in confinement. Drawing upon extensive fieldwork in two contrasting English maximum security prisons, the authors systematically compare their institutional order, including the differing control strategies deployed in each, as seen by both custodians and captives, controllers and controlled. The authors discuss the implications of their research for the tradition of sociological concern within the'prison community'. They re-examine the resources of that rich but latterly somewhat dormant field in the light of some of the main currents in contemporary social theory, and thereby provide a new perspective on the 'problem of order' in maximum custody.
"Crime series" are prime time viewing. They are significant in understanding the rhetorics of crime and law enforcement in our society. Richard Sparkes explores the relations between watching "cop shows" (like "Hill St Blues", "Miami Vice", "Bulman" and "The Sweeney") and the extent and intensity of public fear and alarm about crime. He examines the arguments about the effects of television violence; analyses the prevalence of certain predominant images and kinds of story, and their appeal to the audience; and relates them to the wider social and political agenda. He draws upon and successfully interweaves social theory, social psychology, cultural and media studies, narrative theory and criminology in providing an important account of the meanings of crime and law enforcement in contemporary culture.
Escape Routes: Contemporary Perspectives on Life After Punishment addresses the reasons why people stop offending, and the processes by which they are rehabilitated or resettled back into the community. Examining new theoretical work in the study of desistance and exploring the experiences of a number of groups whose experiences of life after punishment do not usually attract much attention, Escape Routes provides new insights about the processes associated with reform, resettlement and forgiveness.
The development of ideas and policy on the control of crime has become an increasingly international affair, necessarily so as crime increasingly crosses national boundaries and as international cooperation in the form of police cooperation, international treaties, protocols and conventions takes firmer shape. Much less well understood, however, is the process whereby ideas about crime control developed in one context are transferred into different countries or regions, and in doing so are then shaped, naturalised and changed in their new context. This book is concerned to address this range of issues, examining this process of policy transfer and reception. How are particular slogans ("zero tolerance policing"), gadgets, technical vocabularies ("electronic monitoring") and rhetoric ("war against crime") spread from place to another, and what new meanings do they take on when this takes place? How are these ideas changed when they meet resistance and counter discourses, and encounter strong local traditions and sensibilities? How differently then are ostensibly similar vocabularies taken up and applied in the distinct settings they encounter. This book brings together an influential international team of contributors to explore these issues. Their book makes a significant contribution not only to an understanding of crime control policy but of the nature of the process of globalization itself.
Contemporary criminology inhabits a rapidly changing world. The speed and profundity of these changes are echoed in the rapidly developing character of criminology's subject-matter, whether it is crime rates, crime policy, or the practices of policing, prevention and punishment. The questions that animate this book concern the challenges that are posed for criminology by the economic, cultural, and political transformations that have marked late twentieth-century social life. In this unique collection of essays, a diverse group of distinguished social theorists reflect upon the intellectual challenges and opportunities presented to criminology by recent transformations in the social and intellectual landscapes of contemporary societies. As each essay in its different way reveals, crime and punishment have ceased to be topics that can be contained within the bounds of any specialized discipline. Crime and punishment now play such integral roles in the politics of contemporary societies, are so densely entangled with our daily routines, so deeply lodged in our emotional lives, so vividly represented in our cultural imagination, that they easily escape any analytical box, however capacious, that criminology may develop for their containment. Several of the most persuasive sociological accounts of the present give a prominent place in their analysis to crime, fear of crime, and the calculations of risk and measures of repression to which these give rise. This collection offers a series of powerful and provocative accounts of how crime and its control mesh with the underlying social and political dynamics shaping contemporary society. It raises a series of profound questions about the political and ethical frames through which these problems ought best to be governed.
Just what is the 'fear of crime' and how does it impact upon the lives of the citizens of late modern societies? These are topical questions in an era when politicians compete to diagnose and respond to our worries, when newspapers are sold on the hook of our anxieties and when fortunes are made promoting the latest security technology for the home and the high street. How can the social sciences contribute to this part of the self-understanding of our times? This book presents new empirical and conceptual work on the questions of fear, anxiety, risk and trust - both as problems of everyday living and as key themes in the culture and politics of contemporary western societies. The volume includes contributions from distinguished social researchers from Britain, the United States, Germany and Italy.
This volume of contributions to the study of European prisons and penal systems appears at a time when, perhaps more than ever before, problems of imprisonment are at the forefront of public consciousness and debate. In the United Kingdom, the penal system has broken out of its traditional invisibility, through a succession of prison disturbances, industrial disputes and increasingly spectacular riots and roof-top protests and subsequent judicial enquiries. In attempts to understand and come to terms with a penal system that is commonly regarded as being "in crisis", academic commentators and newspaper editors have begun to look elsewhere - notably other European countries - in what can only be described as a desperate search for instances of good practice which could help politicians and penal administrators find a solution to current ills. A desire and energy to reform the penal system is arguably greater now than at any time since the rehabilitative vision of the Gladstone report of 1895. This volume is intended as a contribution towards enhancing the quality of such debates. It underlines the importance of comparative study at a time when the economic, legal and political integration of all European nations is high on the political agenda. It does so by firstly reminding us that a willingness and desire to learn from the practices and policies of other countries has strong historical precedents dating back at least to the 16th century, and reaching its apogee in the work of John Howard at the end of the 18th century. Secondly, this volume explores contemporary penal policies in a number of European countries - notably England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Holland and France - with a view to highlighting the diversity of practice that can (and does) exist within roughly comparable industrial societies. Thirdly, the final section of this volume considers the possibilities for the future convergence of policy and practice under the auspices of the 1987 European Prison Rules as well as the influence of the European convention on Human Rights, especially via its judicial arm - the Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg.
This article investigates the role of the arts in enabling prisoners to engage with
learning and improve their literacy, and the impact this has on their rehabilitation
and desistance from crime. It draws on data collected from prisoners who
participated in arts interventions in three different Scottish prisons. It argues that
participating in the arts projects built an active learning culture and encouraged
the improvement of verbal and written literacy skills through the use of positive
pedagogical approaches. In addition participants learned to work together more
effectively, developed self-confidence and were more trusting and supportive
because they were working together on intensive projects that they had co-devised. For many prisoners participation in the arts projects constructively challenged
and disrupted the negative identities that they had internalised. Their public successes in performances before audiences of significant others opened up new personal and social identities (as artists or performers) that helped them to begin to envision an alternative self that in turn motivated them towards future desistance from crime.
Richard Sparks, Fergus McNeill, Kirsten Anderson, Sarah Colvin, Katie Overy, Lyn Tett ''Kunstprojecten en What Works; een stimulans voor desistance? (Trans. 'Inspiring Desistance? Arts projects and 'what works?')' (2011) Justitiele verkenningen 37(5): 80-101
Richard Sparks, Ian Loader 'Wacquant and Civic Sociology: “Formative Intentions” and Formative Experiences' (2010) Criminology and Criminal Justice 10 (4): 403-13
Richard Sparks, Ian Loader 'What is to be done with Public Criminology?' (2010) Criminology and Public Policy 9 (4): 771-781
Richard Sparks, Elaine Crawley 'Is there life after imprisonment? How elderly men talk about imprisonment and release' (2006) Criminology and Criminal Justice Vol. 6(1): 61-80
Richard Sparks, Stephen Farrall 'Introduction to Special Issue: What Lies Beyond? Problems, Prospects and Possibilities for Life after Punishment' (2006) Criminology and Criminal Justice Vol 6(1): 7-16
Richard Sparks, Elaine Crawley 'Hidden Injuries? Researching the Experiences of Older Men in English Prisons' (2005) Howard Journal of Criminal Justice Vol. 44(4): 345-356
The paper is concerned with how adult residents of one medium-sized, moderately affluent English town which is generally regarded as having a relatively low crime rate interpret and respond to teenage ‘incivilities’. We begin by locating the conflicts over teenage mis/behaviour that occur across many of the town's diverse areas and assessing how the intensity of adult response varies according to people's relationship to place. We then examine the kinds of discourse that such mis/behaviour prompts, discourse that frequently slips away from the locality as such and speaks to the condition (and decline) of the ‘national community’. Finally, we consider some of the responses people make to teenage mis/behaviour in their own immediate neighbourhoods. By connecting people's ‘crime-talk’ to their sense of place, we tease out a contradiction between the obligations that people acknowledge to troublesome ‘local’ youth and their more punitive, exdusionaiy utterances about ‘youth in general’.
Richard Sparks, Evi Girland and Ian Loader 'A telling tale: A case of vigilantism and its aftermaths in an English town' (1998) British Journal of Sociology Vol. 49(3): 474-490
Richard Sparks 'Masculinity and heroism in the Hollywood ''Blockbuster'': the culture industry and contemporary images of crime and law enforcement' (1996) British Journal of Criminology Vol 36 (3) 348-360
This article considers the connections between masculinity and heroic agency in certain versions of popular film. It proposes that how films dignify and celebrate the suffering and striving of their leading men may be quite centrally indicative of durable sensibilities regarding the qualities and virtues seen as defining manliness; and, moreover, that some of the more drastic reaffirmations of rugged masculinity in recent films starring Schwarzennegger, Stallone, and others are in reaction against instabilities in current notions of masculine gender identities. It is in such aspects of representation, and in what they suggest about the appeal of such films to their audiences, that we should now locate discussions of the social influences of screen ‘violence’.
This paper attempts to theorise some aspects of problems of order in prisons in the light of recent contributions in the theory of legitimacy by Beetham (1991) and Tyler (1990). Previous work in the sociology of punishment has generall raised the problem of legitimation only implicitly, and often merely to deny its possibility. Drawing on fieldwork in two English maximum security prisons, we argue that while prisons present chronic problems of legitimacy, it may nevertheless be possible to specify circumstances under which prisoners are more or less likely to confer or withhold degrees of recognition of legitimate authority of prison staff and regimes. Such conditions include not only the regularity and efficiency of service delivery, but also perceived distributive and procedural fairness of treatment, as well as human qualities in the nature of routines. We deploy these considerations in analysing aspects of current British penal politics.
Richard Sparks 'Can Prisons be Legitimate?: Penal Politics, Privatization and the Timeliness of an Old Idea' (1994) British Journal of Criminology 34 (5, Special Issue): 14-28
Richard Sparks, A.E. Bottoms and W. Hay 'Situational and social approaches to the prevention of disorder in long-term prisons' (1990) The Prison Journal Vol LXX (1) 83-95
Richard Sparks, J. Pratt 'New voices from the ship of fools: a critical commentary on the renaissance of permissiveness as a political issue' (1987) Contemporary Crises Vol 11 3-23
Richard Sparks, Ian Loader 'Penal politics and knowledge politics in Europe' in Tom Daems, Sonja Snacken and Dirk van Zyl Smit (eds) European Penology? (Hart, 2013) pp53-76
Richard Sparks, Ian Loader ''Beyond Lamentation: towards a democratic egalitarian politics of crime and justice' in J Peay and T. Newburn (eds) Policing: Politics, Culture and Control. Essays in Honour of Robert Reiner (Hart Publishing, 2012) 11-41
Richard Sparks, Ian Loader 'Situating Criminology (http://fds.oup.com/www.oup.com/pdf/13/9780199590278.pdf)' in Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan and Robert Reiner (eds) Oxford Handbook of Criminology, 5th Edition (Oxford University Press, 2012) pp3-38
Richard Sparks, Fergus McNeill 'Punishment, incarceration and human rights policy' in ICHRP (eds) Modes and Patterns of Social Control: Implications for Human Rights Policy (International Council on Human Rights Policy, 2010) http://www.ichrp.org/en/projects/126
Richard Sparks 'The politics of imprisonment' in Yvonne Jewkes (eds) Handbook on Prisons (Willan Publishing, 2007) 73-94
Richard Sparks, A.E. Bottoms 'Legitimacy and imprisonment revisited: notes on the problem of order ten years after' in James Byrne et al. (eds) The Culture of Prison Violence (Allyn and Bacon, 2007) 91-104
Richard Sparks 'Risk and blame in criminal justice controversies' in M. Brown and J. Pratt (eds) Dangerous Offenders (Routledge, 2000) 17
Richard Sparks 'Perspectives on risk and penal politics' in Richard Sparks, Tim Hope (eds) Crime, Risk and Insecurity (Routledge, 2000)
Richard Sparks, Ian Loader and Evi Girling 'After Success?: the anxieties of affluence in an English ''village''' in Richard Sparks, Tim Hope (eds) Crime, Risk and Insecurity (Routledge, 2000)
Richard Sparks '''Bringin' it all back home'': populism, media coverage and the dynamics of locality and globality in the politics of crime control' in K. Stenson and R. Sullivan (eds) Crime, Risk and Justice (Willan Publishing, 2000) 194-213
Richard Sparks, Joanna Shapland 'Les politiques penales et la politique: le cas de al Grande-Bretagne (1990-1997)' in P. Robert and L. van Outrive (eds) Crime et Justice en Europe Depuis 1990 (L'Harmattan, 1999) 44
also published in Spanish as 'Las politicas penales y la politica: el caso del Reino Unido' in A. Recasens i Brunet (ed) 'La investigacion sobre la delinquencia y el sistema de justicia criminal en Europa' (1990-1998), Revista Catalana de Seguretat Publica 5: 263-306 (1999)