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Professor Richard Sparks

Prof Richard Sparks

Professor of Criminology

BA, MPhil, PhD (Cantab)

Office hours:

Wednesday 14:00-15:00

Tel: +44 (0)131 650 2009


View my publications

Richard Sparks is Professor of Criminology at the University of Edinburgh.

From 2014-17 he was Head of the School of Law. He was from 2006-16 a founding Co-Director of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research

He is a member of the editorial boards of several journals including Punishment & Society, of which he was editor-in-chief 2000-2004.

He is author/co-author of Television and the Drama of Crime (Open University Press, 1992), Prisons and the Problem of Order (with Tony Bottoms and Will Hay, OUP, 1996), Crime and Social Change in Middle England (with Evi Girling and Ian Loader, Routledge, 2000) and Public Criminology? (with Ian Loader, Routledge, 2010).

Richard has also edited a number of books. The most recent of these are: Democratic Theory and Mass Incarceration (with Albert Dzur and Ian Loader) (Oxford, 2016); four volumes on Punishment (with Richard Jones) in Routledge's Critical Concepts in Criminology series (2015); The SAGE Handbook of Punishment & Society (with Jonathan Simon) (SAGE, 2012); Travels of the Criminal Question (with Dario Melossi and Máximo Sozzo) (Hart, 2011) and Escape Routes: Contemporary Perspectives on Life After Punishment (with Farrall, Hough and Maruna), Routledge, 2010.

In 2019 KU Leuven awarded Richard an honorary doctorate, and held a conference on 'Criminology and Democratic Politics'. Find out more about the event and watch Richard's lecture on the KU Leuven website.

Here is a recent webinar on 100 Years of the Howard Journal: lessons for contemporary penal policy, with a short contribution by Richard

Research Interests

Richard's main research interests lie in the relationships between penal policies and democratic politics; the sociology of punishment (especially imprisonment); public responses to crime and punishment; and the uses, abuses and non-uses of criminological knowledge in shaping public policy on crime and punishment.

Current Research Interests

Richard's recent work principally concerns the relationships between policies, discourses and practices of crime control and punishment and democratic politics. This extends earlier joint work with Ian Loader in their book Public Criminology? (Routledge, 2010) which focused on the place of criminology in debates on the public roles of the social sciences.See publication here.

Loader and Sparks, with Evi Girling (PI), Ben Bradford, Gosia Polanska and Ryan Casey, are part of a team working on an ESRC-funded research project on people's experiences of security in everyday life, based on fieldwork in a town in Northern England. The project revisits sites of earlier work in light of the changes that have taken place there in the intervening quarter century. Visit the project website

Richard is a co-convener with Maximo Sozzo (UNL, Argentina) of an International Research Collaborative of the Law and Society Association on International and Comparative Perspectives on Punishment and Society, Between the global North and South.

Sparks and Sozzo recently established an online workshop on similar themes. We hold monthly meetings with speakers from around the world - all welcome!: Visit the workshop website for further information.