I have always been interested in the way a society punishes its criminals, and there is no greater penalty than the penalty of death. While many countries still execute offenders, in the westernised world the USA stands alone. More specifically though it is the Southern states which continue to give death sentences, with Texas being responsible for around one third of all executions. As such, my own research has focused on the ‘Lone Star State’, exploring the myths and memories which underpin the Texan self-identity. In addition, I am also interested in the use of qualitative and interpretative methodologies with a focus on narrative analysis, and have recently published on the use of museums as storied spaces of narrativity.
In line with my interest in museums as storytellers, I am also in the early stages of developing a project which examines how policing, past and present, is represented within UK museums. This will involve collaboration with local policing museums and my hope is that we can co-create an exhibition about policing in Sussex. Due to this collection of interests, which have developed alongside my passion for a distinctly cultural criminology, I am engaged in (and excited by) the interdisciplinary links currently being developed between cultural memory studies, cultural criminology and the study of dark tourism.
In addition to punishment and policing museum analysis, I am also interested more broadly in media (re)presentations of crime, criminals and punishment. Whether these representations are fictional, factual or ‘based on a true story’ they nevertheless employ cultural scripts about what 'getting justice' really means. These stories - be they found in newspapers, films or TV shows - are significant sites in which meanings are communicated and negotiated. Furthermore, they can and do impact on our opinions and attitudes toward crime and punishment. For example, most of us will never experience being in prison; instead we rely on second-hand stories. It is these stories which inform the judgments we make and ultimately impact the way we feel about prison and prisoners. More often than not, it is these second-hand stories which ‘teach’ us about crime and punishment in the United Kingdom and around the world.
Lastly, I have also been involved in a project with Professor Yvonne Jewkes which examines how we can best support those seeking to desist from crime. Focusing primarily on offenders serving custodial sentences, the aim of the project is two-fold. Firstly, it will examine how the prison system can facilitate behaviour change and suggest ways of supporting that change upon release. Secondly it will examine how the prison itself can likewise facilitate rehabilitation by ‘designing in’ opportunities for agency and responsibilisation. This is particularly pertinent given the current and future changes likely to come about from the Prison Reform Bill.