Laura Piacentini

Prof, FRSE, Fellow Academinet

  • United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Punishment and Society Studies<br/>Prison Sociology<br/>International Penal Systems<br/>Criminal Justice<br/>Criminology<br/>Comparative Penology

Personal profile

Personal Statement

Laura Piacentini is a multi-award-winning Professor of Criminology at the School of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

A Russian speaker, Laura is the first Westerner to conduct empirical and theoretical research in post-USSR jails. Her doctorate was the first research council funded PhD on incarceration in contemporary Russia and she has been researching and publishing on this subject for nearly thirty years since then. She is also a trained sociologist engaged in multi-disciplinary research that includes fields such as human geography, political science, law, and criminology and has been Co-I or PI on numerous studies of post-Soviet penal culture. With Professor Slade, Laura is the lead on the major prison study funded by ESRC: “In the Gulag’s Shadow: Producing, Consuming and Perceiving prisons in the former USSR”.  This unique project seeks to produce global criminology’s first empirical and theoretical study of Russian penal culture. In 2014, Professor Piacentini was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and appointed Fellow at "AcademiaNet" for leading European Women Scholars, established by Angela Merkel then the Chancellor of Germany.

Laura co-founded the research cluster Criminal and Social Justice at the School of Social Work and Social Policy with Professor Beth Weaver in 2016 and led on the University’ of Strathclyde’s partnership in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research that same year where she is also Associate Director

Between 2015 and 2020, she was a Co-Editor-in-Chief of the leading Criminology journal, Criminology & Criminal Justice.

Laura’s next book published by Routledge is out in April 2022. It is called ‘The Virtual Reality of Imprisonment in Russia; “Preparing myself for prison in a contested human rights landscape’ and it is co-authored with Dr Elena Katz (Oxford and Helsinki).


On Twitter:

In the Gulag's Shadow (ESRC): @InGulag

Criminal and Social Justice cluster: @CrimSocJust

Personal account@LauraPiac8

Expertise & Capabilities

  • Global Criminology
  • Sociology and Social Theory
  • Prisons in the former Soviet Union
  • International prisons and penal reform
  • Prison ethnography and qualitative research methods
  • Human rights in prisons

Teaching Interests

Laura has taught Criminology for nearly thirty years and over this time, she has developed expertise across a wide range of criminological subject areas at UG and PG levels and has supervised dozens of post-graduate students in Criminology.

She leads on all Criminology teaching at the School of Social Work and Social Policy where Criminology is integrated into first, second and third year social policy modules.

Launching in January 2022 will be a new and exciting MSc in Criminology and Social Policy, which will be taught by a range of staff with expertise in Criminology, Social Work and Social Policy at the School of Social Work and Social Policy.

Laura can supervise Criminology PhDs and applications for a PhD are welcomed in the subjects listed above.

Research Interests


Laura is recognised, through publications, impact, elite grant capture and academic awards as a world leading Criminologist. She has been publishing in the area of contemporary Russian imprisonment since 1995, having lived and conducted research in numerous prisons. She is a trained Russian speaker.

All her work multi-disciplinary and involves substantial leadership of international teams involving the subjects of sociology, Russian Area Studies, history, human rights and political science. I am committed to radical, feminist, creative and theoretically informed research methods.


Research grants

Laura has been PI or Co-I on many grants and have completed several major ESRC studies on Russian prisons:

Grants funded by the ESRC

  • "In The Gulag's Shadow: Producing, Consuming and Percieving Prisons in the Former USSR)" (2018-2021), Principal Investigator (£735k). The study  is the first study of its kind in world Criminology.  The team includes Dr Gavin Slade (Lead Co-I and Associate Professor, University of Nazarbayev, Astana, Kazakhstan); Professor Elena Olmenchenko (Professor of Sociology, Higher School of Economics, St Petersburg), and Professor Alexei Trochev (Professor of Criminology, University of Nazarbayev, Astana, Kazakhstan).
  • "Regulating Justice: The dynamics of compliance and breach in criminal justice social work in Scotland", Co-I, with Dr Monica Barry (Law, PI) and Dr Beth Weaver (Social Work and Social Policy, Co-I), 2012-2014, £206k.
  • "Women in the Russian Penal System: The role of distance in the theory and practice of imprisonment in late Soviet and post-Soviet Russia"(ESRC, 2006-2010, £253,000, with Professor Judith Pallot (Oxford, PI) and Dr Dominique Moran, University of Birmingham, Co-I).
  • "Work to Live: The Function of Prison Labour in Russian Prisons" (1997-2001) (ESRC, PI, £45,000);


Grants funded by the AHRC

  • "The Right to Health in Brazilian and Scottish Prisons", 2018-2020 (AHRC and MRC, £180,000), Co-I and Professor Sally Haw (PI).


Grants funded by the Leverhulme Trust

  • "Towards a Sociology of rights consciousness amongst Russian prisoners" (Principal Investigator, £45,000). 


Knowledge Exchange: Laura has advised the United Nations and NGOs on subjects that include forced labour in prisons and Russian political prisoners and asylum seekers. She has advised the Scottish Parliament on rehabilitation in prisons and given papers at diverse international Universities including the University of Nazarbayev, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, the University of Harvard, The Higher Education Institute of Smolensk and Moscow State University. She has taught at Russian prison service training colleges, Russian police colleges and at the Central European University, Budapest.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Work to Live: The Function of Prison Labour in the Contemporary Russian Prison System, Bangor University

Award Date: 1 Jan 2001

Bachelor of Arts, PG Diploma Russian Language, UNIVERSITY OF STRATHCLYDE

Award Date: 1 Jan 1996

Master of Arts, A Neo-Marxist Anaylsis of Soviet Penal Labour (First Class), Keele University

Award Date: 1 Jan 1995

Bachelor of Arts, Glasgow Caledonian University

Award Date: 1 Jan 1993

External positions

Fellow, "AcademiaNet" - for Leading Women Scholars in the EU, established by Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel

1 Jun 2013 → …

Fellow, Royal Society of Edinburgh

15 Mar 2013 → …

Adjunct Professor in Criminology , Queensland University of Technology

1 Jan 2013 → …

Research Associate, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford

5 Mar 20061 Jan 2010


Dive into the research topics where Laura Piacentini is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or