Laura Piacentini

Prof, FRSE, Fellow Academinet

  • United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Punishment and Society Studies
Prison Sociology
International Penal Systems
Criminal Justice
Comparative Penology

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Personal profile

Personal Statement

Laura Piacentini PhD, FRSE, Fellow Academianet

BA Sociology (2:1 Honours), MA Criminology (First Class, University of Keele), PgDip Russian Language (University of Strathclyde) and PhD Criminology & Sociology (University of Wales, Bangor).

I am Professor of Criminology at the School of Social Work and Social Policy. My work is concerned with global punishment and society studies.

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

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

In 2014 I was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and in the same year, I was appointed a Fellow of Academianet, which is the EU Research Fellowship established by the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel to recognise and support the research leadership of European Women Scholars. 

On Twitter:

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

Criminal and Social Justice cluster: @CrimSocJust

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

I have taught Criminology for twenty seven years and over this time, I have developed expertise across a wide range of criminological subject areas at UG and PG levels and have supervised dozens of post-graduate students in Criminology.

I lead 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.

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

Research Interests

Research: I am the first Westerner to conduct theoretical and empirical research in Russian prisons and I am recognised, through publications, impact, elite grant capture and academic awards as a world leading Criminologist. I have been publishing in the area of contemporary Russian imprisonment since 1995, having lived and conducted research in numerous prisons. I am trained Russian speaker.

All of my work is 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

I have 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: I have advised the United Nations and NGOs on subjects that include forced labour in prisons and Russian political prisoners and asylum seekers. I have advised the Scottish Parliament on rehabilitation in prisons. I have 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. I have taught at Russian prison service training colleges, Russian police colleges and at the Central European University, Budapest.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Devlopment 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 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Bangor University

Award Date: 1 Jan 2001


Award Date: 1 Jan 1996

Master of Arts, 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


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