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University of Bradford researcher receives national recognition for work transforming prison policy


The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has announced that Bradford's Dr Victoria Lavis has been awarded second place in its prestigious Celebrating Impact Prize 2015 for Outstanding Impact on Public Policy.

Dr Lavis was shortlisted for the direct influence of her continuing work on the policy and practice of prisons in England and Wales responding to issues of diversity, including guidance on the respectful and decent treatment of transgender prisoners.

The impacts arise from a 6 year programme of collaborative research led by Dr Victoria Lavis from the University of Bradford, together with Professor Malcolm Cowburn from Sheffield Hallam University and more recently with Professor Charles Elliott, Dr Emily Turner and Dr Matt Merefield from the University of Bradford.

A short film illustrating how their work focuses on transforming prison practices on equality and diversity has been made by the ESRC

On receiving the Award Dr Lavis said: “I’m delighted to receive this award on behalf of myself, my research colleagues, prisons and the national offender management service. The impacts are an excellent example of what can happen when Appreciative methods are used in partnership working.

“NOMS Equalities Group and the individual prisons we have partnered with have worked hard to ensure that the national and local impacts have been shared across the public sector prison estate such that many of these practices are now common features of Prison staff every day good practice in responding effectively to diversity and working to ensure equality”.

Dr Lavis and Professor Cowburn’s research shaped the first Single Equalities national policy framework in several areas, including:

  • Revised mechanisms for prisoner reporting and investigation of discrimination and inequality
  • Local and national policy guiding the care of transgender prisoners
  • Development of reference guides to help staff respect diversity when searching prisoners and visitors
  • Improved training for prisoners who act as Equalities Representatives
  • Dr Lavis and her team’s continuing work has also led to the development of equalities literature for prisoners and staff, mediation to address inequality and wider use of the research methodology Appreciative Inquiry to engage prisoners and staff in designing effective responses.

“Once offenders are placed inside the prison walls, society doesn’t really want to think too much about them,” says Dr Victoria Lavis of the University of Bradford. “But our treatment of prisoners can have an impact on their lives once they have completed their sentence. If we treat offenders with fairness, respect and decency, then we are modelling the behaviour we would like to see in them when they are released.”

Winners were announced at an event at Central Hall Westminster on 24 June 2015, organised in partnership with SAGE and hosted by BBC Radio 4 broadcaster Laurie Taylor. Dr Lavis was presented with prize money of £5,000 to further the impact of the continuing research.

Dr Lavis narrowly missed out on first place to Dr Aisha K Gill's pioneering research on violence against women, 'honour' crimes and forced marriage.

The shortlisted researchers, funded by the ESRC and based at universities across the UK, have all used their research to make a significant difference to society. By working in partnership with organisations including businesses, charities and public bodies, they have impacted the lives and work of people both in the UK and internationally.

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