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Alexandra Cox

BSc in Criminology Programme Director


Alexandra Cox joined University of Reading in 2023 as an Associate Professor of Criminology, having previously served as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at SUNY New Paltz and as a Research Scholar in Law at Yale University Law School.  She received her Ph.D. in Criminology from the University of Cambridge and her undergraduate degree from Yale University.  Her first book, Trapped in a Vice: the Consequences of Confinement for Young People, was published by Rutgers University Press in 2018 and won the American Society of Criminology Critical Criminology book award.  Her second book is an edited volume on juvenile imprisonment, co-edited with Professor Laura Abrams of UCLA.  Prior to receiving her Ph.D., she worked at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of Legal Affairs.  She is a former Gates Cambridge scholar and a Soros Justice Advocacy fellow.   


Alexandra’s work as a socio-legal researcher grows out of her theoretical interests in the dynamics of punitiveness, social control, and the legitimacy and harms of criminal law and criminal justice institutions.  She is a qualitative researcher and have a robust record of scholarship, teaching, and service and a longstanding engagement in international criminal justice policy work.  She has spent over 20 years engaged in criminal justice policy, criminal defence mitigation, and research in the United States and England.  Her research has been published in Punishment and Society, Theoretical Criminology, Social & Legal Studies and a number of other outlets.


She maintains active collaborations with local, national and international organisations, including Reprieve, with whom she has collaborated on a death penalty clinic, the Howard League, whose Research Advisory Group she sits on, and with whom she has published a recent report on Race Consciousness and the Law, and the Centre for Justice Innovation, with whom she co-authored a report on report on race and diversion in the youth justice system


Alexandra welcomes applications from Ph.D. students interested in conducting criminological and socio-legal research relevant to her expertise, including on the sociology of punishment, youth justice, the legitimacy of legal institutions, frontline workers in the justice system, and issues of rac(ism), crime and punishment.

Awards and honours

In 2024, Alexandra received a British Academy Policy Innovation Fellowship to work with partners in the Westminster and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea councils on their work with Black fathers in the justice system.

Selected publications

  • 2021 The Palgrave International Handbook of Youth Imprisonment (Palgrave Macmillan), co-edited with Laura Abrams
  • 2021 ‘Young People’s Engagement in Youth Justice Practices: implications for racial and ethnic disproportionality’ Probation Quarterly (with Aisha Ofori, Centre for Justice Innovation)
  • 2021 ‘The Legitimation Strategies of ‘Progressive’ Prosecutors’ Social and Legal Studies (with Camila Gripp, Yale University)
  • 2021 ‘The Sociological Landscape of Youth Confinement’ Sociology Compass, 15 (2).
  • 2021 ‘Social Movements in Juvenile Prisons’ Social Justice, 47 (1-2)
  • 2021 ‘The New Economy of Youth Justice’ Youth Justice, 21 (1).
  • 2020 ‘Mercy Towards Decarceration: Examining the Legal Constraints on Early Release from Prison,’ (with Reginald Dwayne Betts) in Incarceration, 2 (1), pp. 1-14.
  • 2020 ‘The Language of Incarceration’ Incarceration, 1 (1), pp. 1-13.
  • 2018 Trapped in a Vice: The Consequences of Confinement for Young People (Rutgers University Press)


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