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Studying for a master’s in Gender and Social Policy in the 1990s, Professor Jo Phoenix, read a book which was probably the first sustained study of what happens to women in prison in the UK. The book ignited an interest in women who experience poverty, and have also often been the victims of male violence, and how they get caught up in the criminal justice system.

Passionate about the subject, Jo began writing about policies and laws that relate to how we deal with people who are at once offenders and victims.

Finding Solutions

Jo remains particularly interested in understanding the changing conditions in which (some) women and (some) young people are criminalised and punished as well as the challenges facing those people who work with them. Her research focuses on issues of justice for poor, marginalized, contradictory categories of people, who are troubled and troublesome.

She is currently a member of the ‘Changing Lives Stage Project Influencers’ Group, which is a group of practitioners working with sexually exploited women, MPs, members of the House of Lords and policy makers who are trying to shape national policy by creating national definition and guidance for dealing with sexually exploited adults.

"Criminology cuts to the heart of how we live in a modern democracy. Poverty is on the rise with all the social welfare issues it brings. Given this, why do we punish people who steal because they’re hungry? We are very bad at dealing with the connections between poverty, social welfare and crime, and sadly the only time that a lot of people get the sort of social welfare input and support that they really need is when they have broken the law."

Studying criminology at Reading

An author and senior professor of Criminology for more than 25 years, Jo has a very long and illustrious career in curriculum development. Heavily involved in publishing and advising policymakers, Jo has helped shape undergraduate programmes and modules in Criminology for many Universities across the UK.

Jo currently teaches a dedicated criminology module to LLB Law finalists at Reading and has recently designed the University’s new BSc Criminology undergraduate programme.

"On this programme students will gain a critical understanding of crime, criminal justice, and their relationship with the law. Students will develop an understanding of how we as a society, as a modern democracy deal with some of the social problems that we have and become more acutely aware of social justice issues."

Highlighting the importance of getting students involved in criminological research, Jo mentions there will be ethics workshops run in the second year where students will be exposed to real life ethical research problems and they will work out how they would solve them. Case studies will include real life ethical dilemmas faced by academics in the School, in the course of their careers. Students will also work on a dissertation research project; a first-hand analysis of empirical datasets about crime and justice under the guidance of a supervisor.

Learn more about our BSc Criminology programme