Professor Joanna Shapland
The BSC has always been a major element in my professional life. A long while ago, when a postdoctoral fellow at King’s College London, I found the monthly seminars at Mary Ward House in Bloomsbury a real lifeline and bonus to keep me up to date with new research and to inspire me, as well as an occasion to meet both academics and practitioners in London. Later, when I was Editor of the British Journal of Criminology, I was one of a small group of academics who decided to revive an annual conference for criminologists. The first of the new series of British Criminology Conferences was held at the University of Sheffield in 1987. We were worried at the time as to whether, given the theoretical splits in the 1980s, criminologists would want to come together, but were amazed and delighted at the response. We appealed to the University for more rooms and they gallantly found more space for us. I was Treasurer for the first three British Criminology Conferences, which definitely brought on the grey hairs, but which also cemented the need for criminologists to meet and to interact with practitioners and policymakers. More recently, I was on the Professional Affairs Committee – and that need to provide spaces and a forum for researchers, practitioners and policymakers to get together and explore what research can do is still vital, particularly in these times of austerity. Long may the BSC thrive!
I have always been slightly eclectic in pursuing a number of lines of research at the same time. The thread running through them has been how lay people interact with criminal justice, more recently comparatively in different countries. My long-term interest in victims of crime, the way they are treated and the role they should have in different legal systems continues and has diversified into a fascination with the processes of restorative justice and how they compare to more traditional criminal justice. I directed the national evaluation of restorative justice with colleagues at the University of Sheffield, focusing on adult offenders who had committed serious offences. At the same time, I was working with Tony Bottoms on the Sheffield Desistance Study, which focused upon a group of mostly persistent young adult offenders initially aged 19-22, followed for around four years. This was looking at the early stages of desistance and, as scholars round the world are becoming interested in desistance, it will be very interesting to see whether the processes involved are similar in early and later desistance and depending upon the age at which people desist. Doing the two studies at the same time and more recently looking at good practice in probation one-to-one supervision has focused my attention on potential links between restorative justice and desistance. Both are also relevant to a new project, with Adam Crawford of the University of Leeds, on developing restorative policing so that it is attuned to victim needs.