School of Sociology and Social Policy

Image of Melanie Jordan

Melanie Jordan

Assistant Professor in Criminology, Faculty of Social Sciences



Dr Melanie Jordan undertakes undergraduate and postgraduate teaching as well as PhD supervision plus personal and collaborative research and publication. Melanie also runs a research group critically exploring imprisonment, Prisons 4 Good, which also includes a charitable music organisation Bars Bridging Bars. Melanie also works with governmental and non-governmental bodies and charities as an advisor on elements of prisons, secure sites, care settings, mental health, therapeutic environments, etc.

Dr Mel Jordan is spending the Michaelmas Term of 2017 at the University of Oxford, Centre for Criminology, with Prof. Mary Bosworth et al., as an Academic Visitor - whilst on Study Leave at the University of Nottingham.

Academic fields:

  • Criminology
  • Sociology (Medical & Organisational)
  • Social Science Research Methodology & Method

Melanie has a PhD in Prison Mental Health, a MA in Research Method, and a BA in Social Policy. Melanie moved to this post after several post-doc. years at the University of Nottingham on Jubilee Campus in the Institute of Mental Health building.

The study of criminology is inherently an interdisciplinary endeavour, due to its focus on social problems and welfare (social policy), social relations and institutions (sociology), and social deviance and behaviours (criminology); Melanie is knowledgeable and active in all three areas of academia.

Melanie undertakes research and teaching across criminology, including:

  • Theoretical Criminology
  • Deviance Theory: Social Action & Reaction
  • Penology: Philosophy & Practice
  • Victimology & Crime
  • Crime & Social Dimensions
  • Crimes Of The Powerful
  • Sex Crime
  • Female Prisoners
  • Criminal Justice System Staff
  • Crime & Mental Illness
  • Offender Health

Melanie currently supervises several doctoral students, but is interested in hearing from potential new PhD students.

Personal Twitter a/c = @MJordanBirkhead


Expertise Summary

Academic Expertise:

Social Theory; Criminology; Social Science Methodology & Method; Sociology.

Teaching Summary

Research and teaching interests:

Criminology: Theoretical criminology; Penology philosophy and practice; Sociology of deviance and criminological theories of deviance; Victimology; Crime and social dimensions; Sociology of prisons and incarceration; Prison culture(s); Ventriloquist populism, media, politics, and the criminal justice system; Sociological research in the justice system (e.g. ethnographic work in prisons); The criminal justice system workforce; Crimes of the powerful and white collar crime; Sex crime and approaches to sexual offenders; Offending behaviours and morality; Private prisons and immigration removal centres; Female prisoners; Vulnerable prisoners (e.g. sexual offenders); Policing, probation, and community sentences; Prison abolition and recidivism approaches; Liaison and diversion away from the criminal justice system; Reducing the cycle of re-offending and related community work; Institutionalisation theory and penal settings; Historical and current prison architecture; State corporal punishment and morality; The social and health profile of offenders; Crime and mental illness; Offender health: prevention, promotion, and treatment; Prison healthcare; Personality disordered offenders and offenders with learning/intellectual disability.

Medical Sociology: Medical sociology and anthropology (esp. historical and current custodial settings); Healthcare provision and receipt experiences and environments (esp. penal/forensic sites); The sociology of illness and healthcare (esp. regarding offenders and recidivism link); Sociology of health professions/relationships (esp. prison staff-NHS prison staff relations).

Social Science Research: Method and methodology theory plus data collection/construction discussions; Epistemology debates re. quantitative and qualitative knowledge; Research with vulnerable participants and research ethics considerations.

Current Teaching:

UG3 Sex Crime

UG2 Prisons & Society

MA Criminology: Theories & Concepts

MA Contemporary Issues & Debates in Criminology

Current School Admin Roles:

Programme Director for the MA in Criminology

School Research Activities Lead

Research Summary

Current Research:

Research interests include prisons, ethnography, philosophy and ethics in the criminal justice system, transnational organised crime (e.g. slavery), sex crime, deviance, theoretical criminology, critical criminology, forensic mental health, cultural criminology, gender and the criminal justice system, etc.

  • Principal Investigator = Capoeira & Community, AHRC / IMH Study
  • PI = The Prison Reform & Voter Appetite Study
  • PI = The 4 x P Study = Public Protection Police Performativity
  • PI = Justice later in life? (Re. adult therapy for survivors of childhood sexual abuse)
  • PI = Care & Custody Lever (Re. perpetrators of modern slavery and mental healthcare for survivors)

Ongoing research planning and submitted grant applications in the fields of:

Prison built environment; Labelling in secure settings; Perinatal period identity work; Philosophy of interviewing; Penal reform; Music-making behind bars; Intrafamilial deviance narratives; Anti-slavery; Construction of deviance in childcare settings.

Successful Grant Applications:

2018 = Dr Melanie Jordan (Co-I) et al. (e.g., Prof. Jenny Shaw, PI), NIHR research re. prison healthcare harm, with UoN and UoManchester colleagues

2018 = Dr Melanie Jordan (Co-I) et al. (e.g., Dr Nicola Wright, PI), NIHR research re. mental health, grounded theory, and modern slavery survivors, with UoN colleagues


Prof. Zoe Trodd et al.'s UoN Rights Lab Beacon

Dr Mel Jordan & Dr Nicola Wright - Care & Custody Lever - re. mental health for slavery survivors and offending theory development re. slavery offenses perpetrators



PI = Dr Mel Jordan

Research Title: Justice Later In Life?

Study Aim: An analysis of work undertaken with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse via an efficacy, rights, justice, and economic framework.

Funds awarded from the UoN Rights & Justice Research Priority Area



PI = Dr Mel Jordan

Two research assistants for qualitative data analysis collaboration on penal reform study from internal UoN competitive funding source



PI = Dr Mel Jordan

The 4 Ps Study: Public Protection Police Performativity

(Police Health & Wellbeing In The Sex Crime Unit)

Funds awarded from the UoN Health Humanities Research Priority Area

2016, £4,000, UoN GaPP RPA, Penal Reform Study

2013 £5,000 Melanie Jordan, Social Futures in Mental Health, Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham, Study: An exploration of the creative practice of capoeira as a community pursuit and links with well-being

2013 £21,170 Eddie Kane, Melanie Jordan, et al. Centre for Health and Justice, Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham, Study: Her Majesty's Prison Service, Mental Health Needs Assessment, NHS Buckinghamshire

2013 £90,000 Eddie Kane, Melanie Jordan, et al. Centre for Health and Justice, Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham, Study: Identification and Intervention Options for High Risk and High Resource Tier 4 Service Users

Selected Publications

N.B. Dr Mel Jordan was on maternity leave from the university May 2015 until September 2016.

Past Research

2012 ~ PhD ~ Prison mental health: Context is crucial

A sociological exploration of male prisoners' mental health and the provision of mental healthcare in a prison setting

Abstract: This thesis represents a sociological exploration of Her Majesty's Prison Service, male prisoners' mental health, and the provision of National Health Service mental healthcare in a prison setting. This qualitative social science study is conducted in one prison establishment. The work is characterised as a policy and practice orientated exploratory case study. The study implements an inductive approach to the datum-theory relationship, a constructionist ontological position, and an interpretivist epistemological orientation. Semi-structured interviews are conducted in a male category B prison with healthcare centre staff (e.g. registered general nurse, registered mental health nurse, health care assistant, plus varied administration and clinical management staff), the secondary mental health team (psychologist, psychiatrist, community psychiatric nurse), prison governors, prison psychologists, primary-level mental health service users/prisoners, and secondary-level mental health service users/prisoners. The subject of place is salient when deliberating the mental health of prisoners as a social group. The prison setting can fashion or exacerbate mental illness. In comparison to the general population, the prevalence of mental distress experienced by the prison population is exceedingly high. In order to consider issues that concern the mental health of prisoners (i.e. aetiology, prevalence, severity, interventions, and outcomes), the prison setting as a communal and procedural place requires attention. Therefore, this medical sociology study devotes attention to social and institutional arrangements that permeate the prison locale. As examples, these include prisoner-staff relations and prison regimes. The prison environment is not conducive to good mental health, and is not often a useful catalyst for mental healthcare for myriad reasons. Notably, the custodial treatment setting is important here. The provision of mental healthcare and the pursuit of good mental health in the prison milieu are challenging. Thus, the prison-based exceedingly complex three-way relationship between culture, mental health, and mental healthcare is addressed. As, if one wishes to provide appropriate healthcare in a prison, one also has to understand something about those for whom the healthcare exists. Knowledge of the specific patient group is important. Therefore, prison healthcare ought to be increasingly fashioned (i.e. commissioned, provided, managed, and practiced) in accordance with the prison social environment, the institutional set-up, and the specific health requirements of patients/prisoners. The proposition is that context is crucial to the provision of wholly apt prison mental healthcare. Study data are analysed thematically. Resultant themes include: the nature of clinician-patient/prisoner rapport; the working environment of the healthcare setting; the notions of healthcare provision and receipt in a custodial setting; patients'/prisoners' perspectives regarding prison mental health; aspects concerning prison existence and mental healthcare users' experiences; prison staff mental health knowledge, roles, and responsibilities; prison service and healthcare services collaborative working. The penal milieu in relation to an extensive variety of issues impacts mental health and mental healthcare. These range from the overarching ethos of imprisonment right through to individual interactions in the setting. To précis, mental healthcare provision and receipt experiences and environments are important for clinicians and patients/prisoners alike.

Between 2011 and 2014 Melanie was based in the Institute of Mental Health building at the University of Nottingham:

Centre for Health and Justice

This research centre is a Criminal Justice System (CJS) orientated Centre of Excellence led by Prof. Eddie Kane. Research roles and responsibilities included study leadership and management, bidding success, staff recruitment, plus hands-on fieldwork (e.g. in prisons and secure forensic sites), analysis, and write-up activities. I was involved in multiple pieces of CJS research. A three prison study based in Buckinghamshire (HMP Grendon, HMP Spring Hill, and HMYOI Aylesbury), plus a forensic project for NHS London regarding high risk and cost users, and an offender PD pathway study at HMP Swinfen Hall. The centre submitted a NIHR Programme Development Grant application; for this project I managed and undertook a piece of qualitative research entitled Working with Personality Disordered Offenders: NHS and NOMS joint working experiences. This necessitated working with national CJS leaders and policy-makers plus frontline staff.

Social Futures Centre

I am a lead member of staff for Social Futures (SoFu) - a new Centre of Excellence led by Prof. Paul Crawford. I attend senior leadership team meetings and act as an Integrated Research Group lead for the Centre. I also undertake administration roles for SoFu (e.g. membership and event management). My capoeira study is located within SoFu.


For the CLAHRC I led one study, the Internal Evaluation Research. I was the Principal Investigator; the full research team included Dr Emma Rowley, Prof. Nick Manning, and Prof. Richard Morriss. This work focused on the CLAHRC as an iterative organisation and explored members' experiences of the CLAHRC research endeavour via interview method. Concepts debated include: engagement, research capacity, innovative and intersubjective workplace goals, plus professional and epistemic boundaries.

The Retreat in York

For this mental health hospital I acted as a Research Facilitator. The facilitation role necessitated the development of a three year research capacity building strategy. This role also included research assistance and supervision for Retreat colleagues undertaking research, support with the organisation's research ethics and governance, etc.

Future Research

PhD Students ~ Past & Present:

Edward Wright

(Please also see Ed's post-doc. work via his Beacon, Rights Lab, CCL webpage:

PhD title: From Rookie to Rocky? On Modernity, Identity and White Collar Boxing.

The empirical grounding of Ed's doctoral research is in-and-around a boxing club which caters for white collar boxing. White collar boxing is a form of engagement in the fistic trade emergent in late modernity. In this context, this form of engagement entails participation in a short-term, intensive training programme in preparation for a full-contact boxing match in front of a large crowd.

Research questions are as follows:

  • What is white collar boxing?
  • How do social divisions order practice in white collar boxing?
  • How might the answers to the questions above contribute to our understanding of the formation of identity in late modernity?

White collar boxing, in being a recently emergent form of the sport, is under-researched. Historically, boxing has been austerely ordered according to various social divisions in-composite, in particular (though no particular order is implied here): class, gender and 'race'. Whether white collar boxing entails a continuity of such austere social logic is of interest to address. Various 'grand' sociological theorists have proclaimed that we now live in a second (late, liquid) modernity in which the social divisions of the past no longer meaningfully order practice; we are now 'tourists', ever-reflexive subjects treading individually-defined life-courses, consuming identity in a 'pay-as-you-go' manner. This body of theory is however rarely empirically analysed, rather constructed at an unduly abstract level and treated as sociological 'common sense'. Answering the questions above, via ethnographic data collection at the boxing club ultimately amounts to effort towards analysing such claims.

Ed is a tutor in criminology at undergraduate level, the philosophy of social science at postgraduate level, and occasionally lectures on various aspects of social science. He has a general interest in social theory and qualitative methods. He is currently developing further research on the sociology of the face.

Ian Hamilton

Title: Employment of Prisoners with Mental Health Problems. My PhD is looking at the effectiveness of Individual Placement and Support (IPS) for offenders with mental health problems. To do this I will be using a mixed method approach within a Realistic Evaluation framework. I will primarily be examining whether IPS is successful in achieving real employment outcomes for people with mental health problems released from prison. I will also be focusing upon and monitoring how the IPS service/employment impacts upon an individuals Mental Health, Recidivism, and Social Stability (at the 6 and 12 month stages). All of these findings will contribute to how IPS needs to be adapted, if required, to achieve the best possible outcomes in a criminal justice setting. Supervisors: Prof. Eddie Kane, Prof. Justine Schneider, and Dr Melanie Jordan.

Emma Joyes

PhD Title: Creative Practice as Mutual Recovery explored within Forensic Mental Health.

Supervisors: Professor Paul Crawford and Dr Melanie Jordan.

This research is funded as part of a larger AHRC/RCUK Connected Communities grant, entitled 'Creative Practice as Mutual Recovery (CPMR): Connecting Communities for Mental Health and Well-being'. The programme of research investigates how Creative Practices (creative activities from the fields of the Arts and Humanities, for example creative writing, painting, literature, drawing, singing etc.) may afford an opportunity for mutual recovery of mental health and well-being among both staff or carers and those receiving care from mental health services. This research explores the Creative Practices which occur within one inpatient Forensic Mental Health (FMH) site, consider its contribution to wellbeing and explore the potential for Creative Practices, engaged with by staff or residents, to be of reciprocal or mutual value.

An ethnographic case study research design is being adopted to explore three units within one UK residential FMH site. The methods include Overt Participant Observation, Documentary Analysis and Semi-structured interviews. The ethnographic approach is congruent with the exploratory nature of the aims of this project. The research design is purposely iterative so that the concepts such as Creative Practice, mental health and well-being and the emergent concept of mutual recovery can be investigated within the interpretivist tradition.

Teaching summary: Emma provided tutorial support for the University's Doctoral Training Centre Qualitative Research Methods module in 2015.

Lynn Saunders

Lynn's current research is supported by the National Offender Management Service. It explores the experiences and expectations of people who have been convicted of sexual offences leaving prison and their return to the community. It also explores the approaches of Offender Managers in dealing with the risks and challenges of this group of offenders. The research is supervised by Professor Dirk Van Zyl Smit and Dr Melanie Jordan.

Anthony Salla

PhD title: A Critical Race Study on Non-Statutory Early Intervention Services for Young Racialised People

This research is funded by the ESRC. This study utilises Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a theoretical, methodological and analytical framework to explore the lived experience of young people, racialised as Black, in non-statutory mental health services. To carry out the research descriptive phenomenological methods will be used to interview young people, age 16-25, who have accessed non-statutory organisations in England. By combining CRT with descriptive methods this will help to place emphasis on the stories of service-users as the holders of knowledge, and thus recognising racialised voices of authority. The research aims to provide insight into the racialised dynamics of the care pathway for young people and to see how race features in this journey and influences decision-making. The research also aims to examine the salience of race within the 'service-user - care provider' relationship. This research is supervised by Dr Melanie Jordan, Dr Shihning Chou and Professor William Dixon.

Oscar O'Mara

Title of PhD project: Balancing security and rehabilitation in a prison environment ~ Theory and Practice

Supervisors: Dr Melanie Jordan and Dr Nicola Carr

This research is supported by HMPPS. It seeks to explore the balance and conflict between prison security and rehabilitation in theory and practice on the frontline of the prison service. The research will involve fieldwork in prison establishments and promote the voice of stakeholders and their experiences.

School of Sociology and Social Policy

Law and Social Sciences building
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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