School of Sociology and Social Policy

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Philippa Tomczak

Principal Research Fellow (Associate Professor), Faculty of Social Sciences



Dr Philippa Tomczak holds a £1.1m UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, £1.3m ERC Starting Grant and Nottingham Research Fellowship. She directs the Prisons, Health and Societies Research Group and has been undertaking research and impact work with the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman since 2019.

Her expertise is in punishment, specifically: prison suicide, investigating deaths (in state custody), regulating criminal justice detention, the penal voluntary sector, charitable involvement in (criminal) justice, actor-network theory and document analysis.

Philippa particularly welcomes inquiries from prospective postdoctoral researchers, PhD students, academics and voluntary organisations seeking to analyse the following areas: death in criminal justice detention; (prisoner) death investigations; the Prison and Probation Ombudsman; Coroner Prevention of Future Death reports relating to state detention; prisoner safeguarding; intersections between imprisonment, mental health detention and immigration detention; prison(er) health and healthcare; prison safety.

Between 2015 and 2018 Philippa was a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow (scheme success rate: 14%) and British Academy Rising Star at the University of Sheffield Centre for Criminological Research. She has a PhD in Criminology from the University of Manchester School of Law, and a BA, MA and MSc from the University of Oxford. She originally trained as a Geographer. She sits on the British Journal of Criminology Editorial Board.

Philippa published the first monograph on 'The Penal Voluntary Sector', which won the 2017 British Society of Criminology Book Prize. For Prof M Bosworth (Oxford), it "develops a fresh approach to penal power that should reorient the field of study". Prof S Maruna (Manchester) noted: "Tomczak's sophisticated, empirical exploration of the voluntary sector's involvement in that most involuntary of sectors, the UK's penal system, simply could not be more timely or more badly needed. It fills an enormous gap in the criminological literature while opening up dozens of new avenues for new research. A real path-breaker".

Philippa's second monograph 'Prison suicide: what happens afterwards?' provides the first detailed account of the investigations that follow prison suicides, using the case study of England and Wales. Professor P Leach (Middlesex) recognised that "this excellent study shows the wider impact of self-inflicted deaths in prison and deserves to be widely read''. Philippa is now working with the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (England and Wales), using her research to inform Ombudsman Fatal Incident Reports.

She has published articles in leading journals including the British Journal of Criminology and Theoretical Criminology and her work has been cited by scholars based globally, including Australia, Canada, the USA, Finland and New Zealand. She has been invited to peer review articles for journals including: Theoretical Criminology, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Critical Criminology, Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology and International Review of Victimology. During 2017 and 2018, Philippa organised a series of international conferences with high profile speakers, on topics including 'Death in Punishment', the 'Voluntary Sector in Criminal Justice' and 'Emerging Criminal Justice Voluntary Sector Scholarship'. Philippa was shortlisted for the Political Studies Association's Total Exposure programme in 2017 and pitched a programme: 'Suicides in prison: Should we care?' to media experts.

Philippa has extensive experience of mentoring early career scholars and was commended as a University of Sheffield dedicated outstanding thesis mentor in November 2017. She has taught across undergraduate Criminology modules at the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester, having a range of lecturing and seminar-taking experience. She has examined a PhD thesis at the University of Portsmouth Institute of Criminal Justice Studies and supervised Masters' level dissertations.

Research Summary

ORCID identifier: 0000-0002-2347-2479

2020-2024: UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship 'Prison Regulation, for Safer Societies' (£1.2 million grant. PI).

2020-2021: University of Nottingham Economic and Social Research Council Impact Accelerator Award 'Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Process Evaluation: Towards a Theory of Change' (£10,000 grant. PI). Working with the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and HM Prison and Probation Service. RA: Sara Hyde.

2019-2020: Nottingham Impact Accelerator Knowledge Exchange Prize 'Reducing Prison Suicide and Self-Harm' (£24,938 grant, PI). Working with the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and two voluntary organisations: the Prison Reform Trust Prisoner Policy Network and Revolving Doors.

2018-2021 Nottingham Research Fellowship. The Penal Voluntary Sector: Is it Doing 'Good'? Value £243,237. RA: Kaitlyn Quinn

2017-2018 British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award. Total value £15,000

The Voluntary Sector in Criminal Justice: Setting the Research Agenda

2015-2018 Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship. Prison Suicide: Theorising its Regulation. Value £90,000

2010-2014 University of Manchester School of Law Scholarship. Punishment and Charity: Conceptualising the penal voluntary sector in England and Wales. Value £52,500

Recent Publications

Past Research

2017: British Society of Criminology Book Prize Winner (£500 prize).

2013: Howard League for Penal Reform/British Society of Criminology Postgraduate Conference bursary (£400 conference grant).

2012: Howard League for Penal Reform John Howard Postgraduate Essay Prize Winner (£100 prize).

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