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Are closer community connections positive for women in custody in Scotland? Evaluating the impacts of the Dundee Community Custody Unit (CCU)

   School of Education and Social Work

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  Dr Matt Maycock  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Social Science: Education

The proposal entails an evaluation of the impacts of the Dundee Community Custody Unit (CCU) in the context of a new approach being adopted by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) for women in custody. The CCU is expected to provide women in custody closer connections with local communities and is expected to have a strong focus on partnership working and co-production. The CCU is part of a wider strategy adopted by SPS in transforming the female prison with focus on rehabilitation and re-integration. The CCUs are of international significance, and have the potential to place Scotland at the forefront of criminal justice reform. The CCUs are innovative in several regards, for example, through being trauma informed in their design (Jewkes et al, 2019). It is assumed that these CCUs will be of particular benefit to women in custody, with women experiencing greater pains of incarceration than men as well as different pathways to criminal justice contact (Carlen, 1990, 1998, Crewe et al. 2017, Gelsthorpe and Morris, 2002, Hannah-Moffat, 1995). Through the CCUs, the SPS hopes “By housing these women in smaller, community units closer to their families, alongside providing additional support to address the underlying issues which fuel their crime such as drugs, alcohol or mental ill-health, we can stop them from committing further crimes in the future.” (Colin McConnell, the then Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service, February 2016). Despite these claims, no formal evaluation has been developed by the SPS or SG either in relation to current service provision or for the introduction of the CCUs. This is reflective of a wider relative lack of research on women in custody both in Scotland and Internationally. Given the current lack of formal evaluation and critical engagement with the development of the CCUs, there are limitations both in the extent that the SPS, SG and a range of international partners with an interest in the CCU model, can understand the impacts of the CCUs in some of the most disenfranchised people in Scotland, as well as curtailing the potential international applicability of this innovative model. Without independent and rigorous analysis that this PhD represents, the impacts of the CCUs will be unclear, and the expansion of this model in Scotland to five units or its potential for international replication will be severely limited.

In order for the potential of the CCUs to be realised, independent evaluation and analysis is critical, and this PhD project has strong support from various agencies involved in the development of the CCUs, and is a collaborative project with Apex Scotland. Apex Scotland are the specialist organisation which for over 25 years has contributed to a safer Scotland by working with people with criminal convictions or at risk of committing offences to give them the necessary skills to change their behaviour and lead fulfilling lives. Apex Scotland will provide the student access to a range of roles within the organisation to gain guidance and direct experience.

The research will focus on analysing the CCU model developed by the SPS and will investigate whether the implementation of the CCU has the potential to set a new modus operandi in criminal justice not only in Scotland but also internationally. As a consequence of the CCU model being rooted in community ‘proximity’, ‘partnership’ and ‘co-production’, this will be investigated through the critical perspective of Community Education, in collaboration with Apex Scotland.

Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Applicants will have a first degree at 2:1 or above in a social science discipline and have a demonstrable interest in the topic area under investigation.
  • Degree qualifications gained from outside the UK, or a combination of qualifications and/or experience that is equivalent to a relevant UK degree, may be accepted.

Please note that all applicants must also meet the ESRC eligibility criteria. ESRC eligibility information can be found here.

For full details and to apply for this studentship, please visit the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS) website here.

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by 9th April 2021, with interviews taking place on 20th April 2021. Shortlisted candidates will be sent details of a short reflective piece of writing to undertake before the interview.

All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within the Community Education discipline at the University of Dundee. Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.

Funding Notes

The scholarship is available as a +3 (3 year PhD) or a 1+3 (Masters year and 3 year PhD) studentship depending on prior research training (this will be assessed as part of the recruitment process). The programme will commence in October 2021 and the full ESRC studentship package includes, as advised by ESRC:
• An annual maintenance grant (stipend)
• Fees at the standard institutional home rate
• Students can also draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)


Applicants will be asked to provide contact details for two referees during the application process. SGSSS will then contact them (automatically) and ask that they each complete a reference template and return this to applicants intended institution. Applicants should seek permission from their referees in advance of providing their details to SGSSS.
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