IAS Fellow at St Cuthbert’s Society, October-December 2023
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Diana Johns is Associate Professor (A/Prof) of Criminology in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Her work explores the effects of criminalisation, the impacts of imprisonment, and the possibilities of restorative and relational justice practices. She uses a range of critical approaches and participatory methods to ground her prison/post-prison and youth justice-related research and scholarship.
Dr Johns is author of three books. Being and Becoming an Ex-Prisoner (Routledge 2017) draws on her doctoral research into men’s experience of leaving prison and inhabiting the liminal social space between custody and community, neither locked up nor entirely free, and highlights the role of community in (re)integrating ex-prisoners. Place, Race and Politics: The Anatomy of a Law and Order Crisis, led by co-authors Professor Leanne Weber et al. (Emerald, 2021), explores the effects of racialised criminalising narratives on African Australian young people and communities. In Co-production and Criminal Justice (Routledge, 2022), Dr Johns and her co-authors consider the perils and possibilities of collaboration and power-sharing in criminological research, policymaking and practice, making important and original contributions to the theory and burgeoning practice of co-production.
Dr Johns’ approach is distinguished by a focus on knowledge as multiple, weaving together academic, practitioner and experiential perspectives. Criminology is dominated by tropes of risk, disadvantage and vulnerability, which tend to overshadow people’s expertise in their own lives and downplay individual and community strength, creativity, power and possibility. As a criminologist, Dr Johns actively works against these tropes by taking positive, strengths-based approaches to social problems.
Whilst an IAS Fellow, Dr Johns will investigate The Abolitionist Horizon of Youth Detention: Building Security in Community, a collaborative interdisciplinary research project seeking to explore what ‘security’ means, and how it is experienced by children and young people and adults working to support them, in so-called ‘secure’ settings.
The project will build on Dr Johns’ current work exploring the conceptual limits and possibilities of the abolitionist horizon of youth detention, thinking through the everyday harms of justice intervention, as well as the historical, cultural and political legacies of settler colonial violence and its impacts on First Nations children through so called ‘care’ and ‘protection’, control and confinement. The project will involve dialogic engagement with this work, in collaboration with Professor Tammi Walker and Dr Hannah King, building on their respective expertise in mental health in secure settings and young people’s experiences of marginalisation.
Dr Johns holds a PhD in Criminology (the University of Melbourne), MA by Research in Applied Criminology and a BA in Criminal Justice (RMIT University). In 2015 she was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at Aberystwyth University, working closely with the Youth Justice Board Cymru in examining the trajectories of young people involved in prolific offending, through a narrative lens. Her article, Ecological Youth Justice (Johns et al. 2017), based on this work, is cited in high-ranking journals and policy documents in Australia and the UK. She delivered the 2022 Scottish National Youth Justice Conference Keynote.