Shona is the 2019 winner of the Outstanding Early Career Impact Prize awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council in association with Sage Global. 

She is currently a British Academy Post Doctoral Fellow at the Centre for Criminology where she is researching the impact of a parent's release from custody from a child rights' perspective.  

After graduating from St.Anne's College, Oxford in Jurisprudence Shona was called to the Bar of England and Wales and practised criminal and family law from 1 King's Bench Walk, London. Her professional experience led to her research interest in the points of intersection between family and criminal law.

She obtained an MSc (Distinction)  from the University of Surrey in Criminology, Criminal Justice and Social Research in 2012. Her Masters research explored  the impact of motherhood as mitigation in criminal sentencing using interviews with members of the judiciary and an analysis of sentencing transcripts.

Shona then moved to the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford and funded by the ESRC she undertook DPhil research which analysed the place of children in maternal sentencing decisions in England and Wales. She explored the status of children of prisoners in English law and engaged directly with children and their carers to explore the nature of the impact of maternal imprisonment. She also interviewed members of the Crown Court judiciary to examine sentencing practice. She completed the DPhil in early 2017. 

In 2017/ 2018 Shona was employed by the Faculty of Law as the Research Officer on an ESRC Impact Acceleration Award funded project in association with the Prison Reform Trust and Dr Rachel Condry.  ' Addressing the Impact of Maternal Imprisonment: Developing Collaborative Training' . It built on the findings of her doctoral work and provide information, in the form of films, to sentencers and legal professionals to aid consistency and understanding in maternal sentencing decisions. The films were launched in January 2018 and are available for sentencers, advocates and probation staff. An additional film was made for women themselves facing sentence and it can be viewed here

Shona shared her research findings with the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights in March 2018, in particular with regard to the state duty to protect children from discrimination which they may face as a consequence of the status or activities of their parents (UNCRC, Article 2). As a consequence the JCHR held an enquiry into the right to family life of children whose mother is imprisoned. 

Her research has been referenced frequently in parliamentary debates and has informed Government policy including the June 2019 Farmer Review on the Importance of strengthening female offenders' family and other relationships to prevent reoffending and reduce intergenerational crime. 

After a period in 2018 working on the evaluation of a family law advice service offered to women in prison by the Prisoners' Advice Service with a team from Lancaster University, Shona returned to Oxford to take up her British Academy Fellowship. 


In July 2019 Shona was awarded the Outstanding Early Career Impact Prize by the ESRC and a Vice Chancellor's Award from the University of Oxford, for Public Engagement with Research. 

In April 2018 Shona was named the Early Career Impact Champion, by the O2RB consortium made up of the Social Sciences departments of Reading Uiveristy, the Open Universtity, Oxford Brookes University and the University of Oxford. 

Her report on 'Motherhood as Mitigation' won the John Sunley Prize 2013 and was published by The Howard League for Penal Reform in April 2014.










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  • R.Condry and Shona Minson, 'Conceptualizing the effects of imprisonment on families: Collateral consequences, secondary punishment, or symbiotic harms?' (2020) Theoretical Criminology
    DOI: 10.1177/1362480619897078
    This article explores how we might best understand the effects of imprisonment on families and why this is important to a full understanding of prison as a form of punishment. The effects on families have broadly been understood within previous literature in one of two ways: either as ‘collateral consequences’, or as a form of secondary punishment extended to the family member. We suggest that the first of these descriptions is at best insufficient and at worst subordinating and marginalizing, while the second is inaccurate when family members have not committed an offence. We offer instead the concept of ‘symbiotic harms’ which we define as negative effects that flow both ways through the interdependencies of intimate associations such as kin relationships. The characteristics of these harms can be more fully described by a term which encompasses their relational, mutual, non-linear, agentic, and heterogeneous properties.
  • Shona Minson, Maternal Sentencing and the Rights of the Child (Palgrave 2019)
    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-32738-5
    “Shona Minson's work has already had remarkable impact and helped strengthen the rights of prisoners' children in England and Wales significantly. When reading this meticulously researched book one understands why. This is an impressive cross-disciplinary undertaking combining criminological, sociological, and legal research on the children of imprisoned parents, human rights, and the sociology of punishment. It clearly demonstrates how sentencers need to consider the impact on children when their primary carer is imprisoned, and how upholding the human rights of these children is the right approach when doing this” (Peter Scharff Smith, Professor of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo, Norway) “With its powerful look at children’s rights in adult sentencing processes, children’s accounts of their experiences of maternal incarceration, and insights into judicial thinking, Minson’s book is unique in its innovation, scope and clout as it tackles these questions and those raised above. The book will be relevant to academic and practitioner audiences across criminology, social work, child rights, law and social policy. It provides a valuable impetus for the Children of Prisoners Europe network to make further inroads in advocacy on the importance of child-sensitive sentencing processes and the application of imprisonment as a measure only as a last resort, thus fostering truly preventive action for children across Europe” (Liz Ayre, Executive Director, Children of Prisoners Europe) “This meticulously researched work is a must read for anyone interested in family law, parental incarceration, and the rights of children. Dr Minson expertly weaves together multiple data strands to examine children’s differentiated treatment with regard to custodial placement that stem from having a mother in the criminal justice system within the courts of England and Wales. Policy proposals in the final chapter of the book hold global lessons for us all in terms of the need to amplify the voices of children with a parent in prison, educate legal and judicial practitioners regarding how families are impacted by maternal incarceration, reduce the number of imprisoned women, and the essentiality of considering women’s status as a sole or primary parent to her children during criminal sentencing” (Joyce A. Arditti, Professor of Human Development and Family Science, Virginia Tech, USA) “The rights of children whose parents are or have been in prison have been neglected in the human rights literature. This important book addresses this gap, providing not only rich insights into the experiences of these families but practical recommendations going forward. It is a must read for all scholars of children's rights and all those interested in the impact of the justice system on children” (Laura Lundy, Professor, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK) “The forcible separation of a child from his or her parent is among the most formidable and fraught powers a state can brandish, so it is shocking that so little scholarship has explored this process in the context of the imprisonment of parents and caregivers. Thankfully, the comprehensive and ground-breaking research of Dr Shona Minson is bringing much needed attention to this hugely sensitive and important issue” (Shadd Maruna, Professor of Criminology, Queen’s University Belfast, UK) “Capturing the failure of criminal courts to consider the best interests of children affected by maternal incarceration, Shona exposes causes of fundamental injustice ranging from nonsensical legal lacuna and shocking judicial blindness to gender and childhood perspectives. A vital and critical indictment of the criminal justice system with examples to follow for meaningful change which should be on every jurists’ desk” (Felicity Gerry QC, London and Melbourne Professor of Legal Practice, Deakin University, Australia)
    This book brings to life the experiences of children affected by maternal imprisonment, and provides unique, in-depth analysis of judicial thinking on this issue. It explores the experiences of children whose mothers are sentenced to imprisonment in England and Wales and contrasts their state-sanctioned separation from their mothers in the criminal courts (where the court may not even be aware of the existence of a child) to the state-sanctioned separation of children from their parents in the family courts, where the child has legal representation and their best interests are the court’s paramount consideration. Drawing on detailed empirical research with children, caregivers, and Crown Court judiciary, Maternal Sentencing and the Rights of the Child brings together relevant literature on law, criminology, and human rights to provide insight into the reasons for the differentiated treatment and its implications for children, their caregivers, and wider society.
    ISBN: 978-3-030-32737-8
  • Shona Minson, 'Direct Harms and Social Consequences: An analysis of the impact of maternal imprisonment on dependent children in England and Wales ' (2018) Criminology and Criminal Justice
    This article draws upon research with children whose mothers were imprisoned in England and Wales, to investigate the impacts of maternal imprisonment on dependent children. The research directly engaged with children, in accordance with Article 12 of the UNCRC 1989, and is set within an examination of the differentiated treatment in the family and criminal courts of England and Wales of children facing state initiated separation from a parent. The article explores children’s ‘confounding grief’ and contends that this grief originates from social processes, experienced as a consequence of maternal imprisonment. ‘Secondary prisonization’ is characterized by changes in home and caregiver and the regulation of the mother and child relationship. ‘Secondary stigmatization’ occurs when children are stigmatized by virtue of their relationship with their mother. These harms to children call into question the state’s fulfilment of its duty to protect children under Article 2 of the UNCRC 1989.
  • Shona Minson, 'Who cares? Analysing the place of children in maternal sentencing decisions in England and Wales ' (2017) University of Oxford
    This thesis has been lodged with the Bodleian Library
    When children face separation from their parents as a consequence of state action in the family courts, their best interests are the paramount consideration of the court and they have legal representation. Children who face separation from their mother as a consequence of sentencing proceedings in the criminal courts are neither represented nor acknowledged. The thesis analyses this differentiated treatment and explores its consequences for children, society and the state. Explanations for the differentiated treatment are tested with reference to existing literature and original empirical research. The impact on children of imprisoned mothers is investigated to determine whether or not they suffer harm. The parameters of the state duty of care towards children are explored, to see if children of defendant mothers fall outside of it, and the way sentencing judges construct and interpret their duty towards mothers and their children within the sentencing process is examined. This thesis establishes that without legal or moral justification, children of maternal defendants are treated without the concern given to children who face separation from their parents in the family courts. Children of defendant mothers suffer as a consequence of the ‘secondary prisonisation’, ‘secondary stigmatisation’ and ‘confounding grief’ which they experience, and the state has failed to uphold their rights under Articles 3, 12 and 20, and is in breach of its duty under Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989. The guidance and mechanisms for considering their welfare exist but are not engaged with by the sentencing courts, local authorities, legislators or policy makers. This has negative consequences for children, their caregivers and wider society. The thesis concludes with consideration of the implications of these findings for the state and suggests changes to ensure equitable treatment of children of defendant mothers in England and Wales.
  • Shona Minson, Written submission on the sentencing of parents of dependent children (Scottish Sentencing Council, Edinburgh. 6th March 2017)
    Presentation to the Scottish Sentencing Council 6th March , based on 'Who Cares? Analysing the place of children in maternal sentencing decisions in England and Wales', Minson, S. (2017), DPhil Thesis, University of Oxford
  • R. Condry, A. Kotova and Shona Minson, 'Social Injustice and collateral damage: The families and children of prisoners' in Jewkes, Y., Bennett, J., Crewe, B. (ed), Handbook on Prisons (Routledge 2016)
  • Shona Minson, 'Sentencing and Dependents: Motherhood as Mitigation' in J Roberts (ed), Exploring Sentencing Practice in England and Wales (Palgrave Macmillan 2015)
  • Shona Minson and R Condry, 'The visibility of children whose mothers are being sentenced for criminal offences in England and Wales' (2015) 32 Law in Context 28

Research projects