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Exploring the impact and prevalence of trauma

Colleague spotlight | Dr Alexandria Bradley

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Headshot of Dr Alexandria Bradley

I am a qualitative researcher with practical experience of working in prisons, probation, and community drug and alcohol services.

I am a trustee at Together Women, and I am passionate about improving the support available for people in the Criminal Justice System. I have devoted my academic career to researching and exploring good practice examples when working with trauma.

In addition, my research examines the implementation of trauma-informed practice in various settings such as prisons, community-based organisations and probation services.

Tell us a bit about you and what led you to working with Leeds School of Social Sciences

Following my move into academia, away from delivering rehabilitation programmes in prisons, I always wanted to ensure that I still had a meaningful connection with individuals involved in the Criminal Justice System. This influenced my decision to move institutions and join Leeds Beckett in 2018.

I wanted to work within this team due to their strong presence within the prison research community. As a former prison employee, I was really interested in the prison education module Learning Together, and I am now Co-Module Leader. I have also had the freedom and encouragement to design and develop modules exploring prison policy, practice and rehabilitative approaches. These modules were designed to enhance the skills of our students, who may one day become the next Criminal Justice employees.

What makes you passionate about your work around Criminology and why is it important?

My experience of working with trauma within the prison service, initially sparked my passion to explore the impact and prevalence of trauma. Now I reflect eight years on, and it is still and always will be the men, women, boys and girls who are misunderstood and unsupported within our Criminal Justice System.

However, my research has also introduced me to remarkable prison and probation officers, as well as staff working in a compassionate way within community services. Ensuring that all of their voices and needs are heard, understood and supported is incredibly important to me, but also to wider society. The work I do around trauma-informed approaches is to improve the experience of staff working within the Criminal Justice System, but importantly, it is to avoid harm and re-traumatisation of men, women, boys and girls within their care / services.

This relational approach actively reduces the barriers for individuals accessing support. This improves the engagement of individuals accessing a variety of rehabilitation support including drugs and alcohol; leaving sex work; mental health and confidence building. 

It is important to recognise that experiences of trauma are everywhere, and we can all do more to understand and empathise with one another.

How is collaboration integral to your work, and what are one or two collaborations that have been the most meaningful to you?

Every aspect of my research is collaborative. Without the relationships developed within partnerships, I would not have the contacts or the access to continue my research. Through collaborations, I have developed lifelong friends and trauma-informed mentors who now deliver workshops on my modules to develop Leeds Beckett students’ working with trauma skills, to prepare them for challenges in their future careers.

One of the collaborations I am particularly proud of is with One Small Thing (OST). The first formal training I received in 2015 was delivered by Dr Stephanie Covington and OST. The first conference, which focused primarily on trauma, was hosted by OST. This charity has delivered much of the delivery of trauma-informed training across the Criminal Justice System. In 2020, I was tasked to research and design the first national Working with Trauma Quality Mark, with the support of OST. As an assessor for OST, I support organisations working towards their award. My role in helping organisations to improve their trauma practice for their staff and individuals accessing support, is incredibly meaningful to me.

What achievements in this area have you been most proud of while working in Leeds School of Social Sciences? 

One of my proudest achievements has been creating tangible change and improvements in trauma-informed working practices. The development of the award enabled me to transform years of dedicated research and analysis, as well as voices of staff and survivors, into something which can be used as a quality assurance measure and improvement tool for organisations working with trauma.

Importantly, my research enhances the skills of my students on modules such as L6 Innovations in Desistance and Recovery, and L7 Transforming Rehabilitation and Punishment. They engage with trauma-informed conversations and training delivered by trauma specialists from previous research collaborations. Some of our students have gone on to working with women within the Criminal Justice System and they utilise their trauma knowledge and practice every day in their roles. The influence of contemporary research into the classroom for students, allows me to enhance their reflective practitioner skills and trauma awareness at an early stage. To have the opportunity to develop trauma-informed criminology graduates, is something I am also incredibly proud of.

Dr Alexandria Bradley

Lecturer / Leeds School Of Social Sciences

Alexandria specialises in Trauma-Informed, Responsive and Specific practice for men and women accessing support in prison and post-release. Recently, Alexandria has worked in partnership with One Small Thing to develop the first Working With Trauma Quality Mark to provide a national benchmark for trauma aware, trauma informed and trauma responsive practice. In 2020, Alexandria evaluated  trauma-responsive practice in a women's centre and a trauma-specific intervention for women with sex-working histories. 

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