|Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology||+44 (0) 191 33 46843|
|Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing|
She is Co-Director of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Programme and has been teaching the programme at undergraduate and postgraduate level at HMP Durham, HMP Frankland and HMP Low Newton women’s prison since she arrived at Durham University in 2014. Kate is also an Inside-Out instructor trainer, having trained in this role by men incarcerated at Macomb Correctional Facility in Michigan, in the US. Kate is also Director of the MSc Programme in Criminology and Criminal Justice and module convenor of the postgraduate taught module, Criminology: Theory and Critical Issues. Kate teaches guest lectures across undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, primarily in the areas of women and prisons; young people, deviance and youth subcultures; and drugs, alcohol and nightlife. Previously, Kate has held the position of Director of Postgraduate Studies in the Department.
Kate’s research focuses broadly on gender, crime and social justice and she has expertise in ethnographic, feminist and participatory methods. Her current work is the area if women and imprisonment. She is leading on three prison-related projects, including a recently completed HMPPS funded project (with Dr Hannah King), The Believed Project, that evaluated a specialist intervention delivered by RSACC, designed to support women who come into prison with histories of sexual violence and abuse. Kate is also working on two projects with NEPACS; the first (with Dr Hannah King) is funded by HMPPS and exploring mother’s experiences of parenting from prison and the impacts of having children removed from their care as a result of a prison sentence. This project also includes participatory theatre and a collaboration with the award-winning women’s theatre company, Open Clasp. The other project (with Dr Christina Straub), funded by the Community Fund, is an evaluation of the Early Days in Custody Project, a crisis support intervention for men and women in custody and their families during the first few days of a sentence- a critical period in the prison journey. Kate is also involved in a collaborative project with North East Sex Work Forum (with Dr Alison Jobe and Gaynor Trueman), supporting a group of women in custody who engage in sex work to create a Pathway-9 focused training resource for prison staff.
Prior to her research with women in prison, Kate spent more than 10 years researching and publishing on women, drugs and alcohol, including on an ESRC funded research project that explored the role of female bouncers in the UK’s night-time economies. She has also conducted research and published on new cultures of intoxication, looking at young people’s use of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), new patterns of nicotine consumption, including e-cigarette use, and young women’s consumption of shisha. Kate’s research in the area of women and British nightlife has featured in a range of radio programmes over the years, including on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Thinking Allowed and as researcher and presenter on two BBC Radio 4 documentaries, Ibiza: Britain’s Balearic Soul and It’s My Story: Ladies on The Door. Kate continues to keep a foot in Britain’s night-time cities, and often engages in consultancy work for local authorities around licensing decisions, and recently, for the Home Office on initiatives relating to women’s safety at night.
Kate has significant editorial experience having been an editor for YOUNG: Nordic Journal of Youth Research, between 2013-2018, a guest editor for The International Journal of Drug Policy in 2017 and for the journal Drugs Education, Prevention and Policy in 2018.
- Communities and Social Justice
- Criminal Justice, Social Harm and Inequalities
- Health and Social Theory
- Violence and Abuse
- Grace, Sharon, O'Neill, Maggie, Walker, Tammi, King, Hannah, Baldwin, Lucy, Jobe, Alison, Lynch, Orla, Measham, Fiona, O'Brien, Kate & Seaman, Vicky (2022). Criminal Women: Gender Matters. Bristol University Press.
Chapter in book
- King, H,, O’Brien, K. & Measham, F. (2022). “The World Split Open” Writing, Teaching and Learning with Women in Prison”. In Criminal Women: Gender Matters. Bristol: Bristol University Press.
- Verity Fee, Phoenix, Iris, Angel, King, H,, O’Brien, K & Measham, F (2022). Women’s biographies through Prison. In Criminal Women: Gender Matters. Bristol: Bristol University Press.
- O’Brien, K., Meahsam, F. & King, H. (2017). University students and prisoners learning collaboratively. In ife Beyond Crime. Crane, P. Lemos Crane.
- O'Brien, K. (2009). Inside 'Doorwork': Gendering the Security Gaze. In Secrecy and Silence in the Research Process: Feminist Reflections. Ryan-Flood, R. & Gill, R. Routledge. 117-132.
- O'Brien, K., Hobbs, D. & Westmarland, L. (2008). Negotiating Violence and Gender: Security and the Night Time Economy in the UK. In Violence in Europe: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Body-Gendrot, S. & Spierenburg, P. Springer. 161-176.
- O'Brien, Kate, King, Hannah, Phillips, Josie & Dalton, Phoenix and Kath (members of the Durham University Inside-Out Collective) (2022). ‘Education as the practice of freedom?’ – prison education and the pandemic. Educational Review 74(3): 685-703.
- King, H., Measham, F. & O’Brien, K. (2019). Building Bridges Across Diversity: Utilising the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Programme to promote an egalitarian higher education community within three UK prisons. International Journal of Bias, Identity and Diversity in Education 4(1): 66-81.
- Chatwin, C., Blackman S. & O’Brien, K. (2018). Intersections in (New) Drugs Research. Drugs Education, Prevention and Policy 25(4): 297-300.
- Chatwin, Caroline, Measham, Fiona, O’Brien, Kate & Sumnall, Harry (2017). New drugs, new directions? Research priorities for new psychoactive substances and human enhancement drugs. International Journal of Drug Policy 40: 1-5.
- Measham, F., O'Brien, K. & Turnbull, G. (2016). “Skittles & Red Bull is my favourite flavour” E-cigarettes, smoking, vaping and the changing landscape of nicotine consumption amongst British teenagers – implications for the normalisation debate. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy 23(3): 224-237.
- O'Brien, K., Chatwin, C., Jenkins, C. & Measham, F. (2015). New psychoactive substances and British drug policy: A view from the cyber-psychonauts. Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy 22(3): 217-223.
- Stevens, A., Coulton, S., O'Brien, K., Butler, S., Gladstone, B. & Tonkin, J. (2014). RisKit: The participatory development and observational evaluation of a multi-component programme for adolescent risk behaviour reduction. Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy 21(1): 24-34.
- Hobbs, D., O'Brien, K & Westmarland, L. (2007). Connecting the Gendered Door: Women, Violence and Doorwork. British Journal of Sociology 58(1): 21-38.