Risky Business - traversing the tightrope of academia and custodial practice, an Inaugural Professorial Lecture by experienced psychologist and Professor of Custodial Practice


Dr Danielle McDermott, Professor of Custodial Practice at Leeds Trinity University, will deliver the first Inaugural Professorial Lecture of 2024.


Dr Danielle McDermott, Professor of Custodial Practice at Leeds Trinity University, will deliver the University’s first Inaugural Professorial Lecture of 2024. The lecture 'Risky Business: traversing the tightrope of academia and custodial practice' will take place at the Main Campus in Horsforth on Tuesday 27 February from 5.30pm.

Born and raised in Leeds, Professor McDermott is the Head of Prisons and Custody at Leeds Trinity. She is responsible for leading and delivering a Masters in Applied Custodial Leadership, where participants on the programme work full-time as prison officers in over 25 prisons across the UK, whilst undertaking a part-time Masters at Leeds Trinity University. This is in partnership with Unlocked Graduates, a pioneering charity which aims to improve the way in which public sector leaders are developed, as well as being at the forefront of innovation within prisons.

In her talk, Danielle will reflect on her 20 years’ experience in Prisons and Higher Education. She will discuss the ongoing challenge of striking a balance between research and practice, and will showcase her applied experience, as well as her work educating and inspiring the future leaders in the Criminal Justice System.

Danielle has a PhD in Forensic Psychology from the Institute for Psychological Sciences at the University of Leeds for which she received a scholarship. Her thesis explored the psychological risk factors associated with self-harming behaviours in young and adult male offenders. Prior to working in academia, Professor McDermott spent over 10 years working in prisons as a Trainee Forensic Psychologist. She was initially appointed as the Treatment Manager for the Safer Custody Unit at HMP Leeds, a specialist unit for vulnerable prisoners at risk of self-harm and suicide.

She later went on to work at His Majesties Young Offender Institution (HMYOI) Wetherby where she worked with young people who had been convicted of serious violent and sexual offences, conducting risk assessments, and designing and delivering tailored interventions. In her first year working for HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) she was awarded the Prison Service Staff of the Year Award, recognised nationally. She also received a certificate of commendation from the Butler Trust (celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice) for outstanding contribution within the Prison Service.

Alongside her role at Leeds Trinity and work with Unlocked Graduates, Professor McDermott was approached to be on the Youth Justice Board’s national academic advisory board and was appointed as a consultant researcher as part of the global ‘None in Three’ project. She is also a proud ambassador for Tempus Novo, an award-winning charity which was born out of the need to challenge the cycle of crime and helps to secure employment and provide mentoring to people released from prison.

Professor Danielle McDermott said: “I am really looking forward to presenting my work from the past two decades in what is a fascinating and often misunderstood sector. I have worked with some of the most vulnerable and risky people in society, regularly confronted with unfathomable situations. The common thread running through my professional life is the importance of building relationships – and it’s something I pride myself on. I feel honoured to be able to share my career and experience with my amazing family, friends and colleagues old and new.”

Natasha Porter, Founder and CEO of Unlocked Graduates, said: “Danielle is very positively perceived in the justice sector. She comes with an incredibly strong reputation across all areas of the prison service, from the highest levels of Executive Directors in the civil service, through to prison governors in the local area. Her work is widely described as 'exceptional'. She has also modelled collaboration and partnerships across the prison service and wider criminal justice sector, which has in turn raised the reputation of Leeds Trinity University.”

Alex Nunn, Dean of Research at Leeds Trinity University said: “Professor McDermott’s work is closely aligned to our mission to ensure that research makes a positive progressive impact on society.  That old saying about being able to judge a society by the state of its prisons rings true.  Danielle has spent twenty years working to improve the lives of people in custody and on release.  This promises to be an amazing evening and I am excited to hear more.” 

Leeds Trinity’s Inaugural Professorial Lectures take place in person at the University’s Main Campus in Horsforth and live streamed, making them accessible for anyone who is interested to find out more about specific subject matters.

For more information and to book tickets, visit the Leeds Trinity University’s events page.

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