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I'm an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. I teach a range of social work courses, but my research interests are somewhat different than most social workers. I study criminal justice policy, and in particular, the experiences of children of prisoners in Canada.
Reach me here

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Academia is a second career for me. I was a social worker in Toronto for many years, first as a child welfare worker at CAS Toronto, and later as a policy analyst at the John Howard Society of Ontario

I started my doctoral work in the Social Policy Department at the LSE in 2010, exploring the experiences and impact of parental incarceration in Canada. For my research, I spent two years driving around southern Ontario interviewing children who have a parent in prison, their caregivers on 'the outside', and a range of advocates, policy folks and service providers. I learned a lot from all of my participants about the prison system, and a lot about conducting research with people whose lives are full of challenges, fear, stigma, and precarity. And I ate a lot of terrible service station breakfast sandwiches. 

Today, I'm focusing on publishing my findings and getting a broader research agenda off the ground. I sit on a variety of committees with great researchers, service providers, service users, and other experts, in an attempt to advocate for better, more just, and more research-informed approaches to criminal justice policy. These include: The Global Prisoners' Families Research Group the Canadian Criminal Justice Association's Policy Review Committee, the Landon Pearson Centre's Child Rights Academic Network, the new Canadian Coalition for Children of Prisoners, and Toronto's exciting new Reach Out Response Network

Here's me, with my colleague Dr Spendik, discussing punishment and prisons during the pandemic:​


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Supplementary trainings include:

Indigenous Foundations in Health and Education. Enweying Professional Learning Institute, Trent University, 2018


PGCertHE (Post-Graduate Certificate in Higher Education Teaching), LSE, 2014


( 03 )


I've been teaching in Trent's Department of Social Work at both the Durham and Peterborough campuses since 2016.


In the 2020-21 academic year, I'm teaching massive undergraduate courses that provide broad introductions to social work, Canadian social welfare and theories of behaviour, including:

I love teaching and seek to bring some seemingly dreary topics (like social welfare policy) to life. I use topical issues, case studies, examples from my past career as a worker, videos and other resources to engage and inspire students. In my classes, we work on thinking critically, politicizing the practice, skills, and history of social work, and exploring the social context of what may seem like individual problems. According to my students, I'm engaging, challenging, and occasionally a hot mess.

Here's (a super enthusiastic) me in promo video from the Teaching & Learning centre at Trent, talking about my approach to teaching:


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Academic publications:

Knudsen, E.M. (2019). Hearing children’s voices in studies of familial incarceration: Experiences from a Canadian study. In Hutton, M. and Moran, D. (Eds.). The Palgrave Handbook on Prisoners’ Families. Palgrave, UK

Knudsen, EM. (2019) The curious invisibility of Canadian children of prisoners. Criminologie, 52(1), 177–202.

Knudsen, E.M. (2018)  The invisibility of children of prisoners. In Condry, R & Scharff-Smith, P. (Eds) Prisons, Punishment and the Family: Towards a New Sociology of Punishment. Oxford University Press.

Knudsen, E.M. (2016). Avoiding the pathologizing of children of prisoners. Probation Journal. 63(3), 362-370

Other publications

Knudsen, E.M. (2011). Submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2011 Day of General Discussion: Children of Incarcerated Parents. 

Knudsen, E.M. (2010, January). Prisoners and the Right to Health Care inside Prisons. The Well (periodical of the Church Council on Justice and Corrections)

Knudsen, E.M. (2009, 15 May).Opinion: Better to be Smart than Tough on Crime. The Toronto Star.

Knudsen, E.M and Jones, C. (2008). The Youth Criminal Justice Act. Submission to the Government of Canada, Department of Justice 


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