Portrait of Dr Thomas D Akoensi

Dr Thomas D Akoensi

Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice


Dr Thomas Akoensi completed his secondary school education in Tema, Ghana and his BA in Psychology at the University of Ghana, Legon. He then studied for a PhD and MPhil in Criminology at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge. 

Thomas worked as a Research Assistant at the Institute of Criminology before joining SSPSSR, in October 2015, as a Lecturer in Criminal Justice and Criminology.  

Research interests

Dr Akoensi’s research interests are in the area of penology and, more broadly, organisational behaviour, legitimacy, comparative criminology, mixed-methods research and evidence-based criminal justice policy. 

He is currently undertaking a research project with Dr Amy Nivette (Nuffield College, Oxford University) on Legitimacy and Informal Social Control in four communities in Accra, Ghana. 


Dr Akoensi convenes and teaches modules on the BA Criminal Justice and Criminology programme.





  • Akoensi, T. and Tankebe, J. (2019). Prison officer self-legitimacy and support for rehabilitation in Ghana. Criminal Justice and Behavior [Online]:1-17. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0093854819879729.
    Legitimacy refers to the moral recognition of power, and prison legitimacy remains a principal issue for prison researchers and managers. However, the prison legitimacy literature tends to focus on the views held by individuals in custody. Research on prison officer Self-Legitimacy – that is, the powerholders’ belief that the authority vested in them is morally right – remains scanty. Drawing on data from a survey of 1,062 prison officers in Ghana, this study examined both the correlates of prison officer Self-Legitimacy and the links between Self-Legitimacy and Support for Rehabilitation of individuals in custody. The results of multivariate analyses showed that having good Relations with Colleagues and being treated fairly by supervisors enhance prison officers’ Self-Legitimacy. In turn, Self-Legitimacy was found to increase officers’ Support for Rehabilitation. Finally, perceived Fair Treatment by Supervisors and positive Relations with Individuals in Custody were associated with increased Support for Rehabilitation. The implications of these findings are discussed.
  • Nivette, A. and Akoensi, T. (2017). Determinants of satisfaction with police in a developing country: a randomised vignette study. Policing and Society [Online]:1-17. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/10439463.2017.1380643.
    This study examines the effects of three theoretical factors representing both process-based and outcome-based dimensions of police actions on attitudes towards police using an experimental vignette design. We constructed two vignettes depicting citizens’ plausible encounters with police in an urban setting in a developing country (i.e. Accra, Ghana) and varied the level of police procedural justice, measured by quality of treatment, lawfulness, measured by whether or not a bribe is present, and effectiveness, measured by whether or not the offender was caught. In line with previous research, we find that dimensions of police procedural justice, lawfulness, and effectiveness all increase citizens’ satisfaction. However, we find that in certain situations, unlawfulness and ineffectiveness can undermine any positive influence of procedural justice policing on satisfaction. These findings have implications for criminal justice institutions seeking to improve relations with citizens and boost satisfaction and ultimately legitimacy.
  • Akoensi, T. (2017). ‘In this job, you cannot have time for family’: Work–family conflict among prison officers in Ghana. Criminology and Criminal Justice [Online] 18:207-225. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1748895817694676.
    This paper documents the experience of work-family conflict (WFC) among prison officers in Ghana. Although the term WFC has been used in relation to prison officers in the UK (Crawley, 2002) and the US (Triplett et al., 1999), the context of WFC in Ghana is unusual. In this predominantly collectivist culture, family responsibilities include obligations to the extended family. WFC is mainly unidirectional, with interference running from work to the family. Officers are thus impaired in fulfilling their family responsibilities, which consequently impairs their daily work and mental well-being. The ‘crisis controlling’ or ‘paramilitary’ organisational structure of the Ghana Prisons Service (GPS) makes it very difficult for the work domain of prison officers to accommodate family responsibilities. Female officers appear to bear a heavier WFC burden than male officers, mainly on account of their traditionally unpaid housekeeping role in addition to their paid employment in a masculine organisational culture. The findings are significant, as they show that the promulgation of family-friendly policies to alleviate WFC-associated stress lies in the hands of the GPS, since WFC emanates solely from the work domain.
  • Akoensi, T. (2016). Perceptions of self-legitimacy and audience legitimacy among prison officers in Ghana. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice [Online] 40:1-17. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01924036.2016.1165712.
    Criminological research on legitimacy has focused almost exclusively on citizens’ normative assessment of legal authorities. However, this line of research neglects power-holders’ own assessment of their legitimacy or self-confidence in their moral validity of their claims to power. This paper examines the conditions on which prison officers as power-holders base their legitimacy claims. Data from semi-structured interviews and observation of prison officers in Ghana shows that prison officers in Ghana exude high power-holder legitimacy underpinned by favourable assessment of their “self-” and “perceived audience” legitimacy in the eyes of prisoners. While officers’ self-legitimacy was underpinned in their legal status (e.g., legality) and the uniforms (e.g., state insignia), perceived legitimacy was anchored in officers’ maintenance of authority via self-discipline, good and close officer–prisoner relationships, respect for prisoners as humans, and professional competence or making a difference in the lives of prisoners.
  • Akoensi, T. (2014). Governance through power sharing in Ghanian prisons: a symbolic relationship between officers and inmates. Prison Service Journal [Online]:33-38. Available at: https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/sites/crimeandjustice.org.uk/files/PSJ%20212%20March%202014.pdf.
  • Akoensi, T., Koehler, J., Humphreys, D., Sanchez de Ribera, O. and Losel, F. (2013). A Systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of European drug treatment programmes on reoffending. Psychology, Crime & Law [Online] 20:584-602. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1068316X.2013.804921.
    This article presents the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of treatment programmes for drug abusing offenders in Europe, using stringent eligibility criteria to control for threats to internal validity. A literature search of approximately 37,000 titles revealed 15 sound evaluations from six countries, containing 3953 participants. There were significant positive overall effects of treatment on crime (d=0.47) and illicit drug use (d=0.38). Most evaluations originated from the UK and evaluated primarily substitution therapy-based treatment. Evaluations of other interventions were a minority. Our findings support the use of treatment programmes among substance-abusing offenders. However, these results are limited to a small set of programmes from very few countries. Therefore, sound evaluations on a range of treatments across Europe are needed.
  • Akoensi, T., Koehler, J. and Humphreys, D. (2012). Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programs in Europe, Part II: A Systematic Review of the State of Evidence. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology [Online] 57:1206-1225. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0306624X12468110.
    In Part II of this article, we present the results of a systematic review of European evidence on the effectiveness of domestic violence perpetrator programs. After searching through 10,446 titles, we discovered only 12 studies that evaluated the effectiveness of a perpetrator program in some systematic manner. The studies applied treatment to a total of 1,586 domestic violence perpetrators, and the sample sizes ranged from 9 to 322. Although the evaluations showed various positive effects after treatment, methodological problems relating to the evaluation designs do not allow attribution of these findings to the programs. Overall, the methodological quality of the evaluations is insufficient to derive firm conclusions and estimate an effect size. Accordingly, one cannot claim that one programmatic approach is superior to another. Evaluation of domestic violence perpetrator treatment in Europe must be improved and programs should become more tailored to the characteristics of the participants.
  • Koehler, J., Losel, F., Akoensi, T. and Humphreys, D. (2012). A systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of young offender treatment programs in Europe. Journal of Experimental Criminology [Online] 9:19-43. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11292-012-9159-7.

    To examine the effectiveness of young offender rehabilitation programs in Europe as part of an international project on the transnational transfer of approaches to reducing reoffending.


    A literature search of approximately 27,000 titles revealed 25 controlled evaluations that fulfilled eligibility criteria, such as treatment of adjudicated young offenders below the age of 25, equivalence of treatment and control groups, and outcomes on reoffending. In total, the studies contained 7,940 offenders with a mean age of 17.9 years.


    Outcomes in the primary studies ranged widely from odds ratio (OR)?=?0.58 to 6.99, and the mean effect was significant and in favor of treatment (OR?=?1.34). Behavioral and cognitive-behavioral treatment ranked above average (OR?=?1.73), whereas purely deterrent and supervisory interventions revealed a slightly negative outcome (OR?=?0.85). Programs that were conducted in accordance with the risk–need–responsivity principles revealed the strongest mean effect (OR?=?1.90), which indicates a reduction of 16 % in reoffending against a baseline of 50 %. Studies of community treatment, with small samples, high program fidelity, and conducted as part of a demonstration project had larger effects; high methodological rigor was related to slightly smaller outcomes. Large effect size differences between evaluations from the UK and continental Europe disappeared when controlling for other study characteristics.


    Overall, most findings agreed with North American meta-analyses. However, two-thirds of the studies were British, and in most European countries there was no sound evaluation of young offender treatment at all. This limits the generalization of results and underlines the policy need for systematic evaluation of programs and outcome moderators across different countries.

Book section

  • Akoensi, T. (2017). Ghana, Corrections in. In: Kerley, K. R. ed. The Encyclopedia of Corrections. Wiley, pp. 344-352. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9781118845387.wbeoc118.
    Corrections in Ghana has evolved from communal traditional practices emphasizing offender reintegration and restitution to offender punishment in prisons. Prisons in Ghana represent a colonial legacy and its modus operandi via the maintenance of safe custody, and welfare provision since independence remains unchanged. The raison d'être of prison administration is security and discipline, with little emphasis and resource provision geared toward offender rehabilitation. With no parole system or alternatives to imprisonment, Ghana's prisons remain severely overcrowded with a concomitant effect on both prisoners' and prison officers' stress and well-being. This entry gives a broad overview of corrections in Ghana with a focus on (1) the history of imprisonment, (2) the structure of the Ghanaian prison system, with attention to both adult and juvenile corrections, and (3) a profile of prison officers, the principal custodians of incarceration.

Confidential report

  • Liebling, A., Bramwell, R., Armstrong, R., Williams, R., Auty, K., Kant, D., Bethany, S. and Akoensi, T. (2014). Full Sutton SQL & MQPL+. University of Cambridge.
  • Schmidt, B., Liebling, A., Auty, K., Ludlow, A., Cope, A., Akoensi, T. and Kant, D. (2014). HMP Oakwood: England’s First Titan Prison, One Year on MQPL and SQL Key Findings Summary. University of Cambridge.

Research report (external)

  • Ludlow, A., Schmidt, B., Akoensi, T., Liebling, A., Giacomantonio, C. and Sutherland, A. (2015). Self Inflicted Deaths in NOMs’ Custody Amongst 18-24 Years Olds: Staff Experience, Knowledge and Views. RAND Europe and the Prisons Research Centre.
  • Liebling, A., Schmidt, B., Crewe, B., Auty, K., Armstrong, R., Akoensi, T., Kant, D., Ludlow, A. and Levins, A. (2015). Birmingham Prison: The Transition from Public to Private Sector and it’s Impact on Staff and Prisoner Quality of Life - a Three Year Study. [Online]. National Offender Management Service Analytic Summary. Available at: http://www.prc.crim.cam.ac.uk/publications/birmingham-prison-report.
  • Losel, F., Koehler, J., Hamilton, L., Humphreys, D. and Akoensi, T. (2012). Strengthening Transnational Approaches to Reducing Reoffending Final Report. [Online]. University of Cambridge. Available at: http://www.starr-probation.org/uploaded_files/Rep%20STARR%20ENG.pdf.
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