Archive for the 'Criminology and Criminal Justice' Category

The complexity of convergence: criminal justice, mental health and risk

The World Mental Health Day earlier this month aimed to create awareness and mobilise efforts to support the mental health of individuals.  Editors of A companion to criminal justice, mental health and risk, Paul Taylor, Karen Corteen and Sharon Morley, which publishes today, have a particular interest in the point of ideological, legislative , practical and procedural convergence between mental healthcare and criminal justice.

In their blog post academics and Policy Press authors Paul Taylor, Karen Corteen and Sharon Morley begin to outline some of the intertwining issues surrounding criminal justice and mental health.

PT, SM, KCNational and international awareness days are just one example of the myriad of activities aimed at promoting mental health agendas. Indeed, here in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, those tasked with the mandate of support, educating about, and treating mental health issues are cross-disciplinary and multi-agency. One area, among many, of discussion and debate on the improvement of mental wellbeing and the support of mental health issues is in the criminal justice context.

Those in contact with the criminal justice system who experience poor mental health may be considered as exceptionally vulnerable. A system whose remit is to respond to a variety of crises – be that of a criminal or personal/social nature – is a system of complexity with a range of demands placed upon it.

Precarious system

Moreover, it is a precarious system whereby the expectations placed upon it are diverse, with innumerable competing aims. Allegations that aspects of the criminal justice process fail to support the needs of those with mental vulnerabilities are frequently expressed, and so too are those concerns that the system itself is implicit in creating and exacerbating mental health issues.

So then, the mobilisation of policies and services to address mental health in a criminal justice context have evolved, but at the same time has come under scrutiny. Indeed for some, the boundaries between healthcare and criminal justice have become blurred, and not always with positive outcomes.

This critical approach to the intersections of criminal justice and mental health legislation, policy and practice have grown gradually and have illuminated upon the ideological, legislative, practical and procedural convergence between mental healthcare and criminal justice (see for example, Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, 2010).

“A criminal justice system facing pressures to be efficient that at the same time is punishing more and more individuals finds itself riven with dilemmas”

Convergence continues to take place in many criminal justice and penal systems. It is complex to observe, sophisticated in form and influenced by a range of imperatives, agendas and discourses. The overlapping areas of criminal justice, mental healthcare and risk require a critical and balanced understanding, and along the way, require observers to ask the question “who benefits?”

Multiagency approaches and cross-discipline developments in the area of mental healthcare, risk management and criminal justice are becoming increasing normalised in the organising principles of those subject to sanctions and interventions.

The benefits of increased convergence are well documented, not least in the developing agendas to support mental health issues in areas such as court diversion and prisons. But at the same time, understanding the complexities of convergent practices provides a potential to be alerted to unintended consequences and less-than-positive outcomes.

A criminal justice system facing pressures to be efficient that at the same time is punishing more and more individuals finds itself riven with dilemmas, not least when thinking about the support and treatment of those subject to its controls.

The delivery of therapeutic interventions within an environment of sanctions is ideologically contradictory to say the least, and so the challenges facing those tasked with the planning and delivery of interventions are increasingly becoming more acute.

A companion to criminal justice mental health & riskA companion to criminal justice, mental health and risk by Paul Taylor, Karen Corteen and Sharon Morley is available at the discounted price of £22.39 (RRP £27.99) from Policy Press website, here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Personal brand ‘essential’ to gangland survival

Academic and Policy Press author Simon Harding’s award winning book The Street Casino is based on findings from his extensive ethnographic study of local residents, professionals and gang members in south London.

Harding’s research provides a fresh perspective and new insights on the gang world. He believes more time should be spent understanding, rather than condemning, the street gang system if we are serious about helping the young people trapped in it. Interview and report by Rebecca Megson.

 

SimonHarding2NEW FINDINGS show that street gang leaders actively work to build a ‘brand’ for themselves as an essential part of gang culture.

Author and senior criminology lecturer Dr Simon Harding has been researching street gangs for some years. He has found that on the street developing a person’s brand is as essential as it is in mainstream consumerist society.

Harding explains that an individual’s brand is effectively ‘capital’ on the street; capital that can be traded, exchanged, increased and reduced. Brand protection is one reason why street violence erupts and escalates so rapidly.

Harding says: “If I ‘dis’ you, I take some of your ‘street capital’. You have to act pretty quickly in order to regain it. You might do that by knifing me, in which case you have now regained and multiplied your street capital.”

It doesn’t end there, though. “If the person is knifed in front of other people the value of that action is perceived to have increased. The wider group of people then also knife the person as their way of getting a piece of the capital.”

‘Creativity and intelligence’

Harding’s ethnographic study has focused specifically on a deprived area of Lambeth, South London, SW9. He interviewed people from the area, including young people involved in street gangs.

He says: “What I found was an enormous amount of creativity and intelligence – these young people just want to get on with their lives. They are in gangs but they view it as something they have to get involved in even though they don’t really want to be. We owe the young people involved a moral and social responsibility to understand their world.”

Harding is very clear on one point that he feels needs to be addressed first and foremost: the wellspring of gangs is poverty.

“People enter gangs because there is no plausible alternative available to them. The old ways of moving from adolescence into adulthood have evaporated.”

“the gang has a strong gravitational pull”

There are few opportunities for the young people Harding talked to – something which he says is made worse in a multiply deprived area that has been effectively ‘written off’ by both local and national government.

As local services retreat, youth facilities and clubs close. If jobs exist they are sub-minimum wage and dead-end. Harding says: “These people are constantly battling the poverty trap, the gang has a strong gravitational pull.”

At this point, literally the only ‘game in town’ is the gang.

Harding says: “This is where my metaphor of the ‘Street Casino’ comes in – life is a casino for these people. They think they are going to win and win big, but the reality is very different.”

As with a real casino, there are many diversions along the way to keep people playing. They win a little, get some girls, have some entertainment.

Harding found that young people believe in the ‘game’ as their way out. They get addicted, the game becomes compulsive and people get stuck in this world. “The gang becomes the only game in town – but more than that, it becomes the only game they know how to play.”

In light of his findings Harding believes that young people need better support from local services, who in turn should work more effectively with a deeper understanding of the gang domain to provide a safer, alternative future to the Street Casino.

Copies of The Street Casino are available to purchase, with a special discount from the Policy Press website.
The Street Casino has just been awarded The Frederick Milton Thrasher award for Superior Gang Research. The award was established by the journal of Gang Research in 1992 to honour and recognise outstanding scholarship, leadership and service contributions by individuals and programs in dealing with public safety issues like that posed by gangs.

Books for Prisoners: Protecting the ‘perks and privileges’ of reading

In July the Howard League called on people to send books directly to justice secretary Chris Grayling, asking that he forward them onto prisoners. Their Books for Prisoners campaign aims to overturn a ruling by the Ministry of Justice that controversially banned the sending of books to prisoners, classifying them as ‘perks and privileges’.

Policy Press asked our author Peter Wallis to share his views on the ban and why he believes the access to books by prisoners needs to be reframed as necessary and essential.

Author Peter Wallis

Author Peter Wallis ‘shocked and saddened’ by book ban

‘If you randomly select 100 people aged 15-18 in custody, 55 will not have had access to full time education prior to custody, and 28 will have had no education at all.’ Peter Wallis, Understanding Restorative Justice

I was shocked and saddened by the news that Ministry of Justice rules may prevent prisoners from receiving books from outside. I started thinking of the lifeline that the written word can provide for those locked away from society.

I thought of Stories Connect, where prisoners discuss books and literature in prisons such as HMP Channings Wood, where one inmate said: “Stories Connect didn’t just change my life, it saved it”. I thought of the psychotherapist Murray Cox who introduced Shakespeare into Broadmoor, which now has regular performances from the RSC. I thought of the work of the Prison Phoenix Trust, which encourages prisoners to consider their time in their cells as an opportunity for spiritual growth. Hundreds of books are sent each year to prisoners to introduce them to the practices of meditation and yoga.

Personal

On a more personal note, I thought of my grandfather, who served three and a half years in solitary confinement at HMP Ipswich and in Wormwood Scrubs as a conscientious objector in the First World War. He spent his time in his cell learning German in the hope of contributing to attempts towards reconciliation with the enemy when the war was over, moving his family to Berlin soon after the war ended.

“It seems desperately short-sighted to stop books being sent to prisoners.”

I believe that during his time in prison my grandfather was rationed to 6 books, and was also limited in the amount of paper he could use for correspondence, often sending his letters to his mother in miniscule writing on toilet paper.

It seems desperately short-sighted to stop books being sent to prisoners, many of whom have had little or no previous educational opportunities.

Guardian journalist Erwin James received all of his education inside prison. Surely the government wants to boost any opportunity to enable our most marginalised and poorly educated citizens to feel connected and part of society. How much better by encouraging reading rather than endless gym sessions, TV or computer games?

Understanding restorative justice: How empathy can close the gap created by crime by Peter Wallis is published by Policy Press and available at a discounted rate from our website.  Policy Press will be sending a copy of Peter’s book to Chris Grayling, requesting he pass it onto prisoners as part of the Howard League’s Books for Prisoners campaign.

A missed opportunity: Why the Law Commission got it wrong on hate crime

Jon Garland, Department of Sociology, University of Surrey

Jon GaJG picrland and Neil Chakraborti are co-editors of Responding to hate crime: The case for connecting policy and research, published by Policy Press last month.

 

Recently the Law Commission published the results of its year-long investigation into the efficacy and scope of hate crime laws. The consultation, a reference from the Ministry of Justice, had the specific remit of examining the ‘aggravated’ offences and incitement to hatred legislation in order to see if these should be extended to include groups that were not previously protected.

That the Law Commission was asked to undertake this review at all was a reflection of the increased social significance of hate crime and also (and relatedly, of course) the heightened importance of hate crime legislation. Supporters of this legislation argue that it has a specific, symbolic importance in that it reflects society’s condemnation of the victimisation of marginalised and disadvantaged groups. However, one of the issues examined in this process was the inequality that exists in the provision for different victim groups within the mish-mash of hate crime legislation. The criminal justice system currently recognises just a handful of different identity communities as hate crime victim groups – the so-called ‘five strands’ of race, religion/faith, sexual orientation, disability and gender identity – about which the police are required to collect hate crime statistics. Surprisingly, though, some of these ‘five strands’ receive more protection from the law than others. For example, the aggravated offences provision within the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 currently covers race and faith groups, but not those relating to disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. Similarly, in the case of the incitement to hatred legislation, race, faith and sexual orientation groups are included, but not disability or gender identity.

So how has this rather odd situation come about? Well, the explanation is, in some ways, quite simple: there is no single all-encompassing ‘Hate Crime Act’ that covers different types of offences and all identity groups, but instead there exists a number of different pieces of legislation that have been drawn up over time which have, gradually, included one group after another in a rather piecemeal fashion. This has resulted in the disparities of provision that the Law Commission was asked to investigate.

Under a degree of expectation, the Law Commission therefore published the findings from its extensive investigations at the end of May. The Commission concluded, perhaps rather disappointingly, that a further, Government-sponsored review into a wider set of questions surrounding the aggravated provisions was necessary. It also, rather frustratingly for some disability campaigning groups such as the Disability Hate Crime Network, declined to recommend that the incitement legislation be broadened to include the strands of gender identity and disability. The Commission’s reasoning for this was that it had not been persuaded of the ‘practical need to do so’, that prosecutions might in any case be rare and that new incitement legislation might ‘inhibit discussion of disability and transgender issues’.

This verdict means that disabled and transgender communities still find themselves ‘out in the cold’ regarding the incitement laws. It also means that some groups appear to be accorded a more ‘privileged’ position than others within the five strands, which is an unfortunate outcome of the Commission’s work. Although the justification provided by the Commission for declining to make this recommendation  has some logic, it does seem a shame that it failed take the opportunity, in the words of the Disability Hate Crime Network, to extend the law’s coverage to ‘capture a unique, specific and grave type of wrong’.

 

 

 

 

Police and Fatal Shootings

Maurice Punch

Maurice Punch

by Maurice Punch, author of Shoot to Kill

A fatal shooting is the ultimate in police use of power. Hence it is vital to achieve clarity and transparency on the reasons for it to ensure trust on the police use of firearms. After the massacre at Hungerford (1987) British policing became semi-armed: and the standard approach was geared to restraint, firing single rounds and aiming for the body mass – to stop and not to kill. That changed dramatically at Stockwell in 2005 when Met officers shot dead Jean-Charles de Menezes at point-blank range with several hollow-point bullets to the head. This can only be fatal and was indisputably “shooting to kill”. It raised a host of issues but the police and the Home Office went silent and have managed to avoid a fundamental debate. What should have been explored was:

- the law, national policy, operational guidelines, tactics, weapons and ammunition;
– the operational chain of risk assessment, briefing, encounters, post-incident evaluation and accountability;
– and the aftermath of a fatal shooting regarding support for family and friends, informing stakeholders and the media and cooperating with investigations.

If this had been brought unambiguously into the public domain after Stockwell it would have proved valuable in the current controversy surrounding the Mark Duggan shooting. We now need to know what has been determining the Met`s firearm`s policy and tactics. CO19, for instance, has become highly professional and skilled. To what extent is this a “militarization” of policing – written about extensively in the US – and has it altered the ground rules? Could it be that the Home Secretary`s priority on cutting crime, the Mayor`s emphasis on swift results and the Commissioners “total policing” have pressured officers and hardened tactics?

This is particularly relevant when the police get it wrong with irreversible consequences. Some of the most serious disturbances in the US have been when police have shot dead young black men who were unarmed. This also forms the key issue in the shooting of Duggan: was he unarmed at the moment he was shot? Thanks to the restraint of the Duggan family following the inquest verdict – and the proactive Met approach – there has been none of the mass violence that occurred in 2011. But this case raises two important factors:

Firstly, there are the objective elements about the context, risk assessment, equipment, briefing (was it recorded?) and the actual encounter. These are important in assessing the nature of the assignment, the appropriateness of the “hard-stop” tactic and whether alternatives were considered.

Secondly, there is the subjective experience of the officers. The evidence on firearms use is that there is always a degree of visual and aural distortion. In seemingly life-threatening situations any implement, a piece of a hoover in one case, viewed as a weapon – or a sudden gesture can lead to an officer firing, with the defence of a reasonable fear of fatal danger. The officer may even become convinced that there was a weapon when none was present. Officers do misperceive the threat in the split-seconds of a shooting and this will continue to happen however hard they train.

The conflict in assessing liability then comes from this tension between the objective factors and the subjective experience of the officer. Inquests and juries having seen and heard the evidence are burdened with assessing the validity of the latter – and a head-camera can`t look inside an officer`s mind – and tend to side with the officer`s account, to the disbelief of relatives and friends of the victim and the media.

Politicians and the police have kept the profound and unresolved implications of Stockwell out of the public arena. If they had taken the opportunity to inform the public fully on police use of firearms it might have defused the controversy and turbulence around the disputed shooting of Duggan.

Maurice Punch, 11-01-14, Amstelveen, The Netherlands.

How do values, ethics, morals and ‘sides’ function in the criminal justice system?

Marian Duggan

Marian Duggan

by Marian Duggan, co-author of Values in criminology and community justice, which published in September.

The UK criminal justice system is rapidly changing in light of the ongoing neoliberal turn, advancing towards a focus on expansion, results and privatisation. It is perhaps unsurprising therefore, that criminology as a discipline remains as popular as ever with students and scholars, practitioners and policy makers. These shifts and their wider social impact prompted us to ponder upon contemporary ‘values’ in criminological research, theory, policy and practice.

Taking Howard Becker’s 1967 article ‘Whose Side Are We On?’ as a starting point, we set out to investigate how values, ethics, morals and ‘sides’ function in and around the criminal justice system. Two and a half years later these earlier ponderings resulted in the publication of Values in criminology and community justice.

In the book we analyse a range of issues, often evidencing the multiple and, at times, contradictory discourses concerning victims and offenders, punishment and protection, rights and responsibilities. We cover traditional ground such as values and ‘sides’ when working with offenders, victims, the police or wider communities, and also address issues pertaining to prisons, the changing probation service and desistance.

More nascent areas of study such as ‘green criminology’ are also covered alongside new and fresh approaches to existing areas, for example how feminism, racism and identity impact on criminological theorising. Critiques of neoliberalism and its impacts are also present with issues such as the ‘big society’, economics of justice, desistance and contract research being tackled by contributions from experienced and eminent scholars in the fields of criminal and community justice.

The timeliness of this publication is not only evident in light of the changing nature of the criminal justice system, but also links to the theme of the 2013 British Society of Criminology conference, where the discipline was quite literally ‘put on trial’ and charged with failing to deliver. Criminology’s strengths and limitations were laid bare in the compelling prosecution and defence statements which ensued, but (thankfully!) in the end Criminology was acquitted of all charges.

However, during the trial, what became evident was the broadness and malleability this area of scholarship affords researchers seeking to improve, enhance or enrich the lives of others. No one discipline – Criminology included – will ever have all the answers to questions concerning how to address offending, victimisation, deviancy and harm. Nonetheless, the thoughtful arguments put forth in the Values book clearly illustrate the importance of continually querying responses to crime, criminality and criminalisation in light of developments in social, political, legal and moral values.

A launch is being organised at Hallam View, Sheffield Hallam’s premier conference suite, on Wednesday 11th December 2013, 5–8pm. Please contact Elena Portaluri on 0114 225 6280 or e.portaluri@shu.ac.uk for further details.

Values in criminology and community justice is available with 20% discount from www.policypress.co.uk.

Dr Richard Stone on the launch of his book Hidden Stories of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry

The launch was held at the House of Commons in Committee Room 14, the Gladstone Room. The event was sponsored by Sadiq Khan (Labour), Sir Peter Bottomley (Conservative) and Tom Brake Liberal-Democrat), thus demonstrating cross-party support for the ant-racist agenda set by the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.

image001-1

The text was edited by the playwright Stephen Sharkey. The reading was directed Melissa Dunne and was performed by three professional actors: Tom Golding, Kelechi Okafor and Robert Macpherson (pictured).

There was prolonged applause.  I did a brief question and answer session and several people spoke.

Leroy Logan, retiring Chief Superintendent, spoke of his experience of years as a black Metropolitan Police officer

Doreen Lawrence then spoke movingly about her feelings 20 years on from the brutal racist murder of the eldest of her three children.

She also told us of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust for young people in its fine building in Bermondsey. It was a pleasure to see her face light up when talking about this positive outcome from the disaster 20 years ago.

I then encouraged people to give financial help to replace three central Governmental grants to the Stephen Lawrence Centre, none of which has been renewed this year.

Alison Shaw, Director of the Policy Press, encouraged people to read the book and the audience needed little persuading.

Not surprisingly the best outcome of the event was the networking which took off from the minute the business was over.

I ended the evening with a call for a united anti-racism movement. It was a memorable event and the first of  I hope many more.

Richard Stone April 2013

Hidden Stories of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Personal Reflections is available at www.policypress.co.uk


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