Conference Update

A message from the Birmingham City Conference Committee.

Advertisements

This year’s British Society of Criminology annual conference, which is to be hosted in Birmingham City University’s brand new city centre campus, is truly living up to its theme: Transforming Criminology.

With regard to the Post Graduate Conference, which is being organised by Dr Aidan O’Sullivan, brand new and innovative masterclasses will be held including:

  • Meet the Editors and Getting Published;
  • Geese Theatre and rehabilitation through the Arts;
  • Dealing with the media (including guest talks from under cover journalist Donal MacIntyre and Times crime correspondent John Simpson);
  • Preparing for the VIVA; and
  • Applying for academic positions.

We are also transforming how postgraduates engage with the conference, with delegates now presenting their ongoing or planned research to other postgraduate representatives. This is based on feedback from previous conferences in which postgraduate delegates wished to engage and contribute more to the conference programme. We also have two exciting key notes for the postgraduate conference, with the internationally renowned Emeritus Professor David Wilson and Dr Thomas Raymen (early-career researcher and the co-founder of the deviant leisure research network). The postgraduate social event will also take place in the Eagle and Ball, a Victorian pub that offers a unique new home to the Students Union and was built between 1840 and 1850.

This theme of transformation also permeates into the main conference, with keynote addresses from Professor Yvonne Jewkes, Dr Ben Crewe, Professor Jeff Farrell and Professor Michael Levi. In keeping with the conference theme of transforming criminology, Edmond Clark will be attending BSC 2018 as a keynote speaker. During Clarke’s residency at HMP Grendon (Ikon’s artist-in-residence 2014-2018) he immersed himself within the routines of the prison and engaged in-depth with inmates, prison officers and therapeutic staff alike. Enthused by the unique insight into the essence of Grendon and bound by the constraints of detailing the identity of inmates and security infrastructure, Clark’s work responds by exploring the notions of visibility, trauma and self-image.

We are also excited to bring our brand new Grendon Panel to your attention. This panel will include the Governor of HMP Grendon Dr Jamie Bennett and Chartered Forensic Psychologist and Head of Clinical Services at HMP Grendon Richard Shuker. This panel will also include two former residents of HMP Grendon including: Noel “Razor” Smith, who after being released in 2010 went to work for Inside Times and has published seven books, and Doug Sharpe, who after being released in 2017 now gives lectures to the next generation of students working towards careers within the Criminal Justice System.

In continuing the theme of rehabilitation, Geese Theatre – a company of theatre practitioners who work closely with the probation service, prisons, young offender institutions, and youth offending teams – will also be hosting an Arts and Rehabilitation panel (more speakers to be confirmed).

The main conference dinner will be at Edgbaston stadium. Opened in 1882, it serves as the home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club and the Birmingham Bears T20 side. They also regularly hold international matches, and are a frequent stop on the Ashes tour when it is held in the UK.

We are also delighted to announce that we are receiving abstracts from all over the world including North America, Australia, Nigeria, Taiwan and New Zealand. This year’s conference is fast becoming a truly international and transformative event and we look to forward to seeing you all in July! Below we have added a link to the conference website and a breakdown of some of the key dates.

All the best from the Birmingham City Conference Committee.

 

Contact

Website

Email: Admin2018BSC@bcu.ac.uk

Twitter: @BCU_BSC2018

Facebook: BSC Conf

Call for Abstracts closes: May 28, 2018

Conference Registration closes: June 25, 2018

 

Copyright free image: from the authors

The Pleasures (and Pains) of Hosting a BSC Annual Conference

Organising the British Society of Criminology annual conference is a huge job, but the task is more rewarding than you think

Conference2017_longVHeap

Dr Vicky Heap is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Fellow of the Sheffield Institute for Policy Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. Vicky conducts research and lectures in the areas of anti-social behaviour, crime prevention and research methods, and is Editor of Safer Communities journal.

We hosted the British Society of Criminology annual conference at Sheffield Hallam University in 2017. This blog reflects on my experience of leading the organising committee for the BSC’s annual showpiece, giving an insight into the ups and downs of the process – and debunking a few myths along the way.

It’s certainly not a myth that organising the BSC conference takes a LOT of work. However, there were some real high-points. The thing that stood out to me the most was the willingness of the criminological community to engage with the conference, at all levels of proceedings. We secured some amazing plenary speakers who, aside from doing the business when it came to their talks, were also particularly efficient at providing all the required admin information. This may seem like a minor point, but the small things make a big difference to an organisational process that has numerous component parts. Similarly, when putting together the Masterclasses, invited speakers were keen to be involved and were truly innovative in their approaches to the sessions. The same can be said for the presenters invited to participate in the Postgraduate Conference. In total, 11 external and 8 Sheffield Hallam speakers delivered the workshops and they were ably supported by the BSC Postgraduate Committee, who chaired all the sessions. The level of assistance and encouragement provided by the BSC was second to none, with plenty of questions answered by previous hosts, especially by the folks from Plymouth. Coupled with the incredible support from our events team and student helpers, we had a huge team invested in putting together the best possible conference. This administrative support and commitment was matched by the enthusiasm of both presenters and delegates. We welcomed 332 criminologists from 13 countries to Sheffield across the four days, and it was great to see so many people. It felt like a friendly conference too, evidenced by the 50+ criminologists from around the world partying together until 4am on the night of the conference dinner!

SHU_party

I can’t deny it, there was the odd personal perk associated with being part of the organising committee. I am probably one of the few academics that does not drink coffee, so when it came to planning the ACJS sponsored refreshments I asked the events team to see if we could provide something a little bit different. I love fizzy drinks, doughnuts, cookies, and generally anything that’s bad for you! Fortunately for me, our chef agreed to create a bespoke set of refreshments for that slot, which were served from market stalls alongside the postgraduate poster event. The ice-cold drinks went down well on what was a stiflingly hot day and my dream of a non-coffee-centred refreshment break came true!

SHU_conference

On a more serious note, putting together the main conference programme was one of the most difficult tasks. First, we had to peer review the abstract submissions and we had a team of five people working on this between January and April and I can dispel this rumour once and for all: not all abstracts are accepted! Once we had our final set of panels and papers, we had to populate five parallel sessions across the three days of the main conference. Unlike other conferences which stipulate you must attend the whole event, the BSC conference affords a greater degree of flexibility by offering a range of delegate packages. This is where it gets tricky for the organisers, as we had to match up the programme to the registrations. Most delegates came to the whole conference, but there were high numbers of single day attendees too. On top of this, we received over fifty individual requests for specific time slots or times that had to be avoided because of things like transport constraints. We also had to think about spacing out the panel themes to avoid duplication, put single papers into appropriate panels (trickier than you’d think), and make sure there were a similar number of panels in each parallel session. It took me and Jaime Waters, who is the most logical-thinking and organised person I know, three long days, copious post-it notes and a massive table to finally piece the jigsaw together.

SHU_abstracts

The issue of presentation slot requests relates to a major feature of the planning process that potential conference organisers should be prepared for; your email inbox will explode! This is from a combination of internal emails from your organising committee, events team, website administrator et al., as well as emails from external delegates. In the six to eight weeks leading up to the conference I was probably dealing with an average of 50-60 conference emails per day. The final aspect to be aware of as a would-be conference organiser is to expect the unexpected. As with any large-scale event, there is the potential for things to go wrong. There were a few hair-raising moments along the way, which I can look back on now with a wry smile. One scary instance came the day before the printing deadline for the conference handbook when we realised that for some unknown reason, the punctuation in the abstract submissions had not pulled-through from the online submission point into the conference handbook itself. This resulted in eight members of the events team hastily going through each abstract and inserting every comma, apostrophe and full-stop at break-neck speed. Another example of people going above and beyond to ensure the conference was delivered as planned.

Overall, leading the conference organising committee was an interesting and valuable experience on numerous levels. At least if my academic career doesn’t go according to plan I’ve now got the offer to go and work for our events team. So, if I mysteriously disappear after the next REF, you’ll know where to find me! There were a few stressful moments, but seeing the event run as we had envisaged was really rewarding as well as a massive relief. To witness the global criminological community come together to share their expertise and passion for our discipline made it all worth it. If you are thinking of putting a bid together to host a future conference – go for it! There will always be people willing to help you out and you can certainly count on my support.

Contact

Dr Vicky Heap, Sheffield Hallam University

Email: v.heap@shu.ac.uk  

Twitter: @DrVickyHeap

Copyright free images: from author

 

Criminology and the USS Strike – the View from Sussex

In this blog post, criminologists from University of Sussex, who are participating in the ongoing USS strike, reflect on their reasons for striking and the dispute’s wider relevance for Criminology.

 

The University and College Union’s strike action is about pensions. Employers in the USS scheme want to end guaranteed pension benefits and to replace them with a defined contribution scheme which would be vulnerable to the vagaries of the market. This transfers what for employers is a shared low risk across institutions, to high risk for individual employees. Pertinent to criminologists are the discourses of risk and ‘affordability’ that have surrounded the justifications offered by Universities UK, the employers’ association, not to mention the highly questionable risk calculations conducted by USS. They reveal the deep politicisation of conceptions of risk and how these shape material circumstances.

The changes to the USS pension scheme represent a huge diminution in employment standards for all of those in the scheme. A decline in the value of pensions does, however, hit some harder than others. Women are more likely to work part time and to take periods of parental leave. Across the higher education sector, they also earn less than men. This means that, disproportionately, their pensions are already lower in value. Increased use of casual and insecure labour across the sector also means a generation of academics whose pension contributions are delayed and/or interrupted, assuming that they do eventually find a permanent post. As criminologists we are concerned about gender and generational justice and this is also why the strike is important to us.

It is not simply the effects of substantive pension cuts on academics and other colleagues in higher education that we need to consider. There must also be some thought to how these cuts affect and shape our students – the criminologists of tomorrow. We take for granted, as academics in the UK, that if in a permanent position we can rely upon one job to sustain our lives and plan for our retirement. However, in numerous countries across the West and Global South, many university staff moonlight in second positions. Drastic reductions to our working conditions, of the kind presaged by the pensions raid, are likely to spell later retirement, and possibly taking second jobs to maintain living standards. Indeed, increased casualisation already entails teaching at more than one institution, or holding more than one job, for many. The associated stress on mental and physical health induced by degraded employment conditions will have a detrimental effect on teaching and learning in the classroom.

Particularly alarming during the current strike (although not entirely unsurprising) has been the alacrity with which some universities have threatened punitive sanctions against their employees taking lawful industrial action. This is clearly of concern for criminologists given our analyses of the ways in which punishment and control operate, especially under neoliberalism. Threats of 100% pay deductions for refusal to reschedule classes missed during the strike (for which payment has already been withheld) are clear attempts at strike breaking, as are the ‘milder’ threats of 20-25% pay docking. Institutions are beginning to retreat from this position, demonstrating the importance and continued relevance of collective action. Of significance is the willingness of senior management to treat their colleagues, who make the university what it is, in this punitive way. It is important for us as criminologists to challenge the punitive workplace, both for our future colleagues and to take a principled stand against this behaviour. We fully acknowledge that the lowest paid and most insecurely employed experience the brunt of such punitive workplace practices, which is why we must seek to resist them.

It should not be forgotten that as academics we are also workers. The long apprenticeship through postgraduate study, the dedication to critical thought, and the passion for education, are overriding values that sometimes blind us to the tide of managerialism that constantly washes through our working lives. We often bristle at the prospect of additional administrative duties, perhaps because we have separated our academic labour from the world of work and absorbed it, unhealthily, into our selves. This is why strike action is never something academics take lightly; it disrupts not just our place of work but our sense of self. We are taking strike action now because the somewhat inevitable blurring of a work-life balance within the academy is being, at best, misunderstood; at worst, abused. Precarious working and retirement conditions renders research as output, learning as content, critical thinking as an unmarketable indulgence. Enthusiasm is not just infectious; it is a pedagogical imperative. How enthusiastic, and therefore effective, can one be as a criminologist lamenting the neoliberal penal state while simultaneously acquiescing to just such a turn in higher education?

The teaching of criminology is a lens through which we see academia reflected back at us. We find ourselves encouraging students to think critically about the difficulties facing the criminal justice system. Significant funding cuts and pressure to meet targets have been accompanied by a consumerist mandate which might lead to inequalities of justice.  Customers of the justice system are encouraged to complain about the service that they receive and while the powerful often elude justice, it is propped up by the more disadvantaged within society. These issues are mirrored in our academic lives – we are what we teach.

We might find familiarity too in Durkheimian notions of strain. In the pursuit of an academic career we must be writers; teachers; administrators; presenters; networkers; counsellors and thinkers. Competing for scarce funding resources we are placed under increasing strain but continue in our endeavours because we are passionate about what we do but have, until now, hoped for some future adequate remuneration in the form of pensions. The resultant strain means that many of us no longer wish to continue to be conformists or ritualists, but are rebelling against the prevailing discourse and seeking to challenge our roles within the University.

Universities rely upon our good will, our sincere belief in Criminology as a discipline and the benefits of its promulgation through tertiary education. So, when we are confronted with such bad faith negotiations as those levied by UUK, universities run the risk of undermining that good will, of draining its enthusiasm and sincerity. This is the end game of neoliberalism, and if management are so short-sighted as to deny the existential threat posed to critical thinking in the social sciences more broadly, but perhaps most pointedly Criminology, it is our duty to provide them with some perspective. Picket placards have been proclaiming to students for the past fortnight “Our Working Conditions are Your Learning Conditions”. The groundswell of support from students up and down the country, on picket lines and online, demonstrates they are all too aware of this. We strike to reassert our power as workers, our lives as labours of love, and because our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.

Suraj Lakhani

Hannah Mason-Bish

Paul McGuinness

Tanya Palmer

Lizzie Seal

Dean Wilson

‘Not in my backyard’: Brexit and the myths of transnational organised crime

Brexit will make for a weaker and more isolated Britain. That translates in more opportunities for profits and investments for transnational criminal networks – and will be a nightmare for national law enforcement agencies.

Brexit_Sergi

A Sergi

Anna Sergi is Lecturer in Criminology and Deputy Director of the Centre for Criminology at the University of Essex, UK. She is an International Visiting Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Australia and Chair of the Early Career Researchers Network of the British Society of Criminology.

 

Brexit is fast approaching and the language of security – with words like risk, threat and harm floating around in political discourses on justice and border control – helps confusing an already confused scenario of what exactly is Great Britain without the EU going to look like. Particularly, the language of security is made to echo immediacy and a sense of urgency in solving a problem that is going to affect all of us and with potentially alarming consequences. In the midst of political confusion in what Brexit will mean for the UK’s shores– especially in terms of agreements for cooperation and border control – the old adagio that sees migration as quintessential contribution to insecurity can easily resurface. In other words, the idea that – by closing our borders – we will keep out potential terrorists and transnational drug traffickers, is tempting and apparently intuitive. And yet it is a superficial and incorrect concept, as it is based on mistaken premises.

The assumptions on the links between terrorism – international terrorism – and migration from Islamic countries has been proven wrong by recent events: terror attacks in Paris and London in the past years have confirmed that perpetrators, even when they are of Islamic faiths, are usually born and bred in the country and radicalised at a later stage. Thus, even in the public domain, the fear and the following stigmatisation of Muslim migrants – current and future – seem today easier to dispute. This, however, is also the result of the visibility of terrorism, when events like the London Bridge attack of 3rd of June 2017 – which counted 8 deaths in total – dominated the news for weeks, offering the public all the details about the offenders’ past and actions. Such visibility, instead, doesn’t complement the news on much more frequent criminal activities, of serious, often transnational, and organised crime, such as drug or human trafficking, counterfeiting and/or smuggling. Organised criminal groups, however, not only benefit from this lack of visibility – as they arguably appreciate being under the radar – and will be benefitting from Brexit the most.

Indeed, myths can be debunked when it comes to organised crime and the impending exit of the UK from the European Union. The first myth relates to cross-border crime, and, as seen before, relies on the argument that with stricter border control and isolation we can disrupt trafficking and smuggling activities. This could be partially true if we were in a situation where trafficking and smuggling only happened because of the porosity of borders. This however is not true, as organised crime activities are heavily dependent, amongst other things, on market rules of offer and demand. Therefore the border – and the overcoming of border controls – is factored in the business risk. This is why isolation and increased border controls only make the business risk grow – by making it more difficult to cross the border unchecked – and the cost of an increased business risk are not born by the traffickers/smugglers, but by the clients or the victims. In other words, in a cocaine trafficking scenario, cocaine will end up costing more on the streets, because traffickers have to match the increased risk of shipping it into an isolated country, where, however, demand is not likely to decline. Learning from the experience in other countries – namely Australia for example – an option to avoid the inflation of drug costs on the street will be shipping lower quality drugs as well or developing drugs locally produced. In all accounts, however, the increased business risk paired with the usual demands leads to the possibility to increase profits: if cocaine is going to be more expensive in the UK, but demand is not falling, then the UK will become an attractive place to do business. In this sense, Brexit will not only not decrease the availability of (transnationally-shipped) drug, but will also increase profits for organised crime groups. Great Britain needs to be able to work with partners towards international cooperation in policing – which Brexit also threatens – in order to understand how criminal networks work across global routes and how best to intervene to disrupt them.

There is another myth as well which relies on the nature of contemporary organised crime, as a threat to national security in the form of transnational networks and not so much as a local issue. While it is obvious that some (organised) crimes are transnational, the nature of organised crime in Great Britain is certainly not just transnational, as, arguably, it has always been very local instead.  Organised crime networks in different parts of the UK can be both “heavy” organisations, structured and “organised”, but also “lighter” organisations, based on opportunistic network ties, occasional cooperation and easier involvement for willing participants. If we consider organised crime as a socio-behavioural model of doing crime, rooted in networks and (sub)cultural values, it follows that together with fighting networks that operate cross border, policies must consider how organised crime activities and actors are extremely linked to local environments, changes and structures and social, economic and cultural levels. This line of thought re-establishes organised crime as a very British problem, that isolation and border control are not likely to affect in the way certain political factions would like, i.e. by reducing it.

With concerns linked to the City of London becoming the ‘laundry of choice’ of different criminal groups, both local and foreign, political parties have repeatedly called for a review of regulations. With the advent of Brexit, and with the possible changes in transparency regulations now set out by the EU, this concern becomes even more real. When it comes to understanding and policing organised crime, together with many other threats the UK considers national security concerns, we must therefore conclude that Brexit would only make for a weaker and more isolated Britain. That translates in more opportunities for profit and investments for transnational criminal networks – and will be a nightmare for national law enforcement agencies.

Contact

Anna Sergi, Lecturer in Criminology and Deputy Director of the Centre for Criminology, University of Essex –  asergi@essex.ac.uk@annasergi
https://www.essex.ac.uk/people/sergi58502/anna-sergi

Copyright free images: from author