Desistance, Structures, Agency and Policy: Presenting Penal Cultures and Female Desistance at Sheffield University

the link between employment and a successful route out of crime has received considerable attention in criminology. However, gender-specific literature on the subject is minimal.

Advertisements

linneaLinnéa Österman is a senior lecturer and researcher at the University of Greenwich. Her research interests revolve around gender and crime, desistance, comparative penology, Nordic criminal justice, and critical pedagogy. Completing her doctorate in Criminology at the University of Surrey in early 2016, Linnéa has been involved in a number of research projects focussing on women’s experiences of justice in various cultures and contexts over the last 10 years. She is a passionate criminologist and a social justice optimist, and dabbles with music-making in her spare time.

On a grey and cold January evening in the not too distant past, I got on a late train to Sheffield for a desistance conference focussing on agency, structures and policy. After a nightmare midnight AirB&B check-in and not enough sleep (think along the lines of phone dying, no charge point, the host not knowing where I was, and an old-school attempt of using a phone box, ultimately confirming that they are truly tourist-photo dedications with no practical use!), I woke up on the morning of the conference kick-off day looking at the programme with a good amount of anticipation. I had been invited to present comparative themes from my recently published book Penal Cultures and Female Desistance, and this would be the first time I would be given a chance to discuss (as well as discreetly, or possibly not-so-discreetly, promote) my newly delivered book baby. Fortunately for all parties involved, I had not been spoiled with a boundless timeslot, so I had decided to focus specifically on the area of gender, employment and desistance. Before summarising my own contributions, some general reflections on the conference could be useful.

A core focus of the event was on structures, and the 2 days contained a number of fascinating talks, many that explored desistance in international or comparative perspectives; refreshingly starting to address the Anglophone bias in the field. This generated thought-provoking discussions around culture, agency and structures, ranging from diverse areas such as the role of consumer culture and recessions for Irish desisters, the different use of time and space along desistance journeys in Israel and England, and institutional influences on young Parisian probationers, to social capital resources among different ethnic group desisters in the UK, and opportunities to design more desistance-focussed assessment tools within CRCs. In all of this, the overarching question of whether desistance can be understood as a social movement was present within many of the presentations.

While these discussions were thought-provoking and inclusive, as one conference attendee sharply pointed out early on: The one structure that seemed to be shining with its absence from much of this was that of patriarchy. Reflective of the broader literature, many of the studies presented had all male samples. However, as noted by the chair Professor Farrall early on, this recent move towards focussing on larger forces in the desistance literature may bring about new opportunities to explore gendered systems across time and space. From a historical perspective, it has for example been found that the ‘marriage effect’ in male desistance did not seem to apply about a century back in time. Professor Farrall drew interesting links between this finding and women’s disenfranchisement and lack of power at the turn of the 19th Century. Do women in recent time periods have more power to exercise social control in the home environment, thereby make the ‘marriage effect’ in desistance more relevant?

A key question that was repeatedly posed within these discussions was ‘Which processes may structure desistance?’. Although the replies emphasised how little we still know about the answers to this question, the role of ethnicity, socio-economic status, age and maturity, time periods and different criminal justice systems were all suggested to be influential. On the question of gender, however, the chair suggested that ‘the jury is still out on this one’. Those who are familiar with the desistance literature will know some of the grounds for this; research has found that there are significant overlaps in dominant desistance themes for women and men, including the level of immersion in the criminal underworld (Uggen and Kruttschnitt, 1998), and wider factors relating to poverty, low education levels, drug addictions and problematic family backgrounds (Giordano et al, 2003; McIvor et al 2004). That said, we cannot disregard one of the most widely recognised differences in terms of gender and offending, namely, the extent of it. Women generally ‘grow out of crime’ earlier and have significantly lower re-involvement in offending than their male counterparts (Giordano et al, 2003; Rumgay, 2004; Graham and Bowling, 1995; McIvor et al, 2004).; a finding that is confirmed in both self-reported and official data (Uggen and Kruttschnitt, 1998). Women are thus not only less likely to offend, but when they have done so, they are also less likely to do so again.

Beyond these points on extent of involvement, the small number of studies that have specifically looked at gender also find some processes that seem to be gender-related, such as the role of relationships, stigma and social capital (McIvor et al, 2004; Cobbina, 2010; Leverentz, 2014; Estrada and Nilsson, 2012). An exploration of gender roles also quickly casts a critical eye on some of the major desistance claims to date. The classic generalisability problem of just ‘adding’ women to theories developed with (and by) men rings loud in this area, a key example of this being Sampson and Laub’s work (1993; 2003) on desisting men and the value of marriage for desistance, or the so called ‘love of a good woman’ thesis (Leverentz, 2006). With the developing literature on female desisters, we now know that these findings are in direct opposition to how desistance seems to work for women – something I have detected in my work and others before me – namely, that for many women intimate relationships are commonly part of the problem rather than the solution.

Moreover, the consequences of living with both the physical and mental scars of violence and abuse can have an impact on the ability to access desistance-related processes. An unexpected discovery on the conference programme showcased some interesting and emerging work in this area in the way of a PhD student from Stockholm University – Robin Gålnander – who is doing ethnographic work with female desisters. Robin is about mid-way through a fascinating study following ten women in Sweden through their desistance journey. Meeting them every 6 months, Robin aims to catch different phases of desistance, as these women try to put decades of offending, drug dealing and using, behind them. Giving support to what we know about women in the criminal justice system, all of the women in Robin’s study have histories of violent victimisation, perpetrated by men predominantly on the criminal scene. The preliminary findings suggest that these experiences hold them back from desistance paths in various ways, including the challenges of navigating psychiatric care (or lack of), living with PSTD and in isolation, with many spending time under protected identity. As well as it being fascinating to see interesting new work on female desistance coming out of regions outside of the Anglophone setting, on a more personal basis, it was also admittedly energising to attend a criminology conference – especially one on desistance – where someone could take a quick peek at my conference tag and pronounce my name perfectly (accent and all!) without a look of apprehension or confusion on their face. My observation here is a simple one – it is encouraging and positive to see greater international perspectives on this scene, and (though I am maybe somewhat bias here) in particular, ones exploring female experiences in the Nordic sphere.

For my own 30 minutes of room control, I focussed on the comparative role of, and access to, employment for women in Sweden and England. As many readers will know, the link between employment and a successful route out of crime has received considerable attention in criminology. However, gender-specific literature on the subject is minimal. The limited studies that exist are also inconclusive, with some research suggesting that job stability is not strongly related to female desistance (Giordano et al, 2002), and other work emphasising employment as a central role for women’s post-release identity (Opsal, 2012; Leverentz, 2014). We furthermore know that women in criminal justice are especially disadvantaged in terms of employment. Women’s employment situation has been found to be significantly worse compared to their male counterparts; women are less likely to have been in employment before prison, as well as having a job to go to following release (Prison Reform Trust, 2016). As I will not need to point out to readers within this network, women are also, more generally, disadvantaged in employment and wage contexts globally (and especially so in Anglophone areas, where recent shifts in the labour markets mean women are increasingly pushed into low-wage, non-unionised areas of employment). There are additional structural aspects that need to be given attention to fully understand gendered barriers in this area, such as the dominance of female labour in sectors (i.e. care work) where a criminal record is an especially marked barrier (while at the same time, being a relatively easily accessible sector for women with lower levels of education).

In the presentation, drawing out some key themes from the book, I touched on both symmetries and dissimilarities across the female experience in Sweden and England. My study found huge similarities in relation to how women viewed the basic value of employment; as a way to learn to live a ‘straight’ life, to build routines, and to ‘keep busy’. However, these factors on their own are not necessarily sufficient for lasting change. This is where the next identified value of employment comes in, namely, the importance of a ‘good job’. A ‘good job’ in this context is a job that, minimally, allows the woman – and those in her care – to stay above the poverty line. This is about meeting basic needs and having access to a liveable income, and it is at this point that the differences start to emerge between the English and Swedish samples in my data. More specifically, most of the desisting women in the English sample struggled to meet basic needs on their current incomes, despite being in part-time employment. These narratives in turn need to be situated in the totality of life circumstances, such as being in debt. As noted by one of my participants, ‘Amanda’; Employment gives you enough money to be able to survive, usually, but not at the minute, not in X, the wages are so crap. […] If youre in debt like I was, cos they didnt give me money for 3 months, thenyou cant survive.” The role of welfare sanctions is central here (which is why ‘Amanda’ did not receive any money for 3 months) – Many of the women in the English sample had experiences of sanctions, which often led to a direct destabilisation of their desistance process. We know, of course, that the consequences of welfare policies are gendered, with the last decade of austerity having disproportionality affected women in our society (Women’s budget group, 2016).

Contrasting this theme of ‘access to a liveable income’ to the Swedish data, this type of ‘survival narrative’ in terms of access to bare essentials is completely absent. This marks an important difference in the lived experience of female desistance across the samples. In contrast, a ‘good job’ for the Swedish participants goes beyond mere survival, and narratively links to a chance to start to re-build a new life, paying off debts, and have an economy to engage in activities. As noted by ‘Angel’: Well, I’ve got a great job now like, and I really want to treasure that […] I’ve got a fucking income now like, I can even pay my debts, it’s just like ‘wow’! You can do things that you’ve never [done before]”. Access to a livable income effectively contributes to the construction of a new non-offending identity for ‘Angel’. However, the value of a ‘good job’ goes beyond monetary factors and also link to what I refer to as ‘humanitarian values’ in the book, namely, the role of having colleagues, who, as pointed out by ‘Jasmin’ “wonder where you are when you fail to appear […] Yeah, just that feeling that people wonder where you are”; producing a lived sense of inclusion and self-worth. In this context, a ‘good job’ aids the process of becoming an integrated member of society. This experience is also supported by financial means, and access to wage subsidy schemes, which forms another major difference in experience between the two samples. While I do not have the space to write about these processes, and the role of active labour market policies, in detail here (hint: read the book – flyer and discount voucher attached!), a major overarching difference that emerges in the data is about how these experiences of a lived sense of inclusion and value that investment in quality employment opportunities and the chance to earn a liveable income produces, in turn provide a major motivating factor for lasting change in the Swedish women’s narratives. The data suggest that these subjective experiences offer a far more powerful tool for change than any of the threats of sanctions, or indeed experiences or further exclusion, that dominate the English women’s narratives.

As always with a good conference, I exit University of Sheffield’s halls with a mind filled with more thoughts and ideas than what it is realistically possible to process after a couple of days intense brain stimuli. The twenty pages of notes that awaits re-opening – after a weekend break from desistance – will hopefully allow me to make more sense of it all. Nevertheless, as I am sitting on a severely delayed and uncomfortably crammed train returning from the first conference in my life where I was able to talk about a book with my name on it – and doing so in the privileged position of a room filled with some of the field’s giants – I can positively say that I somehow manage to keep a beaming smile on my lips, whilst reluctantly switching off the automated Outlook reply and turn my attention to the column of dark blue emails that awaits me.

Originally posted on the BSC Women, Crime and Criminal Justice Blog

Contact

Linnéa Österman, Lecturer in Criminology
Department of Law and The Centre for Criminology
University of Greenwich

E-mail: L.Osterman@greenwich.ac.uk
Twitter: @LiOsterman

Images: courtesy of the author

Discount Penal Cultures Female Desistance

 

 

5 Studies and a New Direction in Indian Criminology

The MPhil program currently offered at the Department of Criminology, Raksha Shakti University is unique and applied in nature

Originally published in LinkedIn and republished here with the permission of the author

JaishankarKaruppannan Jaishankar, BSC International Ambassador, Professor of Criminology, Raksha Shakti University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India and President, South Asian Society of Criminology and Victimology (SASCV), India.

 

 

When I joined the Raksha Shakti University (RSU), Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, as Full Professor of Criminology in 2016, I initiated the first MPhil Program in Criminology at RSU and it was greatly supported by Shri. Vikas Sahay, IPS, the Director General of RSU, and Dr. S. L. Vaya, the then Director (R&D).

Further, Dr. Akshat Mehta, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Police Administration, Raksha Shakti University, Dr. Sony Kunjappan, Assistant Professor, Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, and Dr. Sukhdev Mishra, Scientist B, National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, Mr. Rooshabh Mehta, Assistant Professor of Statistics, RSU significantly assisted the MPhil Program in Criminology with sincerity and dedication.

I have supervised many PhD students and found their methodological skills are not up to standard, as the academic rigor was missing in their coursework. Hence, I felt that a one year MPhil program can be good bridge between the research student and his/her future doctoral research. Also, the research student can leave with a research degree in an year and they can be in the field, either as a researchers/ teachers or social entrepreneurs.

So far, five MPhil Students have successfully completed their MPhil program under my guidance and supervision. What makes these five researches unique is the novelty of the research problems. All the five researches are oriented towards policy and significantly contributed to fill the gap in their respective literature.

Dr. Sony Kunjappan, an Indian Criminologist, working as an Assistant Professor at the Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar was the External Examiner to these five researches and he ensured the quality and assessed them with finesse. Dr. Sony not only supported the MPhil program as an external faculty and examiner, but, he contributed in the preparation of a new curriculum “Criminal Justice Governance.”

Jaishankar1

In the photo: Left to Right – Mr. R. Ramesh Kannan (MPhil), Prof. K. Jaishankar, Dr. Sony Kunjappan and Mr. R. Rochin Chandra (MPhil).

5 Criminological Researches

  1. “Contemporary Status of Indian Criminology: A Qualitative Assessment” (2017)

Mr. R. Rochin Chandra, currently Director, Centre for Criminology and Public Policy, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India.

The main thrust of this study was to examine the present status and future prospects of Indian criminology in relation to scientific and professional needs. In doing so, an attempt was made (i) to assess the curriculum and training of criminology at the post-graduate level, (ii) to look critically into criminology as an area of professional practice in the country, and (ii) to determine the impact of criminological research in the construction of crime and justice policy. The qualitative case study research served as the main methodology for this study. The study involved the case study of 28 participants from academics, criminal justice agencies, criminal justice support groups, civil society organizations, and professional societies of Criminology. Purposive sampling was used to select the participants for the personal interviews. The participants were asked to participate in formal, semi-structured interviews. The individual interviews were recorded, transcribed, member-checked and analyzed using Creswell’s data analysis process. The study found that the post-graduate curriculum for criminology does not match with the needs of professionals and practitioners. The dialogue with participants also helped to understand the significance of developing a working relationship with the policy maker, practitioners and qualified politicians in creating the job opportunities for criminology graduates. In addition, the participants also viewed that criminologists should engage with media, and disseminate their research findings in order to influence the crime and justice policies.

2. “Effectiveness of Close Circuit Television (CCTV) Surveillance in Victimization Prevention: A Study of Campuses in Tamil Nadu” (2017)

Mr. R. Ramesh Kannan, currently teaching at Kamaraj College, Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, India.

The main objective of the study was to find out the effectiveness of CCTV’s in victimization in academic institutions. Data was collected in five major districts (Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Tirunelveli and Virudhunagar) in Tamil Nadu; 60 samples from each city was collected based on purposive sampling technique (totally N=300). Data was entered using MS-excel and exported the database into the SSPS version 20.0 for the analysis of the data; both descriptive statistics as well as inferential statistics were used to explain the data from various aspects. Based on the data analysis, the researcher found that both students and academic faculties/staffs felt that CCTV surveillance cameras in class room are un-comfortable; in contrary the majority of the respondents opined that their privacy was vaguely interrupted due to CCTV surveillance cameras. In addressing the main objective of the study, the researcher found that the majority of the respondents strongly acknowledged that CCTV surveillance cameras help in prevention of crime/victimization, help students to behave well, prevent unauthorized intruders, deter sex offending (eve-teasing/sexual harassment) and also prevent bullying/ragging This finding makes it evident that CCTV surveillance cameras were effective in victimization prevention. On the other hand, the researcher found that CCTV surveillance cameras invade privacy and also made the respondents un-comfortable. The researcher feels that there should be a balance between the use of CCTV surveillance cameras and the violation of privacy rights.

Jaishankar2

In the photo: Left to Right, Mr. Karuna, D. S. (MPhil), Mr. S. Manikandan (MPhil), Dr. Sony Kunjappan, Dr. Divyashree, Assistant Professor, Department of Criminology, RSU, Professor K. Jaishankar, Ms. Shabana Sheikh (MPhil), and Ms. Leepaxi Gupta, Intern, Department of Criminology, RSU.

3. “Pharmaceutical Drugs Crime in South – West India: A Policy Oriented Study” (2018)

Mr. Karuna, D.S., currently, Doctoral Research Scholar in Social Sciences, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

The main objective of the study was to examine pharmaceutical drugs crime in south – west region of India. In doing so, an attempt was made (i) to examine pharmaceutical drugs crime (ii) to explore pharmaceutical industries crime (iii) to scrutinize illegal trade of pharmaceutical crime and (iv) to examine the pharmaceutical crime and criminal justice system. The qualitative methodology was mainly used for this study. The study involved the semistructured questionnaire of 57 respondents and data was collected from zonal director, superintendent, and intelligence officers (Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Indore and Ahmedabad) of Narcotics Control Bureau. Purposive sampling was used to collect data from the respondents. Based on the case study analysis and data analysis, the researcher has addressed pharmaceutical crimes as a multifaceted criminal activity that creates irreparable loss to the citizens. This study has also highlighted the need for law enforcement and the public health sector to work together in order to prevent illicit medicines from entering the market and to prosecute those responsible. Hence, coordination and concerted efforts are the need of the hour to counter and encounter effectively in order to combat pharmaceutical crimes.

4. “Victimization Narratives of Rohingyas: A Qualitative Study at Bangladesh Refugee Camps” (2018)

Mr. S. Manikandan, currently, Research Assistant, Centre for Transparency and Accountability in Governance, National Law University, Delhi. 

The main focus of this research study was to explore the victimization faced by the Rohingyas in Myanmar and in Bangladesh as refugees as well as victimization faced due to the refugee camp situation and problems associated with refugee camps. The objectives of the study are (i) To examine the violence, persecution and collective victimization of Rohingyas in Myanmar. (ii) To analyse the victimization and problems faced during migrating from Myanmar to Bangladesh. (iii) To assess the victimization due to the refugee camp situation and problems associated with the refugee camp. Qualitative case study method was adopted. The study involved the case study of 18 participants from the Rohingyas at a Bangladesh Refugee Camp and the researcher personally visited the Camp for data collection. Purposive sampling was adopted to select the area and population as refugees are special population, and is residing only in refugee camps at Bangladesh. The individual interviews were recorded, transcribed, member-checked and analyzed using Creswell’s data analysis process. Based on the research study the researcher has found three phases of victimization of Rohingya refugees which are: (i) Violence, persecution and collective victimization of Rohingyas in Myanmar, (ii) Victimization and problems faced during migrating from Myanmar to Bangladesh, (iii) Victimization due to the refugee camp situation and problems associated with the refugee camp. The researcher also found that, there is a chance of a fourth phase of victimization which may arise during the process of repatriation and rehabilitation. This phase of victimization will include secondary victimization and psychological trauma.

5. “Domestic Violence against Muslim Women within a Context of Islam: A Qualitative Study” (2018)

Ms. Shabana Shaikh, currently, Independent Scholar on issues of Crimes against Muslim Women.

The purpose of this research study was to discover the experience of Muslim women in Ahmedabad city who were subjected to domestic violence and find the stand of Islam pertaining to the violence against them. The main questions that focus in this research are: the experiences of domestic violence in Muslim women; the effect of socio-demographic factors; and which cultural, social and religious factors in the Islamic tradition play an important role for domestic violence against Muslim women. Qualitative case study research method is adopted as a primary methodology for this study. Purposive sampling was used for the data collection. The reported cases of domestic violence of Muslim women during 2017-2018 were collected from office of District Protection Officer and District Dowry Prohibition Officer. The primary data for the study was collected after going through total 324 cases from all over the Ahmedabad district. Out of 324 registered cases total 49 cases of Muslim Women were selected. The information was noted out from registered application by respondents that were screened by the Protection Officer to ensure the anonymity of the respondents. Descriptive-explanation of each individual case was constructed and document case study methodology was adopted for the study. Documentary Research Method was used for data analysis. Due to time constraints only 15 cases are presented in this study. The study found that the Muslim women are experiencing violence mainly due to the demand of dowry in many forms and threats of divorce from both husband and in-law’s. The women are facing violence because of lack of education, poverty, unemployment and dependency. The important finding is the lack of Islamic knowledge and practice among the Muslim community in the regard of issues like divorce, domestic life and behaviour with women.

Conclusion

The MPhil program currently offered at the Department of Criminology, Raksha Shakti University is unique and applied in nature. All the above discussed researches submitted to the Raksha Shakti University will be soon turned in to research products, such as, book, book chapters and or research articles. These researches are novel, original, policy oriented and written for both Indian and International Scholars. Except one, four of the researches adopted qualitative research methodology which is not much used in Indian criminological researches (Indian criminological researches are more oriented towards quantitative methods and heavily influenced by American Criminology). These researches also give a new direction to Indian Criminology.

 

Copyright free images courtesy of the author

Research on police issues in Latin America

In Latin America, despite more than two decades of public and political concern about crime, government responses are far from effective and the police is still part of the problem.

LDammertLucía Dammert is Associate Professor at Universidad de Santiago de Chile, with more than 15 years of experience on crime and violence research in Latin America.  She has published books and papers in academic journals and is an International Ambassador to the British Society of Criminology.

 

Crime and violence in Latin America are problems with serious consequences. Not only are the highest homicide rates in the world located in this region, but also street crime affects most Latin Americans on a daily basis. Despite more than two decades of public and political concern about this situation, government responses are far from effective.

The police is still part of the problem. In most countries, police institutions are slowly acquiring information systems that allow them to better understand the problem they are facing. While some promising cases of hot spot patrol programs have been implemented, their results are localized. Moreover, criminological research on police is recent and focus mostly on specific issues such as the use of violence, corruption, and institutional reform initiatives.

Contrary to the broad development of research on police issues, for instance at the BSC, in Latin America police information is still opaque limiting the possibility of conducting studies. Lack of trust between researchers and governments have narrowed research possibilities and the importance of security issues in electoral processes have built a “Chinese wall” for any project that could portray challenges or difficulties of police work.

In this context, and to further contribute to the field, I have conducted two research projects related to police actions in Peru during 2018. Results are currently under review for publication. The first project analyzes the processes of policy diffusion, specifically community policing. Through a participant observation process in 20 police precincts in Lima and more than 80 interviews with members of the police and experts in the field, I was able to analyze Peruvian community policing. Although the police declare that community policing is implemented because it has been proven to be a “best practice” in most northern police institutions, there are important discrepancies in the field. In that sense the research not only broadens knowledge on policy diffusion processes but also sheds light on police adoption and adaptation of internationally approved initiatives. Diffusion brings confusion when there is little opportunity to monitor and evaluate how policing strategies are developed in the field.

The second research project focuses on the concept of street-level bureaucracy and analyzes the gap between the regulatory frameworks of the Peruvian government on gender violence and police action when women report situations of violence or abuse. The fieldwork was done in the city of Lima and shows that discretionary powers of street-level police officers redefine public policy and, far from protecting the victim, confronts it with limited budget for infrastructural investments, modernization of training capabilities and old fashioned management practices. Furthermore, police personnel generally face short term education programs that are not enhanced with regular training programs. Based on qualitative data gathered during two months of participant observation in special offices dedicated to “family issues” at police precincts, the results showed that discretionary power of police officers could erode national legal frameworks and public policy initiatives. Also, the research showed that there is limited social protection networks available to protect women (and their children) and that police response is important to avoid the revictimization of women.

The importance of the academic literature and the debates that take place in the BSC are an opportunity to advance the knowledge of multiple issues that have been explored insufficiently in Latin America. This is not only fundamental to confirm theoretical proposals that have been developed in the north, but also to propose new perspectives that will shape southern criminology.

Contact

Lucía Dammert, University of Santiago, Chile

Email: lucia.dammert@usach.cl

Twitter: @lucia.dammert

Linkedin: Lucia Dammert

 

Copyright free image: from Flickr