Academic Integrity and making a difference

The Police Education Framework and academic delivery

EmmaWilliams

 

Emma Williams is the Director of the Centre for Police Research at CCCU. Her interests are police professionalism, rape investigation, gender and policing and police legitimacy. Previously Emma worked as a principle researcher in the Metropolitan Police Service.

 

 

The Police Education Qualification Framework (PEQF) has fundamentally changed the approach to police recruitment and the conversation about how new officers embark on a ‘professional’ career. Three entry routes dictate that ALL joiners must now have a degree (a College of Policing approved degree no less); or they will undertake a conversion programme through the higher education diploma in policing (DHEP); or the police constable degree apprenticeship (PCDA) which ultimately gives them a degree at the end of three-year probationary period.

I use the term conversation above in the context of the recruitment issues. However, there have been an abundance of conversations about this huge change to policing which have been difficult, controversial, challenging and personal. There have been disputes between police and academics, academics and academics, police and police and policy makers and all of us. Whatever the longer term outcome of this reform, there continues to be a binary conversation about what should and should not be considered as credible and useful knowledge in the practical policing world.

In academia what counts as ‘credible’ knowledge and research in the police service has been debated extensively (Chan, 2003; Charman, 2017; Fleming and Wingrove, 2017; Williams and Cockcroft, 2019). Indeed, the drive to professionalise the police through academic qualifications is certainly not new. Some universities have been delivering police education for many years both within the UK and internationally. However, this is the first time that an organisation overseeing a wider professionalisation agenda in policing has provided a platform to formalise this, standardise it and roll it out nationally for all officers.

There are so many issues that feature within the debates about this decision. They range from the curriculum content being too prescriptive and not academically independent, academic work not being practically relevant, too many cops being involved in programmes and therefore the PEQF being a recreation of police training, de-professionalising serving cops through this process, not encouraging diversity and limiting accessibility to the service: these are just a few of them. This article covers some of my own concerns about a number of these issues.

Essentially the aim of both education and research, in a policing context, is about enhancing reflective practice and informing decision making. It is not about replacing the learnt, tacit knowledge held by officers, it is about incorporating something different to better understand wider context and the complex environment within which they operate. Unfortunately, many have conflated the PEQF with the evidence based policing mantra and the notion of introducing a pure scientific and prescriptive approach to encourage compliance in police officers. The top down curriculum requirements that universities have to sign up to in order to gain COP approval doesn’t help this perception and therefore universities involved in this new era of police education need to ensure that there is integrity in the delivery of the programmes and reflection of where academic theory meets police practice.

Central to all our research and teaching at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) is the practitioner. We use their experiences to enhance and develop what needs to be a flexible curriculum that meets the fast changing nature of the policing world. Yes, part of the curriculum will be focused on imparting knowledge of ‘what works’, originally seen in the application of new public management to policing in the 1980s. However, universities have a responsibility to additionally impart to police students the invaluable work of police sociologists such as Punch, Holdaway, Heidensohn, Muir and Bittner whose insights remain imperative to the constitution of police knowledge and understanding. The topics of their work remain prominent in policing today: Discretion, mental health, community policing, race and gender. Indeed, as Jock Young (2004) argued, the role of criminological research as an administrative method to consider ‘what works’ in crime prevention and reduction reinvented and narrowed the discourse of criminology. We have an obligation to make sure the same thing does not happen in teaching and researching policing studies.

Myself, Jennifer Norman and Mike Rowe (2019) recently wrote an article addressing these issues and one concern we raised was that the PEQF has been perceived by many as a method of de-professionalising the personal identity of police officers by teaching a curriculum that is about compliance, risk aversion and prohibiting innovation. There are police officers who firmly believe that the PEQF is trying to drive a future of cloned police officers who will all leave university with exactly the same blueprint of police knowledge ready to deliver a certain ‘type’ of policing when they enter the working sphere. It is vital that higher education institutions offering the PCDA, DHEP and preservice degree maintain some independence in the design of their courses. It is the WAY they are delivered that is key. It is our role as academics to give officers the tools to think critically, problem solve and be reflective – it is not to give them information about what they should do and when, or, as some commentators believe, turn them into managers by Mcdonaldising police knowledge (Heslop, 2011).

As Brown et al (2018) argue policing is a social institution that deals with both developing legitimacy and public trust and with processes such as deployment, operational practice and workforce planning. The latter and its association with accountability, targets and rational process is just one part of what officers do. Innes (2010) described police research as either being focused on the ‘motors’ that drive change and reform or on the ‘mirrors’ which deepen contextual understanding of ‘real’ police work through reflection. Those who perceive the PEQF as offering only a tightly defined curriculum with the research components being focused on efficiency and understanding ‘what works’ argue that the importance of richer ‘mirror’ research is diluted down. Arguably, it is this contextual knowledge that will aid officer reflections when they make decisions about their behaviour and actions: this is what is ethical and moral here for police legitimacy.

I am not suggesting that these concerns will play out in the delivery of all programmes nor am I suggesting that it is simply the content of the programmes that need debating in this conversation. Indeed, our own research at CCCU with our police students found many organisational factors that inhibit officers even being able to apply their new knowledge in practice (Williams et al, 2019). However, the fact that these structural issues are reported to relate to factors such as hierarchy, risk aversion, performance measures and prescriptive tool kits does leave me asking: Is the critique of the curriculum actually right and does it actually reinforce or justify current police processes? Our respondents saw these organisational factors as obstructing discretion and limiting the use of the reflective methods we encourage in our classrooms. If we as academics delivering these programmes want to change this, we need to be creative in the way we deliver the content, and diverse in the approach we take to covering notions of ‘good’ police research. Indeed, we need to not recreate the status quo but influence officers’ ability to challenge it, be different and furthermore, work with organisations to develop environments where they staff feel safe to do so.

Finally, and I guess this is the most controversial part for us all, is my hope that universities don’t become driven by the commoditisation of police knowledge. We need to ensure universities do not deliver prescriptive courses which do not make translatable the important theoretical criminological and sociological perspectives that are so critical to understanding police business today. This also relates to how the PEQF may impact on current officers’ sense of professionalism and the value placed on their own experience. Reinforcing the application of top down processes within the police organisation through top down learning and tightly defined notions of knowledge may constrain the use of new ideas and personal expertise. We must not deliver ‘off the shelf’ teaching which restricts understanding and the application of the type of situated knowledge that is so pertinent in the police environment. We do need to capitalise on the ‘diffused and seminal intelligence of the rank and file’ (Sklansky, 2008:11), allow for their reflections and the wider use of various forms of academic knowledge.

I very strongly support the drive to encourage further collaborations between the worlds of academia and policing but I hope we can remain objective and independent. That is our role. Universities are about learning, thinking differently and testing new ideas. They are not about delivering teaching methods that promote a equals b – in fact we should be problematising those notions. If we really want to recognise and support the role of the professional here we need impart rich knowledge that allows them to apply their own professional knowledge to a wide range of situations alongside the reflection of academic learning.

The PEQF has a real opportunity to instil new knowledge in the police organisation. Qualifications are not in place to deliver an army of ‘narrow minded experts or scientific freaks’ (Jaschke and Neidhart, 2007: 306). If the content is not delivered ethically and in diverse ways, it might be that the PEQF becomes viewed as yet another prescriptive tool to govern officers’ behaviour and confirm the status quo.

 

Brown, J., Belur, J., Tompson, L., McDowall, A., Hunter, G., and May, T. (2018). Extending the remit of evidence-based policing. International Journal of Police Science & Management Volume 20 (1), 38-51.

Chan, J. (2003) Fair Cop: Learning the Art of Policing. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Charman, S. (2017) Police Socialisation Identity and Culture: Becoming Blue London: Palrgrave

Fleming, J. and Wingrove, J (2017) ‘We Would If We Could … but Not Sure If We Can’: Implementing Evidence-Based Practice: The Evidence-Based Practice Agenda in the UK.  Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, Vol 11 (2): 202–213.  https://doi.org/10.1093/police/pax006

Heslop, R., (2011). The British police service: professionalization or ‘McDonaldization’? International Journal of Police Science & Management, 13 (4), 312–321.

Innes, M. (2010) A ‘Mirror’ and a ‘Motor’: Researching and Reforming Policing in an Age of Austerity, Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, Vol 4 (2): 127–134, https://doi.org/10.1093/police/pap058

Jaschke, H.G. & Neidharte, K. (2009). A Modern Police Science as an Integrated Academic Discipline: A Contribution to the Debate on its Fundamentals. Policing & Society, 17 (4), 303-320.

 

Contact

Dr Emma Williams, Canterbury Christ Church University

Email: emma.williams@canterbury,ac,uk

Twitter: @emwilliamscccu

Website: https://cccupolicingandcj.wordpress.com

 

Images: courtesy of the author and Unsplash

A Green Criminological Take on the BSC in Lincoln

The BSC Annual Conference 2019 in Lincoln from a PGR perspective.

EGladkova

Ekaterina Gladkova holds a BSc in International Relations and an MSc in International Development. She is currently conducting PhD research that focuses on the links between farming intensification and environmental (in)justice and has its roots in green criminology.

 

 

My first BSC Annual Conference ‘Public Criminologies: Communities, Conflict and Justice’ held at the University of Lincoln in 2019 was an intellectually invigorating and socially exciting event. Over 200 papers were presented, illuminating different aspects of the current criminological research and engaging with the pressing social and environmental issues. The latter was particularly significant to me because it resonated with my personal academic interest in green criminology and provided an opportunity to catch up with the research of others working in the same field. Great sessions that intersected environmental problems with the criminological discipline, such as Capitalism and Environmental Harm; Deviance and Social Control in an Age of Ecological Disorganization, were held. Two roundtables – Green Criminology and The Intersection of Indigenous, Cultural, Southern and Green Criminologies – gave an opportunity to debate about harms and crimes against the environment and discuss prevention strategies both within and beyond Western knowledge structures.  Moreover, a plenary on Climate Change and Criminology from Professor Rob White continued breaking criminological silence on one of the defining issues of our time – global warming – and discussed how criminology can both address the issues around climate change denial as well as engage with climate change mitigation and adaptation. Yet, one of the highlights of the green criminological strand of the BSC 2019 was the launch of Green Criminology Research Network during the roundtable titled Green Criminology: The Past, Present and Future. The roundtable discussed the origins of green criminology, synthesised its current developments, and outlined some directions for the future of this area.

I also had an opportunity to present my paper during the PGR segment of the conference, illuminating one particular aspect of my research. An underlying theme of my research is food production, as I aim to advance the criminological understanding of both isolated deviancy and systemic harm featuring in the fabric of modern food systems. The research adopts a socio-legal approach, scrutinising a particular routine practice that underlies the modern-day meat production: industrial farming. While this large-scale, high input / high output, technology-based practice results in environmental and social grievances (Passas, 2005) as well as severe harm to animals (Wyatt, 2014), it nevertheless is the chosen mode of meat production globally. It, therefore, can be seen as an ‘ordinary harm’ (Agnew, 2013) that contributes to environmental destruction and undermines social cohesion.

Some countries jump on the bandwagon of industrial farming as they decide to re-structure the way they farm and Northern Ireland is one of them. A sharp increase in the number of industrial pig and poultry farms was reported in 2017 (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 2017). Industrial, or intensive, farms refer to the farms that house at least 40,000 poultry birds or 2,000 pigs grown for meat or 750 breeding pigs. The number of such farms in Northern Ireland went up by 68% from 154 in 2011 to 259 in 2017 (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 2017). In addition to the global dynamic in farm intensification, an industry-led Going for Growth (GfG) strategy adopted by the Northern Irish government in 2013 also provided an impetus to intensify meat production. My research takes the case study of pig farming intensification to analyse this alarming trend.

Farming intensification threatens an already fragile natural environment in Northern Ireland and also has detrimental consequences for human health and wellbeing. The paper I presented at the BSC 2019 used an environmental justice perspective to analyse farming intensification through the lens of a community affected by this phenomenon. It discussed environmental harms and risks from the existing farms in the area that the community is currently exposed to and suggested that these harms are likely to be exacerbated as pig farming intensification gathers pace. I also looked at the opportunities for the local residents to engage in environmental decision-making around intensive farm projects. The latter appear to be limited and I concluded that farming intensification in Northern Ireland is marked by recognitional and procedural environmental injustice.

The BSC Annual Conference was a perfect opportunity to present this work as it resonated with the main theme of the conference – Communities, Conflict and Justice – and showed how an ‘ordinary harm’ of farming intensification can produce a local conflict that reveals the flaws in environmental decision-making procedures.

Overall, my first BSC Annual Conference experience was very positive and I am looking forward to the next year’s conference!

Contact

Ekaterina Gladkova, PhD researcher at Northumbria University in Newcastle,

e.gladkova@northumbria.ac.uk

@EkatGladkova

Images: courtesy of the author and CopyrightFreePhotos

End Child Imprisonment!

How many more children must die, whilst in the alleged ‘care’ of the state, before the government abolish the inhumane incarceration of children?

Sharon Hartles photo

Sharon Hartles is a MA Postgraduate Crime and Justice student with the Open University.  She has an interest in crimes of the powerful, including state and state-corporate crime.  In an explicit attempt to move beyond criminology, she draws upon a zemiological approach to evidence the social, political and economic context in which crime is produced and interwoven into society via socio-economic inequalities.

As of the 27th June 2019, thirty five children (aged 17 or under) have died in penal custody in England and Wales since the 13th July 1990. This death rate equates to an average of one death every ten months. The social blindness and on the whole social acceptance/denial of this outdated and barbaric form of harm, by the vast majority, underpinned through the punitive desire to punish wrongdoers, must end. There has to be a better way, an alternative form of penance, which must be framed by an overarching consensus to reconcile and restore harm produced within, and by harmful societies.

On the 13th July 1990, Philip Knight became the youngest person to commit suicide in a prison in the United Kingdom. The prison where this tragedy took place was for adult, male prisoners aged 18 or over: Philip Knight was a 15 year old child. Alan Williams, Swansea West MP, (1964 – 2010) declared to the House of Commons, on the 26th July 1990, that Philip had been sent to a Swansea category B/C male prison because “nowhere else could be found for him”. About a week before Philip committed suicide by hanging himself, he had cut his wrists. As a 15 year old child it can be claimed, that Philip lacked the necessary life experiences on which to draw upon, which left him less able to manage suicidal and bleak thoughts, demonstrating why there is a clear need to abolish the imprisonment for children.

Following on from Philip Knight’s death, between 1990 and the 6th October 2002, 24 more children aged between 15 years and 17 years, suffered apparently self-inflicted deaths. With the exception of Chris Greenway, aged 16, who died in 1995 and whose death was categorised as murder/homicide, the victims include: David Dennis, aged 17 (died 30th May 2000), Philip Griffin, aged 17 (died 1st August 2000), Kevin Henson, aged 17 (died 6th September 2000), Anthony Redding, aged 16 (died 15th February 2001), Mark Dade, aged 16 (died 27th July 2001), Kevin Jacobs, aged 16 (died 29th September 2001), Joseph Scholes, aged 16 (died 24th March 2002) and Ian Powell, aged 17 (died 6th October 2002) to detail just eight out of twenty-three deaths.

On the 9th April 2004, Gareth Myatt, a 15 year of child died in prison custody, whilst in Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre near Rugby. Unlike the 24 out of 25 categorised self-inflicted deaths aforementioned, Gareth was the first child to die while being restrained in custody. Gareth was less than five feet tall and weighted six and a half stone (this being the average height and weight for a twelve year old boy). Gareth’s physical stature was clearly that of a young child. However, this did not stop three officers (David Beadnall, David Bailey and Diana Smith) restraining Gareth in the seated double embrace restraint position in an ordeal which lasted for six or seven minutes. During this time Gareth was told by David Beadnall ‘if you can talk then you can breathe’, and you are going to have to shit yourself. Gareth died as he was held down in the restraint position from positional asphyxia after choking on his own vomit. Yet, on the 28th June 2007 a jury ruled Gareth’s death to be accidental.

Four months after Gareth Myatt’s death, Adam Rickwood, died on the 8th August 2004, aged 14. To date, Adam is the youngest child to die in custody in England and Wales. His death categorised as self-inflicted. A further 8 children have died since August 2004 including: Gareth Price, aged 16 (died 20th January 2005), Sam Elphick, aged 17 (died 15th September 2005), Liam McManus, aged 15 (died 29th November 2007), Ryan Clark, aged 17 (died 18th April 2011), Jake Hardy, aged 17, (died 24th January 2012), Alex Kelly, aged 15, (died 25th January 2012), Daniel Adewole, aged 16 (died 4th July 2015) and Caden Steward, aged 16, (died 27th June 2019) to catalogue the latest in this series of deaths.

Thirty-five children aged between 14 to 17 years, all boys, have died in prisons over a 29-year period from 1990 to 2019. 31 out of these 35 deaths have been categorised as self-inflicted. This excludes Chris Greenway’s death which was categorised as homicide, Gareth Myatt’s death which was categorised as accidental, Daniel Adewole which was categorised as natural causes and Caden Steward’s which is not believed to be self-inflicted, yet it is not being treated as suspicious. 34 out of these 35 deaths have taken place in Secure Training Centres (STCs for children aged 12 to 17) or Young Offender Institutions (YOIs for children aged 15 to 17), with the exception of Philip Knight whose self-inflicted death took place in an adult male prison. It is ironic that the STCs and YOIs are establishments that the Ministry of Justice commissions from Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service claim to provide ‘specialist’ custodial places for children aged 12 to 17.

The rebranding and relabelling as ‘Secure Training Centres’ and ‘Youth Offender Institutions’ helps to maintain a smoke and mirrors mirage. These are nothing short of childrens prisons. Further labelisation via the categorisation of self-infliction of these children’s deaths does little but detract away from the trauma, harm and abuse that such institutions which incarcerate children like STCs and YOIs perpetuate. There is a huge body of evidence detailing systemic abuse and child maltreatment within STCs and YOIs, delivered at the hands of Serco and G4S custody officers:

The private sectors such as Serco and G4S have increasingly influential workings on the criminal process. Both assume the right to punish on behalf of the government and as such manage and deliver (in)justice services. Fundamentally, the child abuse which takes place in STCs and YOIs is state-supported and state-sanctioned.

This emergence of the marketisation and privatisation of the prison industrial complex has led to the favoured response of imprisoning children because it is a booming business and there is profit to be made in the ‘corrections’ industry. It appears to be the case that as long as operational obligations are met, profit from the operation of the incarceration of children together with the inhumane practices implemented are in the main hidden away from the public. Interestingly, up until July 2016, all of the Secure Training Centres were run by private companies. This helps to explain why even with all the evidence detailing why we should abolish imprisonment for children, record numbers of children in England and Wales continue to be incarcerated to sustain capitalist profit.

Even though the UK Government, in December 2016, admitted that prisons cannot be made fit for children, children continue to be detained in STCs and YOIs (children’s prisons) which are operating at maximum capacity. Although the government announced two and a half years ago that it would phase out child’s prisons, at a debate held in Parliament on the 25th June 2019 (two days before Caden Steward’s death) Edward Argar, the Minister of Justice refused to give a timetable for the closure of child prisons. To add fuel to the fire, Edward Argar stated “that youth secure estate “requires real reform” but that the system needs to retain custody as an option.” However, the notion of reformism in face of its successive failures is paradoxically non-reformist reform. No more reform of reform or ‘old wine in new bottles’.

200 years of reform have led us to a time where on the 8th August 2004, Steve Hodgson a so-called ‘care’ officer, ‘fearing’ he was about to be bitten, by Adam Rickwood, a 14 year old child, in plain speaking, gave a sharp blow to Adam’s nose with two fingers under the nostrils, inflicting a nose bleed, which bled for one hour. At the time Steve Hodgson, acted on ‘instinct’, whilst Adam was being lifted by four care officers to be placed in his room. Although the way he was carried and the use of a blow to his nose – a “distraction technique” – were “unlawful, there were no charges of assault brought against the care officers.

As Adam Rickwood expressed in his final words of desperation, left in his suicide note on the 8th August 2004 – “What right have they got to hit a child?” To their shame, the Ministry of Justice, backed by the Youth Justice Board, requested the continued use of painful restraint methods for non-compliance to be formalised as part of STC rules. The Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules came into force on the 6th July 2007, without parliamentary debate. These ‘rules’ widen the scope for restraint/force to be used against children all of which is permitted under the guise of ensuring “good order and discipline”. The Court of Appeal ruled that the use of painful restraints was an infringement of children’s fundamental human rights. In addition, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, declared that incarceration should be used as a last resort. Even with all that said, the rights of children in detention are still not enforced and the excessive use of restraint/pain-inducing techniques over de-escalation strategies are vehemently favoured as the first response.

The government is clearly failing to protect children, if this were not bad enough, it is actively facilitating the harm of children and blatantly disregarding children’s rights to be protected from violence. When the state, whose role it is to protect, is the perpetrator of harm, who can we turn to? How many more children must die? How many more lessons will be learnt? The time for lesson-learning has passed. The imprisonment of children must end. Now is the time to mobilise, take action and support the End Child Imprisonment campaign launched on the 22nd November 2018 by organisations including: Article 39, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, the Howard League for Penal Reform, INQUEST, Just for Kids Law and the National Association for Youth Justice.

Originally posted on:  sharonhartles.weebly.com

 

Contact

Sharon Hartles, MA Postgraduate Crime and Justice student with the Open University

Email: sh28739@ou.ac.uk

Twitter: @shartles1

Images: courtesy of the author

A lens on life inside the IRC

Female asylum seekers talk about their experiences of life inside UK Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs)

author photo

Dr Maria De Angelis is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology, HEA Fellow, and Independent Researcher at Leeds Beckett University. Maria’s research on human trafficking and immigration detention foreground the relationship between criminal justice and social policy responses.

 

This blog is based on a recent article entitled Female Asylum Seekers: A Critical Attitude on UK Immigration Removal Centres’.

Although the UK’s immigration detention estate is one of the largest in Western Europe, what it’s like to be inside an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) remains a mystery to most. Included in this mix are detainees’ relatives, their support workers, local councillors, concerned citizens, and interested academics like myself. Bucking a steady trend of allowing charities and community groups in to befriend and run workshops (see Music in Detention and AVID, the association of visitors to immigration detainees), researcher access is almost wholly precluded (for exceptions see works by Alexandra Hall and Mary Bosworth). Against this preclusionary standpoint, female asylum seekers living in Leeds answered my call to share their experiences with me. Mobile cameras are defiantly fixed on a UK Border Agency site, as women provide this article’s micro-lens on life inside the IRC.

Simply put, this research is a show and tell project – to hear what women have to say about their detention experience and visualise key narratives through photography to maximize their impact.  Publicly available data on immigration detention tends to be quantitative (outlining trends and statistics) and available or not, on Home Office (HO) websites, through government-commissioned reviews , and in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) reports . Contrary to fears that ex-detainees might be nervous of talking detention with me, these women genuinely welcomed the academic interest, demanding to know why it had taken so long. Our semi-structured conversations lasted between two and three hours, with a drink and a bite mid-way to sustain us. The decision to close down the call after the fifteenth participant was based on narrative saturation and not insufficient interest. For this blog, I therefore want to set academic theories of Agamben and Foucault to one side (always a struggle for criminologists) and reflect on the in/exclusionary dynamic which runs through women’s narratives. By this, I mean their accountability (inclusion) under immigration laws and regulations and simultaneous denial of (exclusion from) entitlements and protections under citizenship.

Listening to women’s stories reminds us that these centres are intended to hold for removal persons without a legal entitlement to be in the UK (as indicated in their renaming from immigration detention to immigration removal centres under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, 2002). The fact they provide facilities like a gym, hair salon, shop, or computer room does not distract from the reality of being confined without a criminal charge.  As Trinity from Nigeria remarks, such facilities make for a ‘glorified’ prison environment but it’s still a prison. Women in search of sanctuary relay confinement in an IRC as punishment, with all its inherent pains and losses – family separation, social exclusion, fractured identities, controls and captivity. Importantly, such comparisons with prison and punishment enable women to raise a critical commentary on the ethicality and legitimacy of their immigration detention. As Kia from Uganda puts it:

There was one lady mixed in with us who was classed a foreign national, who killed her husband and her child and who had a history of fighting the guards. She said the toughest place they brought her was the IRC. (Laughs) How can this be right when it’s not a prison and we are not criminal?

But looking at centre routines and practices under the micro-lens of lived experience also raises the fragility of this imposed in/exclusion, firstly across a heterogeneous detainee population and, secondly, between citizen and non-citizen. Unlike ethnic and religious divisions observed in other studies (Bosworth and Kellezi), many describe the kindness of existing detainees towards them on arrival. Joli – a Christian from Namibia – recalls languishing in her room until a Kenyan detainee and professed Muslim showed her where to eat and how to use the computer room. Kia – an Anglican from Uganda – describes arriving with nothing bar the clothes she is arrested in, to be given a wrap by a Russian Orthodox Christian. Inside the walls of the IRC and across such a diverse social group, this kindness magnifies an administrative indifference for ethical care and social belonging (as felt in the removal of mobile phones with cameras and picture galleries; restrictions on free association; and the severance of emotional and community ties). In spite of these segregating measures, women’s affiliation in faith-related networks outside the IRC subverts feelings of non-belonging in wider society, since all faith groups (Mosque, Church, Synagogue) are tasked with prayerful and charitable obligations towards their members. As Kia from Uganda explains:

My local church was like a small community praying and campaigning for people like me. When I had a problem inside they rang round to get legal advice, and when I was to be released they arranged for me stay in the vicarage.

This said, Stonewall has flagged up an absence of faith-inclusive support inside and outside detention for LGBT persons – a shortcoming in need of greater research inquiry.​

In summary, the value of a micro lens on the IRC is the critical commentary on aspects of legitimacy, social exclusion, and ethical care raised through this medium. This, in turn, queries the necessity, efficacy, and defensibility of placing people seeking asylum inside these institutions. Until the Home Office and custodial companies relax their entry restrictions on researchers, it is left to remarkable women like these to make their own plight known and raise a critical challenge of continued asylum governance along present lines.

Contact

Maria De Angelis, Leeds Beckett University

Email:  m.de-angelis@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

Images: courtesy of the author (https://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/staff/dr-maria-de-angelis/) and Jeremy Abrahams (https://www.jeremyabrahams.co.uk). This is part of an ongoing visualisation of asylum lives in and beyond immigration detention.

Critical Conversations on Criminology and Gender: Innovations in Research

Reflections on dynamic and innovative contemporary research methods in criminology and gender studies

duggan-marian

 

Dr Marian Duggan is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Kent and the new Chair of the British Society of Criminology Women, Crime and Criminal Justice Network.

 

 

British Society of Criminology Women, Crime and Criminal Justice Network’s 3rd Annual Event.

Inspired by burgeoning developments in creative and innovative methodologies in criminology, 2019’s annual WCCJ ‘critical conversations’ event showcased an array of innovative ways of doing and communicating criminological research via visual methods, arts and multi-media methods, documents and the positioning of the researcher. While we fore-fronted methodological innovations, the conference reflected a rich feminist tradition of attending to critical issues of power and politics in research. As well as offering opportunities to share knowledge and experiences of using innovative methodologies, we intended that the day also offer opportunities for networking. As the incoming Chair of the BSC’s Women, Crime and Criminal Justice Network I am delighted to share my reflections on the day’s events with you in this blog.

Approximately 65 attendees congregated at City, University of London, in April 2019. Speakers were invited to step outside of the confines of PowerPoint and were given around 15 minutes to share their research. We were delighted that all accepted the challenge, bringing along films, photos and art-works connected to ongoing projects. Our invited speakers included a mix of committed criminologists and those working in cognate disciplines, as well as a mix of established and early career researchers.

The day was divided into four thematic panels: 1) Film and photo, 2) Arts and multi-media, 3) Words and documents, and 4) Researchers and selves, before finishing up with a critical insight from our Keynote Listener, Dr Emma Wincup (University of Leeds). The day’s events were tweeted out (with presenters’ permission) under the #wccj2019 hashtag to @bsc_wccjn followers. Using these and others’ tweets (particularly those by Stigmatised Sexualities & Sexual Harm Research, @SSSH_research), we bring you this round-up of the day.

In the first panel (film and photo), Dr Wendy Fitzgibbon (University of Leicester) and Dr Camille Stengel (University of Greenwich) shared photos and discussed their use of Photovoice as a research methodology in their respective research projects. The synergies between their studies led them to co-author a journal article which was awarded the WCCJ 2018 Best Paper Prize, so a great start to the day indeed. Photovoice is the method of choice in the project currently being undertaken by Dr Tara Young (Kent) and Dr Susie Hulley (Cambridge) into how joint enterprise is affecting young people. The audience learnt how this creative method was shown to give voice to individuals while increasing their self-worth, proving to be transformative for participants and others who see similar experiences represented in the images. We were also guided on how best to employ the method, with advice including limiting the number of images per participant (to around 10) and having them think carefully when composing the photos. The ethics of such innovations were also covered by speakers, particularly in terms of representation, ownership and respecting anonymity. The final presentation was by Dr Shona Minson (Oxford) who has produced a series of excellent video resources on the impact on children whose mothers are sentenced to prison. Demonstrating how film offers instant communication with target audiences, the presentation was interwoven with snippets from one of the film to indicate how, where, when and why particular strategies had been employed throughout. Ethical considerations were as relevant here too, with issues of power, politics and positionality (of both the researcher and researched) discussed in some depth throughout. Shona highlighted the importance of having ‘buy in’ from participants, particularly those with significant status and authority, to elicit the maximum impact in disseminating the message.

Continuing with the interactive theme, Panel 2 (arts and multi-media) began with Dr Jo Deakin (Manchester) outlining the classroom dynamics of her arts-based research with young people and their thoughts on the Prevent Agenda. This method involved employing poetry writing, drawing, drama and physical games with school-aged young people to gain their trust and foster more open means of communication. Jo showcased several of the drawings produced by participants alongside the narratives they provided before signposting attendees to the online resource: Extremely Safe Radical Preventions. Next up was Dr Magali Peyrefitte (Middlesex) who reflected on her work using objects to open up narratives about migration, belonging and identity. Drawing out the importance of intimacy to her method, Magali described the story circle format she employed and participated in, while also providing pictures of some of the objects which featured in the research. Finally, Dr Fay Dennis (Goldsmiths) provided an interactive presentation whereby she played audio clips of her research participants alongside the pictures they had drawn to explain their experiences of drug taking. This powerful representation of emotion and sensation using image and colour excellently illustrated the additional understanding that can be gleaned beyond text.

After a delicious lunch, Panel 3 (words and documents) began with Dr Alpa Parmer (Oxford) and Dr Coretta Phillips (LSE) outlining their use of oral life history methods to explore race in relation to culture, structure and agency. Important points of note were being aware of what information stays with the researcher once the interview is done, and how sensory experiences can shed greater light on the data being gathered. Next was Dr Tanya Serisier (Birkbeck) who drew on her recently published book about feminism, rape and narrative politics to highlight the prevalence of fairy-tales in published rape memoirs. Finally, Dr Jennifer Fleetwood (Goldsmiths) introduced the audience to innovative research using podcasts, in particular My Favourite Murder, to explore routine, repetition and meaning in women’s first person narratives.

Presenters in panel 4 (researchers and selves) adopted a different approach, reflecting on their positionality in relation to their research and chosen methods. Dr Hannah Mason-Bish (Sussex) drew her recently published paper in which she outlined methodological issues relating to elitism, power and identity in what she termed the ‘elite delusion’. Returning to the earlier discussion of researching with people in positions of authority, Hannah reflected on the insider/outsider dichotomy and how this shapes the research according to how one’s status is interpreted by participants. Discussions of status and transitions in and out of identities and spaces were also key theme in Dr Ross McGarry’s (Liverpool) work on militarised identities and the meaning given to key sites that formed part of the celebrations of Armed Forces Day. The use of public space was also relevant to Dr Alex Fanghanel’s (Greenwich) presentation, which drew on her recently published book into the use of the sexualised female activist body in women’s and animal rights protests. Alex’s reflection on her own ethnographic participation in the research invoked questions about gender, rape culture and positionality. Finally, Rachel Stuart (Kent) ended on a similarly feminist note by discussing her research into webcammers and the access issues that come with researching stigmatised communities.

Dr Emma Wincup accepted our request to close the conference as our Keynote Listener. Emma is a long-standing network member and an expert in qualitative methods and feminist methods. She artfully drew together some of the latent themes and questions of the day, challenging us to think critically about the use of innovative methodologies for doing and communicating research. She reminded us that feminist research approaches, research on women and methodological innovation haven’t always been valued in criminology. Emma especially thanked our presenters for their candid accounts of their work, and sharing what happens when things don’t quite go to plan, as well as the personal commitments, and emotional impacts of doing criminological research. She made two observations about the potential of innovative methods in particular: firstly, their usefulness in ‘making the familiar strange’, both to respondents and ourselves, and secondly, their capacity to open up the seemingly banal or mundane for analysis. Emma concluded by reflecting on some pragmatic considerations in innovative methodologies – these are time consuming modes of data collection and communicating research, demanding new skills, training and collaboration. Furthermore, ethical issues become magnified and more complex. But, as the day’s presentations demonstrate, the kinds of data that can be generated have the capacity to communicate critical issues in novel and important ways.

This event was made possible thanks to the British Society of Criminology’s annual funding of the women’s network and a significant sponsorship from City, University of London’s Centre for Crime and Justice Research. Planning is already under-way for next year’s events. If you would like to join the Women, Crime and Criminal Justice Network, please email our Membership Secretary Dr Emma Milne on e.milne@mdx.ac.uk and provide your details (including up to five research interests) to be added to the WCCJ network database (overseen by Dr Gemma Birkett). Alternatively, to stay in touch and hear news from WCCJ and our members, join the Jisc-mail list. Finally, do take the time to visit our website.

Contact

Dr Marian Duggan,  University of Kent

Email: m.c.duggan@kent.ac.uk

Twitter: @marian_duggan

Images: courtesy of the author

The Grenfell 72 – Two Years On: Remember the dead and fight for the living!

Grenfell, two years on, amidst the layering of contempt shown to the survivors and bereaved families, the fight for truth, justice and accountability continues.

Sharon Hartles photo

Sharon Hartles is a MA Postgraduate Crime and Justice student with the Open University.  She has an interest in crimes of the powerful, including state and state-corporate crime.  In an explicit attempt to move beyond criminology, she draws upon a zemiological approach to evidence the social, political and economic context in which crime is produced and interwoven into society via socio-economic inequalities.

The Grenfell Tragedy is an account that needs to be chronologically told to uncover the state and corporate subterfuge which orchestrated untold harms. Cutting corners, unresponsive local authority bodies and capitalist/aesthetic concerns will reveal the contempt to which this community was shown, elevating the scale of injustice. Drawing upon a counter hegemony approach, are there any lessons that can be learned to prevent such negligent disasters from re-occurring?

Wednesday 14th June 2017, is a date which is etched into the memory and hearts of thousands. A date which resonates loss and grief so painful that no amount of selected words will ever be able to offer any more than a symbolic gesture of empathetic comfort to the Grenfell community affected by the events which took place on that day have since unfolded and are still unravelling.

The 14th June 2017, was not going to be another ordinary day for the residents of Grenfell Tower, a twenty-three storey residential block of flats in West London, Kensington, or for the wider Grenfell community. Instead, the 14th June 2017 was going to be the day in which one of the UK’s worst, modern, avoidable disasters was going to take place. Just before 1:00am, a fire broke out in the kitchen of flat 16 which was situated on the fourth floor. An inferno soon took hold and Grenfell Tower burned. Despite the heroic efforts of the fire-fighters, the untenable situation meant that the Grenfell Tower burned for 24 hours before the blaze burnt itself out.

What was known as ‘home’ to approximately 350 people, had been engulfed in flames and smouldered until all that remained was a devoured, burnt-out carcass. In the immediate aftermath, the range of readily visible harms such as the loss of homes and possessions was apparent. However, this became interlaced with the realisation that along with the physical harms in the forms of injuries to approximately 107 individuals, this preventable tragedy had claimed the lives of 72 people. Seventy-two human beings had their lives stolen away from them in a horrific and inhumane traumatic event.

The realm of academia challenges the ball and chain approach (gate-keeping of knowledge) dares to defy the status quo imposed and governed by the powerful elite, such as state and corporations. By adopting a resistance perspective, this articulates how these ‘uncomfortable truths’ can be brought into the mainstream public domain. In remembrance of the Grenfell 72, in solidarity for the fight for the living, and through counter hegemony the truth will continue to be revealed.

In November 2018, at a public inquiry, Dr Glover, an electrical fire expert, concluded that a probable cause of the Grenfell Tower fire was a poor crimp connection. This led to an overheating within the compressor relay compartment of a Hotpoint fridge-freezer (Model FF176BP). What is startling is that plastic back casings which are combustible, contributing to the fire, comply with safety requirements in the UK. In contrast, the same appliances made in the US are required by Underwriters Laboratory Standards to be fitted with metallic steel casings as a preventative measure because they are non-combustible and they also help to contain internal fires for a longer amount of time.

The Grenfell Tragedy was certainly an event which caused and is still provoking great suffering, destruction and distress, but it was so much more than just a situated event. The Grenfell Tragedy was avoidable, preventable and foreseeable, it was not an accident and there was nothing natural about the systematic layering of failures which led to the catalyst moment that sparked the fire. The 72 residents of Grenfell Tower who had their lives snatched away should not be passed off as ‘fire-related fatalities’. The faulty malfunctioning appliance (that posed a so called ‘low risk’ – which might have posed an even ‘lower risk’ had it been fitted with a metallic steel casing instead of a plastic casing) was merely the tip of an iceberg in relation to the series of political and economic facilitated failures which led to the Grenfell Tragedy. The 72 deaths were a direct result of crimes of the powerful, and as such form part of the ever-increasing death toll of state-corporate-related fatalities.

To the detriment of the residents of the Grenfell Tower, like the vast majority of high-rise buildings in the UK, it was not fitted with a sprinkler system. Nick Paget-Brown, the Tory leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, stated “There was not a collective view that all the flats should be fitted with sprinklers because that would have delayed and made the refurbishment of the block more disruptive”. The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association estimated the cost of installing a sprinkler system in Grenfell Tower to be £200,000.

Summerland (1973), Knowsley Heights (1991), Garnock Court (1999), Harrow Court (2005) and Lakenal House (2009) were the locations where five fire disasters took place, all of which preceded Grenfell.  The Fires That Foretold Grenfell as they are now referred to, predicted a Grenfell-type inferno happening in Britain. More harrowingly, in November 2016, seven months prior to the Grenfell fire, the Grenfell Action Group predicted that a fire would take place in one of the tower blocks managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) due to what it referred to as the poor safety record encompassing dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation. “We have blogged many times on the subject of fire safety at Grenfell Tower” “showing the poor safety record of the KCTMO should a fire affect any other of their properties and cause the loss of life that we are predicting.”

In July 2016, KCTMO’s capitalist fuelled mindset, absolute disregard for health and safety legislation and therefore contempt for the Grenfell Tower residents, (their tenants and leaseholders) was captured “We need good costs for Cllr Feilding-Mellen and the planner tomorrow at 8.45am!“. The ‘good costs’ referred to was a saving of £293,368. KCTMO allegedly gave in to pressure from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKCC) to save money and cost cutting measures led to Rydon (instead of D+B Facades) securing the Grenfell Tower cladding contract. In addition to this, subsequent haggling of a £293,368 saving reflected a further downgrade of the cladding selected for installation. In order to make this saving, the zinc cladding approved by residents was replaced, after tender, with cheaper aluminium. Despite this alleged ‘pressure’ KCTMO designed and delivered the Grenfell Tower refurbishment with consent and blessing from the RBKCC via their shared common interests, taking the form of health and safety regulation breaches. In this regard it is clearer to see how the capitalist modus operandi approach was championed – instead of a safety driven decision-making strategy – which inevitably led to the Grenfell Towering Inferno.

Life is priceless and no price should ever be put on the value of a life, yet it can be claimed that the RBKCC and KCTMO profit interests came before health and safety considerations, illustrating how the value each of the 72 residents who lost their life based on the £293,368 saving to be worth £4,074. Furthermore, in retrospect this equates to a valued life worth £838 when calculated between the approximate 350 residents who resided in Grenfell Tower at the time these cost cutting savings were agreed.

The cladding signed off for use by the RBKCC (suspected of fuelling the deadly conflagration), failed to meet the governments ‘A’ rating safety standards. By the time the cladding had been installed and due to the panel type (cassette system) fitted, the cladding panel rating varied from a ‘B’ and ‘E’ classification. An industry source discerned that “you wouldn’t put E on a dog kennel“. If KCTMO or the RBKCC had spent a little time looking into the cladding from a health and safety perspective, instead of a capitalist standpoint they would have been aware of this information.

In an interim report commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government, (published on December 2017) Dame Judith Hackitt advised “the whole system of regulation, covering what is written down and the way in which it is enacted in practice, is not fit for purpose, leaving room for those who want to take shortcuts to do so.” Therefore, it is contemptible to know that the building control managers at RBKCC approved the Grenfell cladding system, proposed by Rydon, without being in receipt of proof that relevant and up-to-date testing (BS 8414) had been carried out. Moreover, they were never going to get confirmation because it would have failed the standards process. In a nutshell, what this meant is that the responsibility for compliance (duty of care) with the Building Regulations rested with those carrying out work and building control bodies. Consequently, the complex chain of companies involved in the Grenfell Tower refurbishment project should not be used as a “problem of many hands” excuse resulting in a defence of  “diffusion of responsibility” for health and safety negligence. Within the process of outsourcing a chain of companies, who share a common goal, such as refurbishing Grenfell Tower, in effect, were authorised to act as a single entity, ultimately on behalf of the RBKCC. With that said, any and all attempts made by RBKCC to deny responsibility for the group of companies authorised in law to act as a ‘corporation of sorts’ through their signed contracts, only adds insult to injury.

What is even more senseless, is the fact that cladding was never part of the original refurbishment plans for Grenfell Tower. The cladding company D+B Facades provided a quote of £3.3 million, a figure based on “A1 non-combustible” cladding system, solid aluminium sheets, backed with mineral wool insulation which does not burn. It is ironic that KCTMO put the cladding contract out to tender and yet ended up “agreeing to an overall budget that put the cost for the cladding and insulation at £3.5 million – £200,000 more than D+B Facades’ quote for the noncombustible materials.” So, had the KCTMO not deviated from the original refurbishment planning for Grenfell Tower, it could have saved the RBKCC £3.5 million because the cladding was not mandatory.

With this in mind, it begs the question, why was the cladding included at a later date as part of the Grenfell Tower refurbishment? The answer and reason why cladding was added to the external faces of the Grenfell Tower, only adds to the disbelief and fuelled anger shared with the bereaved families and the Grenfell survivors. 72 Grenfell residents lost their lives, notwithstanding the subsequent multitude of harms that have followed, so that the “character and appearance of the area are preserved and living conditions of those living near the development suitably protected.” So the ‘uncomfortable truth’ of the matter is that the home of the Grenfell Tower residents was insulated in cladding, that was not fit for purpose, by RBKCC, (which is the wealthiest constituency in England) to improve its appearance when viewed by the  conservation areas and luxury flats that surround north Kensington. Clearly, this is distressing to know that the lives and health and safety of the residents who resided in the Grenfell Tower was of no concern to KCTMO and RBKCC, while ensuring it looked aesthetically pleasing was paramount.

Whether RBKCC is recognised as a representative of the state or as a corporate entity in its own right, its relationship with KCTMO facilitated the Grenfell Tower tragedy, of which there can be little doubt. As such, this event can be re-labelled as a state-corporate crime, which can be understood through the acts or omissions which resulted from deliberate decision-making committed in pursuit of its common goals such as profitability. Alternative labelling includes harms of capitalism, which have been socially mediated within harmful societies, or social murder, resulting in unnatural death as an inevitable consequence of conditions imposed by state and corporations. Regardless of the critical criminological framing lens, the focus remains on the visible and invisible, known and unknown harms which have manifested, and other harms which may not become clear for decades to come.

If this preventable loss of lives was not appalling enough, the bereaved families, survivors and the wider Grenfell community battle through daily barriers of contempt in their pursuit for Truth, Justice and Accountability for the Grenfell 72. The promise of a swift inquiry is broken and replaced with delays possibly extending to 2022, as detectives continue the investigation into a range of offences from corporate manslaughter to health and safety breaches. We can only hold out hope that the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, is able to bring some form of accountability for the Grenfell community. Sadly, the reality is that no large organisation such as RBKCC or KCTMO has been successfully convicted of deaths resulting from gross breaches of a duty of care, it seems very unlikely that the bereaved families will get justice for the Grenfell 72.

This is merely the latest unfolding harm, to be added to a series of failings, broken promises and contempt that have manifested and have been inflicted upon the survivors, bereaved families and immediate Grenfell community since Wednesday 14th June 2017. These harms extend beyond the physical to include social, economic, psychological and environmental harms as the following five examples demonstrate:

In the wake of the cladding scandal and the knowledge that this cladding was the popular choice selected in cost-conscious council refurbishment schemes, Theresa May pledged £400 million towards the removal of flammable cladding, in particular Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding, (aluminium cladding panels containing a plastic filling) from social housing such as councils and housing association properties. In November 2018, Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire, gave authorities power to remove panels from private blocks of flats and bill landlords, but these “are proving largely useless”.  In May 2019, a welcomed allocation of £200 million has been confirmed by Theresa May to remove combustible cladding from privately owned tower blocks. However, this small step will not cover all the costs.

According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s Building Safety Programme (as at 31st March 2019), only 89 buildings in England (comprising of both social and private sector) have had remediation work to remove Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding systems out of 434 identified. The remedial work on buildings has been laboriously slow. The 345 buildings, yet to be remediated (this number does not include 15 private sector buildings where the cladding status is still to be confirmed) are unlikely to meet Building Regulations. Therefore, the residents occupying these properties are living in fear, as the latest fire in Vallea Court, a private block in Manchester with Grenfell style cladding on the 4th May 2019 has proven.

Despite losing their loved ones, neighbours and homes in the Grenfell Tower fire, and facing a daily battle against contempt, Grenfell United, a registered family association, made up exclusively of Grenfell Tower survivors and bereaved families, have drawn upon their grief and experiences and channelled this into a campaign which actively calls for the Government to create a new housing regulator that works for tenants. The aim of their campaign is to send a clear message to the government that all “people living in social housing deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.” Two years on from 14th June 2017, the Grenfell survivors, bereaved families and community stand united in solidarity to ensure that Grenfell will not be forgotten and will remain forever in our hearts; as they work together for their community and campaign for safe homes, justice and real change for people across the country.

For those who want to show their support you are warmly invited to attend an evening of remembrance, entailing: Wreath Laying at the Tower, Multi Faith Vigil and a Silent Walk. Alternatively, why not take action by holding a Green 4 Grenfell Day between 14 June and 28 June 2019 and do something good for your community by supporting a local cause? Or simply wear green as a mark of respect for the bereaved families, survivors, the Grenfell community and in remembrance of the Grenfell 72 who lost their lives:

Tony Disson, Ali Yawar Jafari, Abdeslam Sebbar, Denis Murphy, Zainab Deen, Jeremiah Deen, Mohammad Alhajali, Steve Power, Hamid Kani, Debbie Lamprell, Majorie Vital, Ernie Vital, Joseph Daniels, Sheila Smith, Kamru Miah, Rabeya Begum, Husna Begum, Mohammed Hanif, Mohammed Hamid, Khadija Khaloufi, Vincent Chiejina, Isaac Paulos,  Birkti Haftom, Biruk Haftom, Sakina Afrasehabi, Fatemeh Afrasiabi, Mohamednur Tuccu, Amal Ahmedin, Amaya Tuccu-Ahmedin, Eslah Elgwahry, Mariem Elgwahry, Mary Mendy, Khadija M Saye, Jessica Urbano Ramirez, Farah Hamdan, Omar Belkadi, Leena Belkadi, Malak Belkadi, Abdulaziz El Wahabi, Faouzia El Wahabi, Yasin El Wahabi, Nur Huda El Wahabi, Medhi El Wahabi, Logan Gomes, Raymond ‘Moses’ Bernard, Ligaya Moore, Nura Jemal, Hashim Kedir, Yahya Hashim, Firdaws Hashim, Yaqub Hashim, Sirria Choucair, Bassem Choukair, Nadia Choukair, Fatima Choukair, Mierna Choukair, Zainab Choucair, Marco Gottardi, Gloria Trevisan, Hesham Rahman, Mohamed Neda, Gary Maunders, Abufars Mohamed Ibrahim, Isra Ibrahim, Rania Ibrahim, Fethia Hassan, Hania Hassan, Victoria King, Alexandra Atala, Maria Del Pilar Burton,  Fathia Ali Ahmed Elsanosi, Amna Mahmud Idris.

 

Contact

Sharon Hartles, MA Postgraduate Crime and Justice student with the Open University

Email: sh28739@ou.ac.uk

Twitter: @shartles1

Images: courtesy of the author

The ESRC and the Futures of Criminological Research: A BSC/CCJ Symposium

This event was organised by the BSC, in conjunction with the editorial team from our journal Criminology & Criminal Justice

 

Dr Charlotte Harris and Dr Helen Jones, British Society of Criminology

The futures (nature, funding and publishing) of criminological research was the topic of a day event at the beautiful Adam Lecture Theatre, Old College at the Edinburgh Law School, University of Edinburgh at the beginning of April 2019. The event was organised by ourselves at the BSC, in conjunction with the editorial team from our journal Criminology & Criminal Justice.

What came most clearly from the day and the range of discussions and discussion topics (charismatically chaired by 2015 BSC Policing Network article prize winner Dr Genevieve Lennon, Strathclyde University) will come as no surprise to many of our members – the wide sphere and reach of the criminology discipline and its practitioners’ interests, insights and concerns. For contemporaneous observations please see the Twitter comments

Professor Richard Sparks began the event with a presenation based on his Crime and Justice ‘think piece’ commissioned by the ESRC to ‘inform decision-making around potential future investment in strategic research initiatives and related research activities’ (see the original guidance notes here).  This was one of 13 such ‘think pieces’ covering various aspects of the research remit of the funding body from Ageing to Sustainable and equitable (big) data infrastructure.

Screenshot_2019-04-30_Diana_Miranda_on_Twitter

You may remember that Richard spent some time garnering views from the criminological community last year helped in part by the BSC and his eventual report covered many bases, though finally settling on three ‘propositions’ (and if you have better eyesight than mine you might make out from the slide above Richard’s head), Violence (a new look taking in the multi-faceted nature of modern, individual and group, physical and technological violence); Punishment Conviction and Beyond; and Global Challenges and Global Harms.

Professor Sandra Walklate, President Elect of the BSC, and Professor Pamela Davies, Vice President of the BSC responded to the talk offering more perspectives on criminology, the community, research, focus and methodology.

Sandra spoke about the impact of the REF/TEF administrative context to criminological research, a misplaced focus on the concerns of the global north, and the positives and negatives of slow and fast – reactive? – criminology.  She spoke additionally from the perspective as Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Criminology (BJC) which the BSC historically supports by giving all full members access. She also spoke with interesting insight into the work of the winners of the Radzinowicz prize, awarded by the editors of the BJC for ‘contribution to knowledge of criminal justice issues and the development of criminology’: none of which was ESRC-funded, or seemingly funded outwith university employment at all.  Sandra also spoke about ‘Plan S’, the proposal by the European-wide Coalition S of funding bodies including UKRI,  for all publicly-funded research to be published only in ‘compliant’ open access journals – those where all articles published are without embargo fully available to read without payment – into which number neither Criminology & Criminal Justice nor BJC currently fall.

Pam followed up with comments about further aspects of criminology and the criminological community. She spoke about the inhabitants of that community in terms of the contract recently won by Northumbria University, to offer degree programmes to police recruits and the nature and procedures of recruiting new criminology lecturers. She also discussed some emerging insights from the BSC National Criminology Survey undertaken last year, and to be the subject of a paper at this year’s BSC annual conference at Lincoln, about how widely public funds are spread within that research community, specifically the proportions between post- and pre-92 institutions.

The last of the formal presentations came from Criminology & Criminal Justice editors-in-chief: Dr Sarah Armstrong, Professor Michele Burman and Professor Laura Piacentini.  The team, who have made inroads on further internationalising the journal (not least by making the submission process supportive), spoke about the need to be transparent about academic workload pressures. They also highlighted the relative dearth of submissions about technology that go beyond the local and evaluative, and similarly the need to be more theoretically challenging within governance research than small scale policy implementation, with a concomitant restraint about the merits of international policy transfer.

Dr Jacqui Karn, Head of Policy and Practice Impact at the ESRC, responded by saying the ESRC had to put limited resources where they will ‘make most difference’, adding that it is the responsibility of academics to make this case.  While Jacqui said she was not in a position to guarantee funding, she did point out that the ESRC had commissioned the think piece knowing that there were gaps in the field while acknowledging that criminology ‘was a strong community who put in strong bids’.  One promising area for funding she did highlight was working in partnership using administrative datasets. Dr Linda Cusworth from Lancaster University presented details about a ‘good news story’ from the family justice field where this approach has recently resulted in a research project funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

A panel then led discussion within the room. The panel members included Professor Allan Brimicombe, BSC Crime and Justice Statistics Network (Chair); Dr Teresa Degenhardt, Queen’s University Belfast; Anita Dockley, Research Director of The Howard League for Penal Reform (and user member of REF 2021 sub panel for social work and social policy and 2014 REF law sub panel); and Rachel Tuffin, Director of Knowledge and Innovation, College of Policing). Unfortunately, Professor Fiona Brookman, University of South Wales was unable to attend.  While, understandably, a large proportion of attendees were from Scotland, mainly from universities but also from HMICS, Police Scotland and the Scottish government, other participants ranged from professors, early career researchers and postgraduates, from as far afield as the University of Bangor, Derby University and the University of Oxford, as well as some independent researchers and writers.

Topics covered included:

  • the desirability of restoring the ESRC small grant scheme which was accessible to early career researchers who do not have the wherewithal to put together a 6-figure bid, and which encouraged exploratory work;
  • The need to support early career researchers in general in healthy work environments;
  • Dissemination is not Impact. Impact is Change;
  • Northern Ireland is not just about conflict;
  • The possibility of involving practitioners in research without them having to do a PhD to encourage dissemination;
  • The need to include writing time in funding;
  • The problems of job security in three-year funding patterns where researchers are out of a job each time the money runs out;
  • The problems in funding bodies not wanting to do anything risky while claiming to value innovation;
  • The intricacies of secondary data use – who has collected the data, how is it used, the dangers of algorithms; and
  • The managerialism of workplace targets being international, with larger student numbers, publication targets and journal specification widespread.

Richard’s think piece has not yet been published by the ESRC.

 

Contact

BSC Office: info@britsoccrim.org

 

Images: courtesy of LWYang from USA – University of Edinburgh, CC BY 2.0, and Diana Miranda via Twitter @DanaOHara