“You wanna know what it’s all about”: Art with Veterans in Custody

“what it means to have served ones country and later to serve a prison sentence”

EMurray

Dr Emma Murray is a Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice at Liverpool John Moores University. Emma’s research focuses upon the welfare of veterans’, particularly those convicted of a crime in England and Wales and how we might better understand them in policy, critical pedagogy, and through art.

TDegenhardt Dr. Teresa Degenhardt is a Lecturer in Criminology at Queen’s University Belfast and a Fellow of the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. Teresa has worked on the intersection between war, crime and punishment in discourses on the war on terror, on military interventions, and the development of border security technology.

On April 6th, 2017, The Separate System[1], a film made by artist Katie Davis, in collaboration with military veterans in prison was premiered at FACT (Foundation for Arts and Creative Technology), Liverpool. As part of a broader event entitled ‘To Serve’, the audience were asked to consider what it means to have served ones country and later to serve a prison sentence. As the Chair and invited guest (respectively), we were tasked with responding to the film – an art work ‘owned’ by many – which attends to the visceral experiences of military life and the criminal justice system. Over the moving images and sounds of the prison and public spaces in the film, veterans speak their narratives to their imagined audience. Indeed, the audio alone is important and through this work their voice has a platform. The notable lack of veterans voices in discourses of the convicted veteran has already been suggested as a glaring omission (Murray 2016; Treadwell 2016), as such this platform is empowering. As the literature on war and the military continues to emerge with vibrancy in criminology, we contend that this artwork invites those veterans who participated into our theorising – placing the embodied and aesthetic experiences of their lives as they know them in sharp focus.

Our Approach

It is important to note that this was not a research project but an art project – and we do not intend to ‘evaluate’ the art but rather harness some of the key messages, as we see them, for further criminological enquiry. We approach this artwork, conscious that experiences of war, and of the criminal justice system are inherently embodied and sensual, as is becoming a soldier, a veteran, and a criminal. As such, we see this an opportunity to engage with those aspects of the convicted veteran’s life experiences that are difficult to capture through language. Crucially, this socially engaged process of knowledge production offers insights which were signed off by veterans themselves.

Our inquiry focusses upon two broad questions:

  1. What does this form of engagement with veterans in custody offer to criminological scholarship on war and the military?
  2. What might veterans in custody gain through their collaboration?

We do not claim to be able to answer these questions in detail here, nor do we have the space to attend to all which the work has to offer. Instead we bring three stills[2] from the film to bear upon our current work and thinking on war, criminal justice, and those who have experienced both. And believe that the images selected (and those that fall outside of our remit here) have the potential to advance our understanding of the personal, symbolic, material, relational and transformative aspects of veterans in custody lived experiences.

Embodying the Separation

From the opening scenes we are invited into consider the separation that the ‘convicted veteran’ perceives of body and place because of the attached label. Their veteran status separates them from others in custody, and their conviction separates them from more dogmatic images of what it means to be a veteran to society more broadly. Or at least this is their perception.

The Faceless Body

Face1

This image without the face, appears to us amid the sounds of prison doors closing, symbolising the moment when the often-uniformed ways in which we come to know the veteran (epitomising a sovereign’s pride and bravery) is left behind. The symbolic power of the faceless body offers an insight into the visceral perception of those who participated. It also reminds researchers to be mindful of the ontological and epistemological questions necessary when placing veterans in custody into a broader critical criminological commentary. Particularly to ensure that the socially constructed, yet self-constituting experience of being a veteran, isn’t overlooked.

The Space of Separation

One becomes a veteran in civilian society. The veteran status serving as further evidence of the separation between the military and the civilian space which they serve, or at the very least that military experience, once disclosed, alters how one is understood. The convicted veteran however, is removed further. The spaces of multiple separation portrayed in this film offer an insight not into how the convicted might understand their identity and place in society, but the space (i.e. the military or the prison)  in which new forms of subjectivity (i.e. the convicted veteran) are created and exercised through the individual.

Prison

The prison wing captured through this image makes visible the distinction, representing the materiality of the disciplinarian techniques deployed by the state to contain and separate this violence from military violence. Here, the convicted veteran represents a glitch in that governmental machine – a failure of disciplinarian techniques and their separation.

“Civvie Street” or War landscape?

WarSeparation is, of course, the works’ recurring theme. Separation however, is also relational – occurring only with reference to that from which one is separated (whether physical, imagined or otherwise).  For the veterans who feature in this film, that is civilian society – or “Civvie-Street”. The destruction apparent in the last image chosen for this piece captures the demolition of a building in Liverpool. Working closely with Katie, veterans can share memories of war, evoked in an otherwise ‘peaceful’ street, noting how the clear distinction between inside/outside, us/them, good/bad, war/punishment and peace/war are more problematic than ever in the 21st century (Degenhardt 2010; Loader and Percy 2012). Through this image, veterans themselves, share how they have experienced that complexity, and how that complicates their resettlement post-service. The continual reference to ‘Civvie-Street’ might also remind us that while both the military and criminal justice are important to studies of the convicted veteran – our subjects have a third reference point – society.

Projecting the Voice

Aware that their work will have many audiences, those involved took the opportunity to project their truth across the prison wall, and back to the civilian society they find so difficult to be part of. Telling us of the struggles of routine tasks which were done for them in the military, and of how civilians had asked them questions about their deployments, urging them to confess of the violence they may have experienced and indeed committed. They tell us how they had felt betrayed by the state, and how it has included and excluded them for violence. As an audience we hear of the importance of using your weapon, the fitness, the safety, and the difficulty to adjust to civilian norms and law. They tell us of bullying and of how they were discharged (through a letter). Their voices, and the parts of their bodies which they chose to share (such as their eyes and tattoos), a sort of performativity depicting the gaze and the marks of their experience of both state institutions.

2018

As 2018 draws ever closer, these insights are of growing importance. It is a year which marks the end of the centenary of World War 1 (1914-1918); twenty years since Ruth Jamieson (1998) published her seminal chapter ‘Towards Criminology of War’, urging us to consider the complex connection between war and crime; and ten years since National Association of Probation Officers report made national news with their claims about the prevalence of veterans serving a sentence in prison or in the community in England and Wales. Each serving as important reference points for the study of war within criminology. Taken together, these three milestones reveal how war, its violence and its affect are represented, reproduced, and imagined in way which ask us to question the distinction between military and civilian life, connections, and distinctions between total institutions such as the prison, and the military – and the liminality of the ‘veteran offender’ upon such thresholds.

Arts with Veterans in Custody?

Which brings us back to our questions. We hope to have demonstrated the potential of this form of engagement with veterans to unearth some of the most complex understanding of the experience of conflict and conviction, those that can hardly be expressed through language. When veterans collaborate with artists in this way, affective understandings of themselves can be harnessed and reproduced through creative practices which are inclusive and participatory. In art we see the capacity to produce culture- rather than just express it – where culture is intended to be that which connects human beings. When veterans collaborate in such projects, they tell more than their story, they also ask their audience to interrogate their own schemes of intelligibility.

 

References

Degenhardt, T. (2010) ‘Representing War as Punishment in the War on Terror’, International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory, 3 (1): 343-358.

Jamieson, R (1998) ‘Towards a Criminology of War’ in Vincenzo, R; South, N & Taylor, I. (Eds) The New European Criminology, Crime and social order in Europe London: Routledge.

Loader, I, and Percy, S (2012) ‘Bringing the ‘Outside’ In and the ‘Inside’ Out: Crossing the Criminology /IR divide’ Global Crime 13: 213

Murray, E. (2016) ‘The Veteran Offender: A Governmental Project in England and Wales’, in McGarry, R & Walklate, S. (Eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Crime and War. Palgrave MacMillan.

Treadwell, J. (2016) ‘The Forces in The Firing Line? Social Policy and the ‘Acceptable Face’ of Violent Criminality’, in McGarry, R & Walklate, S. (Eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Crime and War. Palgrave MacMillan.

 

[1] The Separate System (2017) Katie Davies with Andy, Billy, Callum, Danny, Gaz, Gaz, Jay, Jonno, Mark, Mark, Paul, Rob and Trevor. Commissioned and produced by FACT. Supported by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund and Paul Hamlyn Foundation. With thanks to HMP Altcourse and HMP Liverpool. Available at https://vimeo.com/228801873

[2] The Separate System (2017) video still, © Katie Davies, commissioned and produced by FACT, supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation, all rights reserved

Contact

Emma Murray, Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice, Liverpool John Moores University  E.T.Murray@ljmu.ac.uk, @Emma_T_Murray

Website: https://www.omva.co.uk/

Teresa Degenhardt, Queen’s University Belfast t.degenhardt@qub.ac.uk

Copyright free images: from the authors.

What role should the military, or military methods, have in law enforcement?

John Lea explores the increasingly blurred boundary between crime control and warfare in the context of police shoot to kill and drone killings of terrorist suspects

LeaphotoJohn Lea, Honorary Professor of Criminology

 

At a recent public seminar at the LSE participants discussed the pros and cons of the militarisation of the ‘war’ against organised crime in the global south. Many of the themes, such as the very different skill sets of military and police with regard to communities, the tendency of the military to ride roughshod over human rights, and the counter-productive role of ‘war on crime’ rhetoric were familiar enough. But one theme I thought was crucial: how should the state respond when organised crime itself comes armed to the teeth with military-grade weaponry? In Mexico and many Brazilian favelas, for example, militarised police and drug traffickers battle it out, while criminal justice issues such as arrest and due process are reserved for the few survivors who come out with their hands up.

The issue of militarisation is of course about more than equipment and training. It is about aims. However heavily armed the police may be, a key aim of police work is to arrest offenders, gather evidence and prosecute. Violence is a last resort after warnings have been given. The aim of military action is, by contrast, to identify enemy assets, assess the risk they present, target and neutralise them with armed force. Violence is a first resort and pre-emptive action is legitimate. In historical practice the two paradigms are of course blurred, as various traditions of paramilitary public order policing illustrate.

Today they are merging in new ways. While military deployed in armed conflict zones often find themselves fulfilling a diversity of roles including policing, domestic criminal justice agencies increasingly adopt strategies which predispose us to accept military-style thinking when dealing with criminality. Pre-emptive action based on risk assessment of likely future activity is one example. ‘Pre-crime’ strategies range from anti-social behaviour injunctions to computerised ‘predictive policing’ popular in some US cities. In Chicago individuals on a computer generated Strategic Subjects List considered to be at risk of gun violence are referred to local police commanders for ‘preventive intervention’. But a key driver of risk-based pre-emptive policing is undoubtedly the ‘risk of catastrophic success’ in terrorist activity.

Counter-terrorism brings into the frame a much harder and more straightforward adoption of military methodology: ‘shoot to kill’. There is a history of ‘shoot to kill’ policies not only in British colonial policing, but also in the still clouded history of the ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland as shown by the fate of the Stalker Inquiry. The shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes as a mistaken terrorist suspect in London in 2005 raised questions about whether such a policy has ever been adopted by anti-terrorism policing in mainland UK. The shooting of Mark Duggan in 2011 raised similar issues

Nevertheless, ‘shoot to kill’ has become overt UK government policy: though not yet in the UK itself – except obviously in cases where terrorist action is underway. With the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria the UK government has been contemplating the prospect of British Jihadis returning to the UK with combat and bomb making experience intent on causing havoc in our cities. Killing them by missiles fired from drones while they are still in the Middle East is now accepted policy. The US has been doing this for some time and so has the UK. In 2015  the British Jihadi Mohammed Emwazi, known as ‘Jihadi John’ was killed by in a drone strike over Syria. Around the same time Reyaad Khan and two other alleged British ISIS fighters were killed by RAF drones.

In early November (2017) the new UK Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, told The Sun newspaper he was “insisting we must carry on using drones to hunt down and kill any Brit-born IS jihadis bent on wreaking havoc.” Similar sentiments were voiced by International Development minister Rory Stewart. Earlier in the year the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright called, in a speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, for the ‘updating’ of international law on the issue. Meanwhile it might be asked who puts together the ‘kill list’. The key decisions are apparently being made by the National Security Council chaired by the Prime Minister. At the time of the 2015 killings a spokesperson for the NSC said “It was about what action we should be taking to protect British people here in Britain.”

Such action to protect us is justified by two arguments. Firstly, the chaos in the Middle East makes conventional law enforcement and extradition impossible. Secondly, internet communication makes terrorist conspiracies which would have previously taken months to hatch organisable in a matter of days. So the ‘risk of catastrophic success’ has shifted such that traditional police action – allowing the conspiracy to develop to a certain stage to yield evidence of intent –  is far too risky and it is deemed necessary to take pre-emptive action before the plot has matured sufficiently to yield the type of evidence of criminal conspiracy that would stand up in a normal criminal court.

Such arguments have been around for some time. In the immediate post 9/11 period they were used as justification for pre-emptive arrest or restrictions on liberty by anti-terrorist control orders. Now they are being used as a justification for pre-emptive action against individuals by military forces: the RAF acting in Syrian airspace.

There is no doubt a political assumption being made that the British public will put up with such killings as part of the general chaos in the Middle East. Allowing the Jihadis to return to the UK would make such pre-emptive killing unacceptable. The individuals would rather have to be subject to Terrorist Protection and Investigation Measures (under 2011 legislation) and closely watched for evidence of terrorist-related activity. This would be, so the argument goes, expensive, time consuming and not fail-safe.

Drone killings have of course been the subject of widespread criticism, not to say outrage.  Quite apart from the moral issue of extra-judicial assassination there is also the question of inaccuracy. Military hardware is not designed to kill individuals but groups of enemy soldiers. Rarely is collateral damage avoided. In the US case, according to the website The Intercept, “Between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets” and to cover this up the US military were designating all dead as EKIA – enemy killed in action. There is no reason to assume that UK operations are any more precise.

So the military become corrupted by corrupt methods. The corruption of the military was one of the interesting themes which came up at the LSE seminar on the role of the military in the ‘war on drugs’. It was noted how in Mexico the army began as a force against the drugs cartels but then lost its bearings and sections peeled off and collaborated with the traffickers. The ‘clandestine policing’ of terrorist suspects by drone killing contains its own quite different pressures which nevertheless may lead to a loss of bearings by military operatives. Anyone who has seen films like ‘Eye in the Sky‘ or ‘Good Kill‘ will know what I’m talking about.

So what is the alternative? The critique of the ‘war on drugs’ is focused on de-criminalisation and the shift to a harm-minimisation approach.  Such policy is at least relatively straightforward and is gathering momentum, including in Latin America. It is naive to image, however, that it will remove organised crime as a major actor.

It is far more complex and controversial to devise an alternative to the ‘war on terror’ . To publically admit its failure and indeed counter-productive role takes political courage. Even more so to call for amelioration of the socio-economic conditions that give rise to terrrorism. Nevertheless perhaps a revival of the idea of an ‘ethical’ UK foreign policy based on democracy and human rights in the Middle East is now overdue. Maybe Labour will deliver on this? Meanwhile in domestic social policy, working to integrate rather than effectively criminalise the communities in which terrorists may seek sanctuary – the equivalent of a ‘harm minimisation’ approach – remains highly controversial.

 

Contact

John Lea is Honorary Professor of Criminology at the University of Roehampton UK. He has written widely on criminological theory, criminal justice, crime and war. His publications include (with Jock Young) What Is to Be Done about Law and Order? (1984); Crime and Modernity (2002)

John.Lea@roehampton.ac.uk

Copyright free images: from author.

The BSC in the North West of England

Account of recent activity by the North West Branch of the British Society of Criminology

Higher education institutions across the North West of England have been teaching and researching criminology for a number of decades, and a quick scan of university websites reveals that criminology programmes are offered in some form at Lancaster, Liverpool (Liverpool University, John Moores or Hope University), Manchester (Manchester University or Met), Salford, Edge Hill University, UCLAN, Chester, Cumbria, Bolton and Blackburn. It is debatable whether there is a distinct North West ‘brand’ of criminology, but there is certainly ample evidence of sustained critical scholarship and for theoretically innovative and policy engaged research. The North West Branch of the British Society of Criminology has sought to provide a platform for this research, and for many years it has co-ordinated an annual competition where academics from North West universities have been given the opportunity to submit proposals for part-funding of research events. The resultant events have clearly reflected the diversity of North West criminology.

The very first event in this series – a symposium entitled ‘Whose side are we on? The state of contemporary British criminology’ was hosted by the University of Liverpool in January 2007. The symposium was addressed by Professor Maureen Cain, Professor Tim Hope, the late Professor Barbara Hudson and Professor Joe Sim and it signalled the start of a range of BSC activity in the region that remains to this day. In 2014, for example, the University of Liverpool hosted the annual British Society of Criminology conference and, in April of the same year, Edge Hill University hosted a regional research seminar on the theme “Adolescent-to-Parent Violence: Current Issues and Future Priorities”. This was followed in April 2015 by an event held at Salford University: “Public Criminology and the 2015 General Election”. In May 2015 we shifted venue to Liverpool Hope University for “Critical Reflections on the Relationship between Punishment and Desistance” and, in 2016, two further seminars were held, the first in May at Manchester Metropolitan University on “Extremism and Counter-Extremism: Changing Images, Emerging Realities”. The second was in June 2016 when the University of Liverpool hosted a seminar on “Criminology, Criminal Justice and the Ex-Military Community: The Way Ahead”. In 2017 we were able to contribute towards the funding of three seminars. The first was in April at Liverpool Hope University, on “Low level Sanctions: The Business of Courts and Criminology?”. This was followed a month later by a seminar on “Ethics in Criminological Research” at Lancaster University, plus a seminar on “Violence, Culture and Victimhood” at the University of Liverpool. We hope to continue to contribute to further seminars this coming year and beyond and already have some exciting plans for 2018.

Contact

For future information about events see the Regional Group section of the BSC website

Professor Andrew Millie is Professor of Criminology at Edge Hill University. His research draws on aspects of philosophy, theology and human geography to inform criminological debates and his latest book Philosophical Criminology was published in September 2016. Andrew is also well known for his research on policing and anti-social behaviour.

andrew.millie@edgehill.ac.uk 

@AndrewMillie

Professor Barry Goldson has been a Professor at the University of Liverpool since 2006 and, from 2009, he has held the Charles Booth Chair of Social Science. His principal research interests are situated at the inter-disciplinary interface(s) of criminal justice, criminology, law, social/public policy, social and economic history, sociology and socio-legal studies. He is perhaps best known for his work on youth justice.

b.goldson@liverpool.ac.uk

For LGBT People, Criminal Justice Equality Remains Elusive

While same-sex sexual activity is no longer criminalised in much of the Western world, and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is growing, full equality for LGBT people before the law and criminal justice systems remains elusive.

Matthew Ball Author image

Dr Matthew Ball, Crime and Justice Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology

 

 

While same-sex sexual activity is no longer criminalised in much of the Western world, and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is growing, full equality for LGBT people before the law and criminal justice systems remains elusive. Taking stock of some of these inequalities in Australia, the USA, and the UK reveals some startling insights into the extent of this inequality, and highlights where criminal justice practitioners, governments, and communities must continue to fight for change.

The ‘Bathroom Bills’ recently proposed in some US states are clear examples of recent attempts to reinforce legal inequality. These laws intend to force people to use public bathrooms that match the sex on their birth certificate, whether or not this aligns with their gender identity. These laws specifically (and deliberately) intend to expose transgender people to possible legal sanctions simply for using facilities that align with their gender, and force them to use facilities in which they may be at risk of violence. In Queensland, Australia, the homosexual advance (or ‘gay panic’) defence was only removed in March 2017. This legal defence allowed murder charges to be reduced to manslaughter if the deceased ‘made a pass’ at the perpetrator, to which the perpetrator reacted violently. This was an acceptable legal defence for a gay hate crime – one that South Australia has yet to remove. These laws play on old ideas that LGBT people are deceptive or predatory, and pose a threat, whether to children or heterosexuality.

While governments have recently expunged the criminal records of those convicted under sodomy laws, and issued formal apologies to LGBT people for government and police behaviour, for many LGBT people, the damage to their lives has been done. They may have lost jobs – or been unable to apply for others – because of their criminal record. In some jurisdictions, despite having had consensual sex with another adult who just happened to be the same sex, they may have had to register as a sex offender. The historic criminalisation of LGBT people thus casts a long shadow.

It might be less surprising that LGBT people remain the victims of some truly horrific hate crimes. The recent murders of fourteen-year-old Giovanni Melton and eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, allegedly committed by their fathers who feared having gay sons, highlight the extreme family violence often directed at LGBT people. Hate-motivated violence from strangers also remains a significant issue. For example, while there is debate over whether to classify the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in the US as a terrorist attack or hate crime, the fact remains that most of the 49 victims were Latino LGBT people.

These are certainly extreme events and receive significant media coverage. However, the everyday forms of victimisation that LGBT people experience often remain overlooked. In Australia, it has taken recent debates over marriage equality and the Safe Schools anti-bullying program to expose the largely invisible undercurrent of homophobia and transphobia impacting on LGBT people. This has been lent some political legitimacy by prominent politicians such as former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has very publicly stated that ‘It’s OK to say No’ to marriage equality. This has also limited progress in other areas where LGBT people experience significant victimisation. Evidence suggests that LGBT people experience domestic violence and ‘revenge porn’-related offences just as much, or at higher rates, than non-LGBT people, and yet this research has not translated into visible public campaigns to address these offences.

A key aspect of the inequalities experienced by LGBT people in the criminal justice system is their interactions with police. Unsurprisingly, given the historical role of the police as a source of injustice and discrimination in their lives – whether by arresting them for same-sex sexual activity, failing to take their victimisation seriously, or committing acts of violence against them – many LGBT people remain reluctant to report victimisation to the police. This has a very direct impact on their access to justice.

Police services have taken great strides in many respects to improve their relationships with LGBT people. I’ve spoken to many police officers who demonstrate a real commitment to change. The Queensland Police Service recently released a powerful video of officers talking about the struggles they have faced as LGBT people themselves. In 2016, Constable Mairead Devlin, a transgender police officer, raised a rainbow flag to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) at Queensland Police headquarters. Similar visible symbols of support are not unusual across the UK and USA, with police services increasingly participating in LGBT-related campaigns, such as Wear it Purple Day or IDAHOT. While these attempts to shape the ‘public image’ of the police can be dismissed as symbolic, these symbols are nevertheless powerful. They may actually lead to a victim of hate crime reporting to police as opposed to suffering in silence.

But healing the historical rifts between the LGBT community and the police is challenging. Even where significant progress has been made over decades to do so, it only takes one incident – or one homophobic or transphobic officer – to open up old wounds. The violent arrest of Jamie Jackson Reed, a young gay man, at the 2013 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade, which was filmed and subsequently circulated online, led to questions about just how committed police were to LGBT people, even in the Australian city considered the most progressive on these issues. Incidents such as these have a disproportionate impact on the levels of trust LGBT people have in the police. And they only entrench the difficulties that LGBT people experience accessing justice.

The barriers that LGBT people encounter accessing justice also appear in the harshest part of the criminal justice system – imprisonment. And nothing illustrates this more than the experiences of transgender inmates, who have long encountered significant and unique inequalities here. Transgender inmates have been uniquely impacted by our long-standing tendency to house male and female prisoners separately, based on the sex assigned to them at birth and not on the basis of their gender identity – regardless of whether or not they have undergone any kind of hormonal, surgical, or social transition. This means that transgender prisoners have continually experienced institutional misgendering, and had restricted access to gender-appropriate clothing or personal items, hormones, and transition processes.

These policies have had serious and compounding impacts on transgender inmates. Not only have they impacted significantly on their mental health, but they have also put them at risk of violence from other inmates. The unique vulnerabilities of transgender inmates have often led to them being housed in high-security areas or solitary confinement, not because of any wrongdoing on their part, but for their ‘protection’ from other prisoners. The resulting increase in security measures governing their lives in prison has further limited their ability to express their gender identity while incarcerated. Coupled with the isolation that comes with such housing, it has only increased their risk of suicide.

Though prison authorities are increasingly recognising and responding to these unique needs, as suggested by the recent UK Ministry of Justice ‘Review on the Care and Management of Transgender Offenders’, and the guidelines issued by the US Department of Justice, change is not yet widespread. In some jurisdictions, limited information about the policies underpinning the treatment of transgender inmates is available, and little is known about the experiences of transgender inmates themselves. And the rights of transgender inmates to access surgery and other treatments as part of their transition remains hotly debated in some contexts.

While the injustices discussed here are significant – and certainly not exhaustive – important changes have occurred to improve equality for LGBT people in the criminal justice system. And the pace of change is tied to broader social gains addressing other inequalities facing LGBT people. After all, efforts to improve reporting and response rates for homophobic and transphobic hate crimes are only effective as long as there is a broader social commitment to eliminating homophobia and transphobia.

However, those seeking to address legal and criminal justice inequalities face the danger that the broader social appetite for equality for LGBT people extends only to more ‘palatable’ issues such as marriage equality, or violence prevention, and not less popular issues such as the treatment of transgender prisoners. Meaningful change in the interests of justice obliges us to pursue goals that may not be immediately embraced by the public at large. Those who fought against criminalisation, and who sought to separate in the public’s mind LGBT people from the ‘sex offenders’ and ‘perverts’ they had long been associated with, faced similar problems.

Major gains have only occurred because LGBT people have had their voices heard, their unique experiences of legal and criminal justice acknowledged, and because police, government, and community leaders have recognised the need for business as usual to change. These must remain key components in the struggle to achieve greater justice and equality for LGBT people.

 

Dr Matthew Ball is a researcher in the Crime and Justice Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Australia. His research examines sexuality, gender, and the criminal justice system, and he has published widely. Matthew is the author of Criminology and Queer Theory: Dangerous Bedfellows?, and co-editor of Queering Criminology.

Email: mj.ball@qut.edu.au

Twitter: @Dr_Matt_Ball

Copyright free image: from author.

Race and the Death Penalty: The Hanging of Hassen Mohamed, 1923

This article explores the case of Hassen Mohamed, a marine fireman hanged for murdering his fiancée, a white woman named Jane Nagi, in 1923

RandDP

LSeal1

Lizzie Seal, University of Sussex

 

I am principal investigator on a Leverhulme funded project entitled ‘Race, Racialisation and the Death Penalty in Twentieth-Century England and Wales, 1900-65’ (RPG-2016-352). Research Fellow Alexa Neale and I are collecting the archival records (predominantly case files) for all cases of black and other minority ethnic people sentenced to death in twentieth-century England and Wales prior to the abolition of capital punishment for murder in 1965. You can read more about our research questions and the aims of the project here in this blog post by Alexa https://raceanddeathpenalty.wordpress.com/about

We have encountered many fascinating cases so far, which shed light on the kinds of racialised discourses produced by the criminal justice system, the everyday lives of the condemned, their victims and witnesses to the case, and understandings of what the death penalty was for. Here, I shall discuss the case of Hassen Mohamed, who was hanged in Durham for murdering his fiancée Jane Nagi (also known as Jennie) in 1923. According to the Home Office file, Hassen was from Aden in what is now Yemen but at the time was a province of British India. He worked as a marine fireman and lived in a seaman’s boarding house in South Shields. Jennie was a young woman from Jarrow who was widowed having previously been married to a man described as an Arab. She and Hassen were engaged, having ‘kept company’ for nine months, and were shortly to marry.

According to the depositions and trial transcript, on the 12 March Jennie had been drinking during the day and was very drunk by the afternoon. She was at Simon Ali’s coffee shop in the ‘Arab colony’ in South Shields. Hassen came to the shop and wanted Jennie to leave with him but she refused and reportedly told him that she was finished with him. He left for around three or four minutes, returned and shot Jennie dead in the presence of three people. After he was arrested and taken to the police station, he reportedly said ‘Me fire one shot. Me sorry. Me keep that girl for 8 weeks, and she has been drunk’ (Testimony of Sergeant Gray, Trial Transcript, TNA/HO144/3009).[i] Hassen’s defence was that the revolver went off accidentally as he was bundled out of the coffee shop and that someone else was holding it at the time. This contradicted what he had said to the police and the testimony of eye witnesses. He was found guilty and hanged at HMP Durham on 8 August.

What can be learned from this case? As with most of our cases, it provides a fascinating glimpse of Britain’s multicultural history: in this example, the Arab community in South Shields, which was centred around boarding houses, cafes and restaurants. One significant issue to arise from the case file material and press coverage is contemporary attitudes towards ‘interracial’ relationships. The Brief for the Prosecution notes that there was a large population of Arabs in South Shields and that ‘it is sad to relate many white girls mix with Arabs’ (HO144/3009). Local newspapers reported that a ‘young Englishwoman’s acquaintance with an Arab was brought to a sensational termination’ when she was shot dead by ‘her coloured lover’ (Shields Daily Gazette, 13 March 1923). The same paper quoted the Deputy Coroner as describing the case as ‘very sordid’ and also stating:

I have come into contact with a number of cases in which white women have married coloured men […] it seems a great pity that white women should marry men of a different nationality […] steps should be taken to prevent these unions if possible (Shields Gazette, 16 March 1923)

Such attitudes reveal much about the constitution of ‘Englishness’ as whiteness and the extent to which respectable citizenship was racialised. We are starting to draw on concepts such as affective citizenship and racialised emotional regimes to explore how intimate relationships between individuals were, or were not, endorsed and recognised and how this related to how citizens were encouraged to feel about themselves and others.

Another intriguing aspect of the Hassen Mohamed case is the discussion that it sparked in relation to capital punishment. Following his hanging at Durham, the coroner was widely reported as having ‘made some injudicious remarks about capital punishment’ as the Evening Standard (10 August 1923) put it. The News of the World related that he ‘condemned in no unmeasured terms’ disputed the effectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrent (12 August 1923). The coroner argued that ‘the murderer should be treated as dangerous to the community, like a ferocious wild animal’ but that they should also have the chance to make peace with their maker. Taking a life was ‘barbarous’ and flogging followed by life imprisonment should be used instead. The Manchester Guardian published an anti-capital punishment editorial following the coroner’s comments (15 August 1923).

This attention to the utility and advisability of the death penalty in 1923 is fascinating as it precedes the strengthening of the abolitionist campaign in the 1930s. These articles demonstrate that capital punishment was an issue that was debated in the press, although not to the extent that it was in the 1940s and 50s. The coroner’s views are also intriguing in themselves; he found execution barbarous but was not opposed to the bodily punishment of flogging. This does not neatly fit our understandings of views on punishment and pain inflicted on the body but reveals complexity in how people felt about this.

RandDP2.png

Our project is currently at the data collection stage and we have thousands upon thousands of pages of case file material to read, take notes on and analyse. We are beginning to find patterns and to identify useful concepts for our analysis but we still have a long way to go.

Follow our Twitter account https://twitter.com/RaceandPenalty for updates on the project and visit our blog https://raceanddeathpenalty.wordpress.com/

[i] This account of what Hassen supposedly said should be treated with caution. We have found that the recorded speech in depositions and statements of most people who were not white and did not have English as their first language is represented in this way, with the explanation of actions in the first person always beginning with ‘Me’. This is constant across people from a wide range of countries with a wide variety of first languages and perhaps reflects conventions in how their speech was recorded by the police more than it does how they actually spoke.

Copyright free images: from author.

 

Crime and ASB victimisation on Social Renters

A TseloniAndromachi Tseloni leads the Quantitative and Spatial Criminology Research Group at NTU. Her research revolves around risk and protective factors of (repeat) crime victimisation, perceived crime risk and disorder, and the role of security and routine activities in the crime drop.

 

Rich Pickford takes the lead on facilitating RPickfordconnections between researchers, communities, business and citizens and maximising the impact of Nottingham Civic Exchange’s work.

 

 

Social renting households experience the highest levels of crime victimisation by housing tenure types according to research based on national crime statistics from the Crime Survey for England and Wales. At a period of sustained reduction in crime it is imperative to recognise and seek solutions for groups who have not benefited from this crime drop.

Nottingham Trent University’s Quantitative and Spatial Criminology (QSC) Research Group has done in-depth research in this area. This article will highlight research and recommendations related to Social Renters with a particular focus on:

  • Household Crime
  • Personal Crime
  • Witnessing or Experiencing Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB)

Extensive analysis of various years of crime survey data (from 1990s through to 2014) undertaken by the first author highlights that social renters experienced between double and 10 times the national average household crimes depending on their area of residence and year of victimisation (Tseloni et al. 2004; Tseloni 2006). Specifically in relation to owner occupiers social renters on average suffer:

  • 70% more household thefts;
  • 40% more criminal damage (Osborn and Tseloni 1998);
  • 50% more burglaries including attempts (Hunter and Tseloni 2016); and
  • roughly 40% more burglaries and household thefts.

Crucially social renters’ relative burglary risk has tripled compared to owner occupiers over the period of the crime drop (Tseloni and Thompson forthcoming).

The QSC’s research and testing in Nottingham shows that deploying the WIDE combination of household security has the biggest impact. WIDE stands for Windows that lock with a key, Internal lights on timer, Door double or dead locks, and External lights on a sensor. Homes in England and Wales with this combination are 49 times safer from burglary with entry than those without any security devices (Tseloni et al. 2017). The moderate cost of this combination makes it an attractive prevention tool that can be widely deployed. Further research shows it is also the most cost effective & environmentally friendly system of burglary prevention (Skudder et al. 2017). By contrast alarms on average moderately increase the risk of burglary (Tilley et al. 2015).

We recommend that social renter providers deploy the WIDE principles across their housing stock, and be prudent on relying on burglar alarms to prevent burglaries.

WIDE

Window locks, Internal lights, Door double or dead locks, External lights.

Social renters experience 40% more personal crimes within their neighbourhood (within a 15’ walk from home) than owner occupiers regardless of where their neighbourhood is situated (Tseloni and Pease 2015). Specifically in relation to owner occupiers social renters on average suffer:

  • an increased number of thefts from person and robberies (Thompson 2014);
  • 85% higher odds of assault in the night-time economy (Garius 2016); and
  • nearly double number of violence incidents perpetrated by acquaintances, that is people they know just to speak to casually / just by sight, neighbours, workmates / work colleagues, clients / members of public contacted through work, friends / acquaintances, or local children (Tseloni 2016).

Also social renters’ relative risk of violence by acquaintances has moderately increased compared to owner occupiers over the period of the crime drop (ibid).

This research highlights the increased risks faced by social renters. The QSC research has informed engagement and awareness campaigns and we are happy to talk further about this work. It has nudged the Office for National Statistics to provide the online individual victimisation predictor tool (Pease and Tseloni 2014). It can help national and local crime prevention agencies and crime and safety partnerships to understand their area risk profile for a variety of crime types and target messaging to support clients (Hunter et al, 2018; Hunter 2017). These research findings could be used to lobby government and local policy makers to ensure resources are allocated to this pressing issue.

Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) is a term that includes a wide and diverse mix of ‘social disorders or incivilities’ which can range from harassment and intimidating behaviour to dangerous or inconsiderate vehicle driving. The Crime Survey for England and Wales identifies 13 types of ASB whereas the police classifies reported ASB into three possible but not mutually exclusive categories: personal, nuisance and environmental.

Social renters have in comparison to owner occupiers higher odds of experiencing or witnessing ASB by roughly:

  • 30% with regards to criminal ASB (this includes criminal damage / graffiti, harassment / intimidation, others using / dealing drugs, dangerous dogs, and indecent sexual acts);
  • 20% with regards to inconsiderate social ASB (this includes inconsiderate behaviour, loud music / noise, litter / dog fouling, nuisance neighbours, and begging / vagrancy / homeless);
  • 40% with regards to vehicle related ASB; and
  • 20% with regards to ASB from groups hanging about (Ward et al. 2017).

These figures have highlighted a real need to further understand this issue.  The QSC team are currently undertaking further research on ASB.  If you wish to be kept informed of this research please contact the research lead, Dr. Becky Thompson, at rebecca.thompson02@ntu.ac.uk.

We hope our research is used as justification and evidence to stakeholders and partners to tackle traditional volume crimes and ASB by directing scarce crime prevention resources towards target hardening social renting households and their physical environments.

The Quantitative and Spatial Criminology Research Group at Nottingham Trent University is continuing to develop research in this area.  We are keen to work with crime prevention agencies to make society a safer place by developing collaborative work. Further research is currently being developed on similar issues, including, for example, investigating the place and community cohesion effects on crime rates and perceived victimisation risk.

If you are interested in hearing more about this research or some of our previous studies highlighted here on burglary and violence we welcome your contact. Our work is always undertaken with partners tackling issues outside of academia and we value the opportunity to test and develop our research in this way to ensure it has non-academic use and value.

The Quantitative and Spatial Criminology Research Group at NTU has vast expertise in producing internationally leading research often in collaboration with crime prevention agencies that informs public protection policies. Our aim is to develop a better understanding of the factors that shape victimisation across different crime types and ASB in order to inform crime reduction and public reassurance initiatives. The group has extensive expertise in Public Protection informing research, in particular identifying population groups and areas vulnerable to crime and ASB, effective and efficient crime prevention initiatives and their evaluation.

 Academic References

Garius, L.L. (2016) Opportunities for physical assault in the night-time economy in England and Wales, 1981-2011/12. PhD Thesis, Loughborough University.

Hunter, J. (2017) “Helping police forces to engage with their local communities: A bespoke Community Engagement Area Classification at the LSOA level across the East Midlands.” Report to the College of Policing.

Hunter, J., Garius, L., Hamilton, P. and Wahidin, A. (2018) Who steals from shops, and why?, in V. Ceccato and R. Armitage (eds.) International Perspectives on Retail Crime. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan (in print).

Hunter, J. and Tseloni, A. (2016) Equity, justice and the crime drop: The case of burglary in England and Wales. Crime Science. 5(3). DOI10.1186/s40163-016-0051-z Open Access.

Osborn, D.R. and Tseloni, A. (1998) The distribution of household property crimes. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 14, 307-330.

Pease, K. and Tseloni, A. (2014) Using modelling to predict and prevent victimisation. Springer-Brief Criminology Series, New York: Springer. ISBN: 978-3-319-03184-2 (Print) 978-3-319-03185-9 (Online).

Skudder, H., Brunton-Smith, I., Tseloni, A., McInnes, A., Cole, J., Thompson, R. and Druckman, A. (2017) Can Burglary Prevention be Low Carbon and Effective? Investigating the environmental performance of burglary prevention measures. Security Journal. DOI: 10.1057/s41284-017-0091-4 Open Access.

Thompson, R. (2014) Understanding Theft from the Person and Robbery of Personal Property Victimisation Trends in England and Wales, 1994-2010/11. PhD Thesis, Nottingham Trent University. ​

Tilley, N., Thompson, R., Farrell, G., Grove, L. and Tseloni, A. (2015) Do burglar alarms increase burglary risk? A counter-intuitive finding and possible explanations. Crime Prevention and Community Safety: An International Journal, 17(1), 1-19 DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1057/cpcs.2014.17 Open Access.

Tseloni, A. (2006) Multilevel modelling of the number of property crimes: Household and area effects. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A-Statistics in Society, 169, Part 2, 205-233.

Tseloni (2016) “Stranger and acquaintance violence in England and Wales: Trends, equity and threats.” Crime Surveys Users Meeting, Royal Statistical Society, London. 9 December 2016. Also see: http://www.ntu.ac.uk/apps/research/groups/4/home.aspx/ project/178996/overview/violence_trends).

Tseloni, A. and Pease, K. (2015) Area and individual differences in personal crime victimisation incidence: The role of individual, lifestyle /routine activities and contextual predictors. International Review of Victimology, 21(1), 3-29.

Tseloni, A. and Thompson, R. (forthcoming) Highly targeted population groups lacking adequate burglary security over time, in A. Tseloni, R. Thompson and N. Tilley (eds.) Household Burglary and Security. Springer. See also http://www.ntu.ac.uk/apps/research/groups/4/home.aspx/project/178965/overview/burglary_security).

Tseloni, A., Thompson, R., Grove, L., Tilley, N. and Farrell, G. (2017) The effectiveness of burglary security devices. Security Journal, 30(2), 646-664. DOI: 10.1057/sj.2014.30 Open Access.

Tseloni, A., Wittebrood, K., Farrell, G. and Pease K. (2004) Burglary victimisation in the U.S., England and Wales, and the Netherlands: Cross-national comparison of routine activity patterns. British Journal of Criminology, 44, 66-91.

Ward, B., Thompson, R. and Tseloni, A. (2017) “Understanding Anti-Social Behaviour.” Report to the College of Policing.

Contact

Andromachi Tseloni, Professor of Quantitative Criminology, School of Social Sciences,  andromachi.tseloni@ntu.ac.uk

Rich Pickford, Knowledge Exchange and Impact Officer, Nottingham Civic Exchange, richard.pickford@ntu.ac.uk | @NottsCivicEx | http://bit.ly/2qhBfB8

Copyright free images: from author and https://pixabay.com/

Recent Travels in a Trump Gun culture

BSC President Peter Squires discuses a recent trip to the US

PeterSquiresProfessor Peter Squires is the President of the British Society of Criminology and Professor of Criminology at the University of Brighton.

 

We had touched down in Las Vegas just twelve days after what had been the USA’s most deadly mass shooting during which 58 people were killed (plus the shooter) and 546 injured.  This was the USA’s 338th mass shooting  – defined by the FBI as incidents involving four or more gunshot casualties, not including the perpetrator, in 2017 [https://www.massshootingtracker.org/data].  Five days later we were in Tombstone, Arizona, waiting for the first of a three-times daily re-run of the infamous ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral‘ to begin.

It was 87 degrees Fahrenheit and a pale dry sun was beating down.  The audience benches in a back yard just off Tombstone’s main thoroughfare, Fremont Street, were uncomfortably hot to the touch. But right on cue, ‘Doc Holliday’ swaggered out of the saloon and began to narrate the story of a thirty-second gunfight which has been the subject of 47 separate movies.  A story which has dramatically shaped the history of ‘The Wild West’ (Guinn, 2011), laying important foundations for the region’s gun tourism industry.  After the gunfight, visitors could even have their photographs taken with Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday. I’m not so sure it was a good idea.

GunTourismPictures 3 and 4:  Yours truly with the ‘Earps’ and ‘Doc Holliday’, Kathy with ‘Tom McLaury’ looking mightily healthy for someone who had just been shot and killed

We were in the USA to attend a Gun Studies Symposium, scheduled many months earlier, hosted by the University of Arizona, in Tucson. Turning the visit into a week-long immersion in the vagaries of the US ‘gun culture’ was too good an opportunity to miss.  The increasing political tension concerning the issue, followed a sequence of increasingly lethal mass shootings, but the Trump administration was taking a distinctly ‘hands off’ approach.  The White House displayed a marked preference for seeing mass shootings as if they were random natural tragedies or the simple result of ‘evil’.  In either case there was a marked reluctance to address the gun question.

Personal tragedies and public issues

Route 91 in Las Vegas was still closed on our arrival, crime tape fluttered in the breeze, as crime scene examiners continued to work.   Up the road a huge tribute of flowers and white crosses honoured those killed.  Across Las Vegas electronic billboards paid tribute to the victims and heroic first responders.  But on the TV news different stories began to surface.  Even as the names of dead and injured began to filter out, and the first funerals were held, the repercussions of the incident continued to be felt.  Personal tragedies pointed to public issues, although no-one seemed any wiser as to the shooter’s motives.

Las Vegas TV news prominently featured Tina Strong, who had been shot through the head, in the process losing an eye.  She awoke from a coma while we were in the city, some two weeks after the shooting. Because she had insufficient health insurance (it may not be the first thing one thinks of in the context of gun victimisation – but pretty vital, nonetheless), friends and family had fundraised to provide the $50,000 needed for her care and convalescence.  Within days, however, half a million dollars had flooded in.

Las Vegas may have responded admirably to one tragedy, but it seemed quite incapable of grasping others.  The city which promotes the high-rolling, casino culture, lifestyle also has in excess of six thousand homeless people, the highest rate of homelessness in US cities.  Its roads are also notoriously dangerous, during the three days we stayed in the city, Clark County, chalked up its 58th pedestrian killed on the roads.  As many deaths as the Route 91 shooting, but with remarkably less media attention and still two more months of the year yet to run.

In the wake of the shooting, Nevada Democrats published gun control bills to outlaw the so called ‘bump-stock’ devices (used by the shooter to convert 12 of his military assault rifles to fully automatic – machine gun – firing) and limit ammunition magazines to ten rounds. [https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/democratic-lawmakers-introduce-bill-draft-to-ban-bump-stocks-used-in-mass-shooting-on-strip ] However, their other proposals to extend firearm purchase background checks foundered upon a disagreement with the FBI, with the federal agency refusing to underwrite the cost of performing the state level checks.

bumpstock

Both Nevada and Arizona feature amongst the most deregulated states as far as the seven most common state-level gun control measures (assault weapon restrictions, prohibition of large capacity magazines, armour piercing bullets and silencers, firearm registration systems, gun purchaser waiting periods, expanded background checks, and the licensing of firearm dealers) are concerned.  Nevada prohibits armour piercing ammunition and, consistent with the increasing polarisation of the gun debate (Democrat states introducing more controls and Republican states deregulating), Arizona recently disbanded its system of firearm sales background checks.  Furthermore county authorities are not allowed, under state law, to impose their own systems of localised background checks. [https://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/jan/15/gun-laws-united-states]

‘Open defence’ carriage of firearms is permitted in public areas although many Arizona hotels and private businesses appear to prohibit firearms on the premises. In similar fashion, the University of Arizona vetoed an attempt to allow firearms carriage on campus, thereby failing to join ten other ‘campus carry’ states.  As in thirteen other states, guns on Arizona university campuses must remain locked within vehicles.

Symposium

For these reasons, a gun studies conference in Arizona made a lot of sense, given added poignancy by the terrible events a few hours’ drive to the North. Yet this was to be a gun conference with a difference.

In marked contrast to the largely stalemated political debate on guns in the USA, which Professor Robert Spitzer, one of the USA’s leading political scientist commentators, famously characterised as ‘elephantine political forces’ battling over ‘policy mice’ (Spitzer, 1995, p.181),  the Arizona ‘gun studies symposium’ was approached through the lens of inter-disciplinary social science.  Sociologists, lawyers, historians, cultural theorists, marketing analysts, ethnographers, criminologists, political scientists and public health analysts combining their insights to throw more light, rather than heat, on the gun question.  The questions were not those which have most typically animated public discussion of guns in the USA, such as: What does the 2nd Amendment really mean? Does increasing firearm prevalence exacerbate or diminish crime and violence? And, finally, which gun control measures actually work?

Emerging issues in Gun Studies

Instead, the symposium sought to explore the nature of ‘gun culture’; what firearm ownership means to individuals, communities and societies; what are the symbolic significances of guns and gun laws, and gun ownership and social identity.  The symposium was organised into four distinct sessions: guns and violence; guns, identity and intimacy; guns and governance, and guns and markets.

The first discussions centred upon research conducted in Los Angeles exploring the ways in which formerly legal firearms ‘slipped’ into illegality and came to be used in criminal violence.  A number of issues surfaced including: irresponsible firearms dealers, ‘straw purchases’ (people buying guns for someone else), secondary sales and transfers, theft of firearms and ‘time to crime’.   No particular methods of illegal transit stood out, illegal gun markets appeared to be very localised with some handguns having a very short time between point of sale and first criminal misuse.  The findings were broadly taken to endorse existing community level interventions to tackle illegal firearm transfers.  [https://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/TR512.html]

A second theme concerned the somewhat overlooked issue of firearms and suicide.  There are roughly twice as many gun suicides in the USA as homicides, in this respect alone, the USA gun suicide pattern resembles that of European societies, however there are an enormous 20,000 firearm suicides each year in the USA.  Much debate surrounds the degree to which the suicide rate is exacerbated by the scale of private gun ownership, around 53% of suicides involve firearms, with older white males running a disproportionately high risk. [https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/magazine/magazine_article/guns-suicide/]

In the remainder of the morning delegates heard a series of papers exploring issues of identity and meaning relating to gun ownership and use, one paper exploring the consequences of shootings for their victims.   Largely as a result of advances in emergency trauma care, most gunshot victims do not die as a result of their injuries, fully 80% survive, although victims’ lives are often dramatically transformed by the injuries they have received.  Extensive ethnographic research from a forthcoming book, Ricochet: Gun Violence and Trauma in Killadelphia reveals how most daily activities are complicated by firearm injury, posing continuing challenges to gunshot survivors.

In parallel fashion, a series of papers explored the emotional ties people might have with their firearms. In the first place, gun ownership tends to be concentrated within a demographic comprising white, middle aged, suburban and rural males often with a military background.  Viewed in this way, firearm ownership shares many characteristics of a cultural identity or social movement perspective.  [https://nyupress.org/books/9780814795507/]  Gun ownership becomes part of ordinary life. In a related sense, if firearm acquisition is predicated upon a sense of vulnerability or the perceived need for protection, the threat of losing one’s weapon is likely to pose an existential threat to the defence of the self, therefore gun control proposals are often fiercely resisted.

Firearm advocates typically refer to firearms as ‘tools’ and, as in the case of any tool, the purpose is to extend human capabilities. Others refer to firearms as a prosthesis, both extending human capacity, but also personal responsibility. It is worth noting that a majority of states have now permitted the concealed carry of personal firearms, augmented by ‘castle doctrine’ and  ‘stand your ground’ laws, whereby private citizens assume a de facto statutory responsibility to shoot to kill to protect.

Recent Hurricane and flooding disasters in Houston and Florida exposed the rather darker side of these laws, prompting suggestions that concealed carry permissions should be suspended during environmental crises. By contrast, gun advocates claim that, it is precisely at such moments, when the infrastructures of governance, especially policing, are under such pressure, that personal defence firearms become most necessary.  Apparently local media outlets were rife with stories of looting, violence and burglary from vacated properties, invariably the looters depicted were black.  [http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/852551/hurricane-Irma-Florida-Miami-looting-seige-Branson-Virgin-Islands-unrest ; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4870676/Eight-looters-broke-Fort-Lauderdale-clothing-retailer.html]

The question of African American firearm ownership accents these issues especially in the wake of recent police involved shootings. Police have tended to perceive black gun possession as a potential threat, reacting accordingly. African American gun advocates remind us that some of the earliest gun control measures introduced in the USA were measures to disarm slaves and former slaves in the Southern states. Likewise cultural commentators demonstrate that the ‘gun debate’ still resounds to the intersectional politics of race, class and gender. [https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/546064/stand-your-ground-by-caroline-light/9780807064665/ ]

Selling guns

The final session of the symposium was devoted to the marketing of firearms.  Papers addressed different aspects of firearm marketing practice, the first reflecting upon the changing emphases of firearm advertising, revealing how since the 1960s gun marketing had increasingly focused upon firearms for self defence rather than target sports shooting or hunting.  The overwhelming frequency of self-defence gun advertising in the leading American Gun Magazine (The American Rifleman, published by the NRA), clearly evidences this cultural change.

Rifleman

A second marketing paper focused instead upon the way in which firearm advertising, first in the decade 1985-1995, and then again in the last ten years, has effectively ramped up the firepower available to American citizens.  In the first period, on the back of loss-leader sales of semi-automatic pistols to elite police and military units, firearm advertising in leading US gun magazines, effected a shift in customer purchasing.  Fully 75% of gun advertisements featured semi-automatic handguns, which were advertised for their calibre, concealability, stopping power, speed of use, and ‘intuitive pointability’. These were combat-ready guns for civilians.  In the most recent period, since 2005, and the lapsing of a federal ban on the sale of new assault rifles, these weapons now dominate the covers and advertising space in the magazines. They are also the weapons misused in the USA’s recent most lethal mass shooting atrocities (Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas and Texas).

Contrasting advertisements:  1985-1995/ 2005-2015:   ramping up civilian firepower

1985-1995 2005-date
 GunMag1  GunMag2

A final presentation sought to show how, in a search for new markets (the average US gun-owner already has seven firearms) the gun industry has been targeting its advertising at women and children.  Although the social research data does not bear out the claims frequently made [http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1557085115609416 ], women are seen as a lifeline for the gun industry – either as potential self defence firearm purchasers themselves, or as parents capable of normalising gun ownership amongst their children.  The gun industry has been producing a range of supposedly female and child oriented firearms and accessories.  The pink ‘Barbie’ assault rifle and the brassiere holster have attracted most media attention, but there are many varieties of product available, including a colourful selection of starter rifles for children.  [http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/us/selling-a-new-generation-on-guns.html ]

Gunpink

Meanwhile, back in Tombstone where, in 1881, City Ordnance Number 9, was introduced to require cowboys intent on drinking and gambling to disarm and deposit their firearms when entering town. This sits uneasily with contemporary concealed carry deregulation, and the gun tourism souvenir merchandise to be found in neighbouring shops. Nevertheless, gendered stereotypes persist, the toy guns for sale came in familiar colours, outlaws carry black, lawmen (and Doc Holliday) silver, whereas cowgirls, it seems, pack pink.

Guns1

Since, the Las Vegas shooting, America’s most deadly, the USA has seen another 40 mass shooting incidents in just over a month, culminating in the Sutherland Springs, church shooting in Texas, where 27 died and over 20 were injured.  This time the perpetrator was in illegal possession of an assault rifle.  An armed citizen intervened, but only after the tragedy.  One of the ironies of these mass shootings and the FBI data upon which they are based, is that the iconic gunfight in Tombstone in 1881, which has epitomised the ‘Wild West’ for generations, would barely have made the FBI mass shootings list today: only three people were killed.

Professor Peter Squires is the President of the British Society of Criminology and Professor of Criminology at the University of Brighton.

Email p.a.squires@brighton.ac.uk
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PSqCriminology

Copyright free images from the author.