After the Pandemic: Criminology and Social Harm after Covid-19

We are in the extraordinary position of being able to observe the genesis of change that is affecting all aspects of our social world

ADiaper

Andy Diaper MA (Crime and Justice) works with vulnerable and excluded people within the community. His research interests are what he calls ‘street life’:  Homelessness, drug dependency/dealing, street drinking, sex work and people who for a variety of reasons enact most of their lives on the street.

 

We are living in exceptional times as Covid-19 appears to be running out of control throughout most of the world. The death toll rises daily at a frightening rate, the fear and tragedy touches everyone’s lives. It feels ever more difficult to get clear and trustworthy information as scientists and politicians in England and indeed from around the world give out contradictory statements. Globalisation has never felt more real or terrifying.  How do we keep ourselves and loved ones safe? Will life ever return to ‘normal’ again? Our collective ontological security is fast slipping away.

Is this a good time to contemplate change? Or to begin planning future research whilst we are surrounded by so much death and pain? The short answer is yes but care and empathy are called for. We are in the extraordinary position of being able to observe the genesis of change that is affecting all aspects of our social world. It is far too early to speculate what changes will occur in the long term but that should not stop tentative exploratory work being carried out now. What better time to start collecting data such as ethnographic inquiry, diaries, collating statistical information now be it false or accurate, the truth can be looked for later.

It is a time of thinking out loud, time to look for the questions to ask, not a time to formulate answers. Perhaps the best way of achieving this is in the form of blogging and social media as opposed to the more formal academic paper. This is also an effective way of reaching a wider audience because of this it is also important to write in an accessible way. Greater reflexivity is required to place us within the research, the epidemic will have touched all our lives. It can be argued that for too long criminology has produced important work deserving of better dissemination, but never gaining the wider recognition it deserves. We are on the cusp of the ‘new normal’ it is an opportunity that cannot be missed.

There has been much speculation on the value of social science during Covid-19. It has been argued that the only science of value concerning the pandemic is medical or related fields such as epidemiology.  This may well be true at the most fundamental level in saving lives and understanding the nature of the virus. The function of the virus is to find hosts to make reproduction possible. However, how the virus can move through populations, who is most vulnerable and at risk is very much the domain of social sciences.

So where does criminology come into play?  At the simplest level it can be seen to fulfil two functions. Firstly, the study of the introduction of the new  ‘The Coronavirus Act 2020’  (2020, Act) and the scope of the effects on our civil liberties. The 2020 Act touches on many aspects either by amending existing statutes or creating new ones. These changes affect many facets of our lives removing some fundamental freedoms: one being the power to restrict public gathering or to prohibit them entirely. It can be argued that when emergency powers are introduced  they can often outlive the original phenomena. Leading to the danger of using the legislation in ways that the Act was not originally created for. There is also the examination of the effects of Covid-19 on crime in general for example the rise in domestic abuse and how some volume crimes appear to have decreased. It will be a time to revisit how we theorise crime.

Secondly there is the social harm perspective to the pandemic. It should be remembered that a zemiological perspective can be used to analyse crime as well as social harm. David Downes famously stated that criminology was a rendezvous discipline and as such zemiology should now be embraced in the same way as sociology or social psychology to give two examples. This is not the place to put a full argument forward on whether it should become a discipline or not. At the time of writing this piece the four nations of the UK are beginning to lift the lock down incrementally. Business and schools  are being urged to re-open despite concerns from elements of the public, press, opposition MP’s and scientists.  On the effect this may have in creating a second spike to the virus, we cannot predict the future, but we can prepare the groundwork for future research. At this time, we do not know what effect this lifting the lock down will have on people’s lives. However, it is not difficult to speculate if this lifting is too early and a second spike is created the devastation could be horrific. It is already tentatively coming to light that the pandemic has affected the vulnerable in society the most. The elderly in care homes, those in poor housing and the lowest paid doing the most dangerous jobs with insufficient protective equipment. Social harm has already occurred, but it could become far worse. It is the time to begin to gather the evidence to build future research even if it does feel very ‘raw’ now. It is also a good time to consider Engels concept of ‘social murder.’

As was said at the beginning this piece contains no answers only questions. By beginning the process when many are struggling to simply get by daily is a big ‘ask’. However, by formulating the questions whilst the pandemic is still all around us, we will form better questions, leading to better research and who knows, answers to better understand and control future disasters.

I will finish on a famous saying from a 1980’s American cop show ‘Hill Street Blues’

‘Let’s be careful out there’

Contact

Andy Diaper, Independent Researcher

Email: Andy.diaper@btinternet.com

Twitter: @andy_diaper

 

Images: courtesy of the author

Unfinished Business: Moving beyond the Australian National Apology (2008) towards Indigenous justice

In 2008, a National Apology was offered on behalf of the Australian Government to the Indigenous people of Australia, particularly for the Stolen Generations. Although the apology was constructed under the guise of reconciliation, it represented a shift in political discourse with regards to strategies of governance. Over a decade later there is much unfinished business which needs to be addressed in the move towards Indigenous justice and a united Australia.

Sharon Hartles photoSharon 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.

 

On the 13th February 2008, the seventy-third day of his Prime Ministership and his first act of office, the then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (on behalf of the government) moved a motion of Apology to the Indigenous Australians in which he stated: “For the pain, suffering and hurt of the stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we are sorry”. Dominant mediated discourse formulated The National Apology in order to offer the spirit of healing, to enable a future in which a new page in its history could be re-written: a future in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are reconciled and united as one Australian nation. For this reason, the 13th February 2008 was deemed to be a monumental day in Australia’s history. Selected Indigenous voices celebrated the occasion declaring how the apology had changed the history books for Aboriginal people.  On the tenth year anniversary of the National Apology, Australian Government sponsored propaganda commemorated what it had achieved so far in its  journey towards reconciling the nation. However, a removal of the rose tinted glasses reveals an alternative version of the ‘truth’.

The National Apology went firmly against the stance held by Kevin Rudd’s predecessor John Howard during his time as Prime Minister, March 1996 – December 2007, who refused to say the word sorry on the basis that Australians of today are not responsible for the actions of an earlier generation and he “did not subscribe to the black armband view of history”. Moreover, archived and seemly forgotten was the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 (NERB). Extreme authoritarian and totalitarian proposed interventions deemed a justified response to tackle the Aboriginal Problem. Programmes incorporated the following: a five year takeover of sixty Indigenous communities; soldiers and police were to oversee and enforce alcohol and pornography bans; quarantining of welfare payments for the purpose of ensuring money would be spent on necessities, and furthermore the compulsory testing of Indigenous children for signs of sexual abuse.  The NERB was the emergency response to address the serious problems highlighted in the Little Children are Sacred, 2007 report.  Apparently, the protection of children from ubiquitous social harm and abuse is of paramount concern to all Australians…  All Australians except those Indigenous communities who resided in the Northern Territory!  Incredulously, less than six months prior to the National Apology the NERB reflected populist and dominant state rhetoric which was clearly entrenched in colonial, imperialistic and white supremacist ethnocentrism.  With little irony, all of this was swept under the carpet with the election of a new Australian Prime Minister and government. Furthermore a disclaimer denounced this discourse to be that which was authorised by ‘previous’ Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and departments. In this way previous hegemonic ideology was excused.

With this in mind, a critical viewpoint may suggest that the offered National Apology was constructed in part to appease the widespread backlash and public outrage incited by the proposed NERB. Moreover, the National Apology constructed under the guise of reconciliation merely represents a shift in political discourse. Instead of favouring a crime-control approach taking the form of the NERB, the Australian Government shifted its approach to governing the Indigenous population through a social welfare approach, concealed under the veil of reconciliation.

Kevin Rudd, in his role of Prime Minister and on behalf of the new government offered an apology to the Indigenous people in atonement for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. Nevertheless, lessons have not been learnt and the practice of removing Indigenous children from their families persists. 17,664 Indigenous children were in out-of-home care in 2016-17, compared with 9,070 in 2007-08. Therefore this equates to a staggering 80% removal rate increase between 2007-08 to 2016-17, from 32.7 per 1,000 to 58.7 per 1,000. Furthermore, in contrast to the ten year anniversary propaganda promoted by the Australian Government, a reconciliation progress report published by the Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) (2010) offered an alternative truth. The ANTaR report noted the government failings to advance on the pledges in its reconciliation blueprint; making six recommendations to address this and ‘close the gaps‘. Eight year later (2018) ANTaR’s review highlights the governments continued drift away from the commitments it made in the original proposal.

And what of the constructed offered apology?  It was a very small step in the right direction, insofar as it partially acknowledged the brutal destruction of Aboriginal society which non-Indigenous populations has systematically and progressively erased from collective memory, referred to as the Great Australian Silence. However, can a partial half-truth or a historical revision of past events really unite the Australian nation? The constructed National Apology was flawless in its meticulous choice of discourse, and exemplified strategies of state-denial and state omission. ‘Mistreatments, mistakes, injustices, wrong-doings of the past’ NOT forced abduction which was sanctioned by colonial and post-colonial laws, underpinned by assumptions of superiority of the migrants (and their descendants).  All done in a bid to Westernise and civilise the Aborigines while eradicating their culture.  No mention at all of other state-sanctioned ‘crimes’ such as murders, land grabbing or cultural genocide or annihilation. In fact John Howard did not accept “that genocide had been practised against the Indigenous people”. ​

If the Australian Government truly wishes to strive towards Indigenous justice and bring together all Australian people and atone for its past, surely this must begin by being honest and acknowledging its state-sanctioned ‘crimes’ which have resulted in intergenerational trauma. While the Aboriginal people patiently wait, and show remarkable dignity and fortitude they continue to suffer a multitude of harms ranging from: physical, financial, economic, denial of cultural safety, emotional and psychological abuse, which have been (and are still being) inflicted upon them by the Australian Government’s constructed apologetic half-truths about past (and present) events.

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 Flickr

Working Together: ‘Invisible’ crimes, victimisations and social harms

The BSC Victims Network hosted their first research planning and writing day. Reflections include participants feedback.

Dr Hannah Bows is currently a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Teesside University. Her research coalesces around age/ageing, victimisation and gender with particular interests in violent crime against older women. Her recent work includes a national study of rape against older people, a national study profiling homicide of older people and a study exploring ‘risk’ in relation to older sex offenders and policing. She is the editor of a forthcoming two-volume edited collection on Violence Against Older Women (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019) and monograph based on her national study of rape against older people (Routledge, 2018). Outside of the university, she is the deputy director of the BSC Victims Network, Chair of Age UK Teesside and sits as a Magistrate on the Durham and Darlington bench. From August 2018 she will be taking up the role of Assistant Professor in Criminal Law at Durham University.

Professor Pamela Davies lectures in Criminology in the Department of Social Sciences at Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Pam’s main research interests are victimological and connect to criminal and non-criminal types of victimisation and social harm. She has a particular focus on gender, crime and victimization and has engaged in research and evaluations of gender based violence.  Pam has published widely on the subject of victims, victimization and social harm and on how gender connects to matters of community safety. She has authored Gender, Crime and Victimisation (Sage) and has co-edited a number of texts including Victims, Crime and Society (2007, 2017), Invisible Crimes and Social Harms (2014) and Doing Criminological Research (2000, 2011, 2018).

 

As we write this, the BBC is airing The Stephen Lawrence Story. This brutal murder and three part documentary of it is a chilling reminder of the vocabularies of victimization. The death of Stephen provoked a fight for justice by his parents, which has changed the landscape of policing and race relations. This and other well publicized forms of criminal victimization including sexual exploitation and systematic abuse of vulnerable young people in our neighborhoods and the continued efforts to tackle violence against women and girls are sad indictments of life in 21st century Britain.

The BSC Victims Network is a collection of people within the criminology community who have interests around victims of crime and social harm, survivors and resilience. We are committed to raising awareness of ‘invisible’ crimes, victimisations and social harms and to securing justice for those experiencing or affected by crime, atrocities, disasters and injustices through our scholarly activities. The Network facilitates the cross-national exchange of work and ideas relating to these concerns under the shorthand label ‘victims’.  The network brings individuals together to facilitate and promote theory development and research. It provides an arena for information exchange, critical analysis and debate across the research, policy and practice communities – nationally and internationally – encourages networking between academics, researchers, practitioners and students, and looks for opportunities to secure research or consultancy income.

On 26 March 2018, the British Society of Criminology Victims Network (BSCVN) hosted the first research planning and writing day for 17 members at Sheffield Hallam University. Participants immersed themselves in thinking about, discussing and writing about some of the most seriously debilitating experiences imaginable including the direct and indirect impact of criminal and non- criminal forms of victimization, harm and suffering. The day was divided into two parts: established academics met to discuss research ideas or plans, develop networks and collaborations and discussed funding opportunities and early career academics and postgraduate students took part in a writing day, with each ECR/PG assigned to one of the established academics for mentoring and supporting.

The day kicked off over coffee (of course) at 9.30am, where all delegates introduced themselves and their research and outlined their plans and goals for the day: most members had a specific book, chapter or journal article that they wanted to work on and most set an ambitious target of 500 words by the end of the day. Following this, the writers convened and spent the morning writing with mentoring support built in. After a delicious lunch, featuring cake and coffee, members reconvened to discuss how the morning had gone and revise/confirm their goals/targets for the afternoon session. Professor Davies provided an overview of her and Professor Matthew Hall’s current book series on ‘Victims and Victimology’ and explained the publishing process for those interested in submitting proposals.

A general discussion of publishing, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and approaches to writing followed before members returned to writing and/or research planning. At the end of the day, members reconvened to reflect on how the day had gone, what they had achieved and what their goals were going forward.

I just wanted to thank you (and Hannah – who I’ll also email) so much for organising such a brilliant day. I really appreciated the opportunity to meet new colleagues and the time away from my institution to think. It was a very valuable day and I am still working my way through the list of ideas and “to dos” and feeling quite inspired!

The day provided a much-needed opportunity for members to have dedicated time to write/plan research and discuss ideas, challenges and opportunities with colleagues. The day was supportive and feedback during and after the event attested to the importance of having the time and space to write, and to the benefit of having the opportunity to talk with colleagues, discuss tips and the ups and downs of writing, and bounce around ideas.

Thanks again for a great day

 – what a good day it was! Thanks so much (and to Hannah) for organising – it was a productive and thoroughly enjoyable day! I hope you both got home ok? 

Thank you very much for the BSC Victims Day. It was a very productive day and great to meet some new faces….

 I just want to thank you for a very useful and constructive day. I really enjoyed the balance of writing and networking/collaborating – the day was well structured.

Following this success, we hope to organise similar events in the future. Watch this space!

If you want to join us, do subscribe to our jisc list here – www.jiscmail.ac.uk/BSCVICTIMSNETWORK

Contact

Hannah Bows – Teesside University

Email: hannah.bows@durham.ac.uk

Twitter: @Hannah_Bows

Pamela Davies – Northumbria University

Email: pamela.davies@northumbria.ac.uk

 

Copyright free image: from BSC website