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European Society of Criminology Annual Conference, Cardiff

22 September 2017

Between 13th and 16th September 2017, Cardiff, Wales, I attended the European Society of Criminology Annual Conference (affectionately known as ‘EuroCrim’). There I presented a paper written with my colleague, Dr Anthony Ellis, titled: ‘Far Right attractions in the post-race place? Narratives from a de-industrialised community in the UK’. Using data collected from an ethnographic pilot study in Rotherham (UK), the paper engaged with the recent resurgence of political views and sentiments traditionally associated with the Far Right in de-industrialised communities. It discussed the socio-political foundations offered by residents in their move towards newer emerging Far Right groups, which were not only anchored in what Ellis refers to as the devastating collapse of working class cultural life, but as Patel argues, are also underpinned by the continued use of a racialized narrative about space, place and rights. This is the case despite wider claims of living in a ‘post-race’ society.

EuroCrim was everything a good conference should be. It was engaging, informative and critical – all in the right measures. There were over 1,200 delegates in attendance, with papers covering all areas of criminology: including, sexual violence, cybercrime, corporate crime, environmental crime, as well as the expected areas of prisons, punishment, policing, and youth justice. There were plenaries from high profile Criminologists, but also from key figures in the criminal justice arena, including the Director of Europol and Deputy Chief Constable for South Wales.

I came away from the conference feeling informed, encouraged and hopeful for the future of criminology and its contribution to policy and practice. Thankyou EuroCrim for a wonderful, academically invigorating conference. And, most of all, thank you to the people of Cardiff, whose hospitality and friendliness was second to none!

Dr Tina G. Patel

Tina is author of ‘Race and Society’, published by Sage in 2016.

Anthony is author if ‘Men, Masculinities and Violence’, published by Routledge in 2015.

Constructive Connections: the impact on children of parental involvement with the Justice System in Glasgow

23 June 2017

The best solutions for children and young people whose parents are involved within the criminal justice system will frequently be the best solutions for the whole community. Children and young people with positive relationships with their parents and family are likely to have better health and wellbeing outcomes (Glasgow Centre for Population Health, 2013). This chimes with a broad population approach to tackling health inequalities, recognising both the importance of family and community networks, and the inevitability that poverty, poor housing and unemployment are the background to much criminal behaviour (Whitehead and Dahlgren, 2007). Phillips and Dettlaff (2009) note that parental substance abuse, domestic violence, and extreme poverty are more common in households where a parent has been arrested and or sentenced to probation and that unemployment was a significant factor among caregivers who have experienced imprisonment. The factors are considered to affect both the short-term and long-term wellbeing of children.

Those who come into contact with the criminal justice system in Scotland, particularly Scottish prisoners, mainly come from the most deprived areas in the country (Houchin, 2005), and most adult family members of prisoners are unemployed, receiving benefits, and live in rented accommodation with low weekly incomes (Dickie, 2013). Whilst limited research in the UK has explored the impact on children of parental involvement across the criminal justice process, research in Australia highlights unintended consequences as being ‘children witnessing traumatic arrest processes, experiencing sudden and unanticipated separation from their parent/s, being displaced from home and struggling to maintain contact with their imprisoned parent’ (Flynn et al, 2015:2). GIRFEC – Getting It Right For Every Child (Scottish Government, 2012), now enshrined in Scottish legislation through the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, is a sound building block for supporting children whose parents come into contact with the criminal justice system. Although more specific recognition of the needs of the estimated 27,000 children affected each year by parental incarceration in Scotland (Scottish Government Justice Analytic Services, 2012) is merited, this research also recognises that attention needs to be paid to the experiences of children who have parents involved across the justice system (Phillips and Dettlaff, 2009). These families are often among the most complex cases child protective service agencies encounter (Phillips and Erkanli, 2008).

This current project (a collaboration between the University of Salford, the University of Huddersfield and Families Outside (Scotland)) funded by NHS Glasgow, is based on participatory and child-centred approaches to explore the impact of parental involvement in the justice system on children and young people, aged 8-18 from Glasgow. The research is being conducted with the best interests of children and young people at the forefront, with their own accounts being valued as much as any others, working with them rather than conducting research on them, and striving to ensure that their voice is promoted at every stage. The research also draws on principles of action research, emphasising the participatory engagement of all stakeholders as partners in a process of collaborative and reflective sense-making. The study design is based on family cases, with the child or young person as the index with their parents or carers and the professionals involved with the family as part of their world. The research adopts a very positive view about children, children’s rights and childhood, and the capacity of children to influence public policy and to shape their own solutions to the challenges they face.

Prof. Tony Long – Professor of Child and Family Health

Dr Kelly Lockwood – Lecturer in Criminology

Trauma and Transformation: Returning to the Repressed

2 May 2017

At the end of Shane Meadows’ critically acclaimed film ‘This Is England’ – a powerful account of working class life, community and racism in the de-industrialising North of England – a confrontation ensues between two of the film’s main characters. The confrontation descends into a brutal and sustained assault that leaves one of them, ‘Milky’, a young Black male portrayed by Andrew Shim, lying on the floor unconscious and bloodied. While earlier in the film tensions between the two characters were evident, the prelude to the assault is somewhat benign, almost jovial. The scene evolves in a dour, minimally furnished flat, with several of the other characters sat around smoking Marijuana, laughing and joking with one another. Amid the laughter, a conversation unfolds between Milky and one of the film’s main protagonists ‘Combo’ – a violent, racist skinhead portrayed by Stephen Graham. They talk enthusiastically about the music and clothing associated with skinheads, musing nostalgically upon the unity between White and Black members during the movement’s early incarnations. Later, the conversation between the two shifts, as Combo begins quizzing Milky on his childhood and familial life. Milky describes his large extended family: his grandmother’s cooking, past Christmases, and a reliable father who always “put food on the table”. As Milky relays these anecdotes, Combo’s demeanour begins to visibly change. He initially appears overcome by sadness as his eyes begin to swell with tears. His initial curiosity and inquisitiveness begins to morph into thinly veiled sarcasm – “isn’t that nice” and “lucky you aren’t you” he utters as Milky reminisces. Combo gets up from the bed he has been sitting on and begins to menacingly pace around the flat, stretching his arms behind his back as if he is preparing his body for physical action. He proceeds to ask Milky what he believes makes a bad father. Slightly bemused, Milky returns the question to Combo who abandons his subtleties and replies “n*****s”, proceeding to then aim this racist insult at Milky himself. Milky is taken aback by Combo’s sudden transformation. He does not verbally engage with Combo, but simply smiles smugly back at him. “Don’t smile, don’t you f*****g smile at me” demands Combo before attacking Milky and leaving him unconscious on the floor. After the assault, Combo gazes over Milky’s bloodied face and limp body; a whimper seeps from behind his lips before he breaks down into tears, apologising profusely.

For a criminologist interested in what motivates seriously violent behaviour, like myself, the scene described above from This Is England, despite it being a largely fictional one (the director Shane Meadows has disclosed that aspects of the film were inspired by his experiences growing up), captures very well both the aetiology of serious violence and its interactional character. Seriously violent men, like Combo, will often engage in violence over what might appear to observers to be a fairly trivial matter. They will often search carefully their interactions and encounters with others for some sign or evidence that they have been disrespected, ‘mugged off’, or made to look foolish. They will seize upon eye-contact, a particular term or phrase used by someone, and from there begin to quickly assemble a case against the other person that ultimately, for them, means the other deserves to be physically punished. As is presented in the scene, a seemingly friendly conversation suddenly transforms into a violent encounter that leaves Milky seriously injured with minimal clues, other than Combo’s racism, as to why this has happened.

The question of why some humans commit acts that cause serious harm and misery to other humans is arguably criminology’s most pressing and fascinating question. And yet it is also one that the discipline has, so far at least, struggled to provide adequate answers for (see Gadd and Jefferson, 2007; Hall and Winlow, 2012). The reasons for this are complex and bound up with a series of troubling historical events that had quite profound effects upon the discipline’s intellectual development (see Hall, 2012). The horrifying behaviour of several aggressive Fascist states during the 20th Century that often drew upon discourses of ‘difference’ and ‘degeneracy’ to justify their activities, resulted in the deaths of millions. Consequently, sections of mainstream criminology have been, and understandably so, intensely uncomfortable with the idea that there might be something ‘different’ about those who commit serious crimes, particularly violent ones. Instead, the discipline has often prioritised an examination of the manner in which certain individuals and groups involved in criminality become entangled in processes of labelling or how they are stigmatised by powerful state agents and the media; reluctant to investigate seriously and in a sophisticated way the subjective factors that may underlie destructive behaviour. As a result, concepts that originate from psychoanalysis, continental philosophy and psychology that might help us understand better the individual human subject and what it is that leads them to gravitate towards harmful activities tend to be utilised more at the fringes of criminological thought (Hall and Winlow, 2015; Jones, 2012).

If we return briefly to the scene described above, how can we begin to make some sense of it? Why is Combo so willing to use violence? And how does he shift so quickly between benignity to extremity? The main clue we have, beyond his racism, is the difficulty he experiences when conversing on the subject of childhood, family and upbringing. Milky, with his smug smile in the face of Combo’s anger and racist slurs, certainly seems to sense why Combo changed his demeanour so quickly: Combo actually envies him and detests that someone he considers to be ‘inferior’ grew up in a supportive and loving atmosphere. This is something we can surmise Combo was denied; he actually hints at this earlier in the film when he confesses that he was ‘let down’ during his childhood. In my own ethnographic research with violent men (see Ellis, 2016) the issue of troublesome upbringings and pasts re-surfaced regularly. Many of them had experienced quite brutal treatment at times while growing up, which had penetrated to the core of their beliefs and perceptions about the worlds they occupied. While problematic expressions of what is often termed hyper-masculinity that reflect to some extent the ways in which maleness is constructed within society were evident amongst these men, there was something underneath these behavioural ‘performances’ that drove their occasionally destructive behaviour – an obsessive concern with self-preservation and the avoidance of humiliation that seemed to be partially rooted in personal traumatic encounters during which they had been dominated by others. These painful, terrifying experiences had been etched into their memories and were symbolised as possessing transformative potential.

So, is a serious analysis of individual subjective experience, psychic drives and motivations against a background of often troubling and damaging socio-economic contexts needed? Let’s not forget that the vast majority of individuals who use physical violence persistently and destructively in contemporary society have emerged from social locations that have had their local labour markets and communities devastated by socio-economic transformation. This compelling issue is something that I will be addressing in a panel of papers to be delivered at the forthcoming British Society of Criminology annual conference this summer. It was also the focus of an article I recently co-authored and published with Simon Winlow and Steve Hall (2017). In the article, we sought to utilise our extensive qualitative data gathered over prolonged periods of time researching violent and criminal men in de-industrialised communities in Northern England as a platform to explore the influences of traumatic experiences upon their identities and behaviour. The often-painstaking work of talking in-depth with these men and observing them in their ‘natural’ settings, where they would occasionally engage in aggressive violent behaviour, led us to conclude that the criminology and sociology of violence must overcome its reluctance to address the psychosocial roots of causality in order to advance from its present position. As much as real violent behaviour, like that enacted by the fictional character Combo in This Is England, may be driven in part by the return of troubling feelings and experiences that have been psychically repressed, so too, a focus upon subjective motivation as drivers for violent behaviour represents a return to issues that have been repressed within the discipline of criminology. Nevertheless, these are issues that require some careful and sophisticated analysis if we are to begin to develop more compelling explanations for seriously harmful behaviour.

Dr Anthony Ellis – Lecturer in Sociology & Criminology

You can access my latest co-authored article addressing this issue here

References

Ellis, A (2016) Men, Masculinities and Violence: A Ethnographic Study. London: Routledge

Ellis, A Winlow, S and Hall, S (2017) ‘Throughout my life I’ve had people walk all over me’: Trauma in the lives of violent men. Sociological Review

Gadd, D and Jefferson, T (2007) Psychosocial Criminology: An Introduction. London: Sage

Hall, S (2012) Theorizing Crime and Deviance: A New Perspective. London: Sage

Hall, S and Winlow, S (2012) Introduction: the need for new directions in criminological theory. In Hall, S and Winlow, S (eds) New Directions in Criminological Theory. London: Routledge p.1-13

Hall, S and Winlow, S (2015) Revitalising Criminological Theory: Towards a New Ultra-Realism. London: Routledge

Jones, D W (2012) Psychosocial perspectives: men, madness and violence. In Hall, S and Winlow, S (eds) New Directions in Criminological Theory. London: Routledge p.183-198

The Impact of Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Criminal Justice System: A Growing Concern

17 January 2017

Clare AllelyOn Wednesday 19th Oct 2016 a 30 year old man took his own life at HMP Manchester (Strangeways), the young man who was discovered hanged in his cell was known to suffer from Asperger’s syndrome (http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/nicky-reilly-dead-strangeways-prison-12056877).

This led to inquiries to confirm whether deaths in custody of those known to have an autism spectrum disorder are collated in any way. The key organisations who collect this data, INQUEST, The Howard League for Penal Reform and The Prison Reform Trust were contacted regarding this type of prisoner. Each organisation replied that they do not hold this data. This illustrates the importance of exploring this area in detail.Despite prison interest and some prisons being involved with pilot work within the UK, Feltham remains the only prison in the UK to have Autism Accreditation and is Moitherefore, ‘autism friendly’. Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institute (HMYOI) Feltham is the first prison or young offender institution in the UK to be awarded Autism Accreditation (http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/media-centre/news/2016-02-25-first-autism-accredited-prison.aspx). For over two years, Feltham has been working with The National Autistic Society (NAS) in order to improve the way they support offenders with ASD. The aim of Accreditation is to improve autism practice across all areas of prison life: admission, prison staff training, behaviour management and the physical environment, with the long-term aim of tackling issues frequently experienced by prisoners with ASD and ultimately reducing the risk of recidivism in this subgroup.

The urgency of further research and recognition of Asperger’s and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in the criminal justice process is emphasised by studies which have found that the severity of ASD traits is a risk factor for suicidality and common mental health issues in prisoners (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S092493381530674X).

In the North West of England there are 16 prisons with a total operational capacity of 12,543. Let’s say that the prevalence figure of autism spectrum disorders is at least the same as that found in the general population (1%) then there are at least 125 prisoners in prisons in the North West of England alone who are on the spectrum.

Given that there are a number of studies suggesting that the prevalence of ASD is higher in the prison population when compared to the general population, it highlights the urgent need for more prisons to gain Autism Accreditation and for further research to gain more of an understanding the specific needs of inmates with ASD and prison staffs knowledge of the disorder.

Recognising the importance of research in this field, lecturers at the University of Salford, Dr Clare Allely and Dr Toni Wood, have combined their expertise in a unique project which will involve questionnaires and semi-structured interviews of a broad section of prison staff as well as inmates with ASD with the aim of increasing our understanding of what areas could be improved on and, crucially, to assist in the development of a toolkit for prison staff in order to try and increase the identification, recognition and understanding of ASD within the prison environment.

Our project addresses a real gap in the research. Research looking at these issues is sparse (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JIDOB-06-2015-0014). Only one study has explored prison staffs’ knowledge and understanding of ASD (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bild/gap/2009/00000010/00000001/art00005) but they all agree that many individuals with ASD do not receive the appropriate care that they need.

This issue of a lack of awareness and recognition of ASD occurs even earlier in the criminal justice process – police interview and court proceedings (Cooper & Allely, 2016; Cooper, Berryessa, & Allely, 2016). Concern has been raised in the literature regarding how juries and judges handle cases involving defendants with ASD.

The modest amount of research on judicial perceptions or decision making regarding defendants with ASD suggests that judges have limited understanding and familiarity with ASD (Freckelton & List, 2009). This is particularly concerning considering that there is some indication in the literature that jurors may hold misconceptions and stigmatising beliefs about ASD which may have a negative impact on the juror’s decision regarding a defendant with ASD.

Some behaviours exhibited by defendants with ASD can be viewed negatively if not understood in the context of the defendant’s condition. Freckelton (2013) detailed the case of State v Burr, 2007 where the defendant, Burr, appeared in court with a bag draped over his head. When asked a question, he would respond with questions from the Book of Deuteronomy. The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Torah (a section of the Hebrew Bible) and the Christian Old Testament. In another case, R v Sultan [2008] EWCA, the Court of Appeal concluded that expert evidence on the defendant’s autism spectrum condition ‘might have gone some way to explain to the jury why the appellant was behaving so oddly at trial, such as reading a book during [the complainant’s] evidence’ (paragraph 34).

As researchers, we aim to increase recognition of this area with the hope that more prisons in the UK will obtain Autism Accreditation and that there is increased awareness of ASD as early as possible in the criminal justice process.

Dr Clare Allely

Lecturer in Psychology, University of Salford

Affiliate member of the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre. University of Gothenburg.

Dr Toni Wood

Lecturer in Criminology, University of Salford

References

Al-Attar, Z. (2016). Autism & Terrorism Links – Fact or Fiction? 15th International Conference on the Care and Treatment of Offenders with an Intellectual and/or Developmental Disability. National Autistic Society. 19-20th April 2016.

Cooper, P., & Allely, C. S. (2016). The Curious Incident of the Man in The Bank: Procedural Fairness and a Defendant with Asperger’s Syndrome. Criminal Law and Justice Weekly, 180 (35), pp. 632-634. http://bit.ly/2cQMnQJ

Cooper, P., Berryessa, C. M., & Allely, C. S. (2016). Understanding what the Defendant with Asperger’s Syndrome Understood: Effective use of expert evidence to inform jurors and judges. Criminal Law and Justice Weekly, 180 (44), pp. 792-794. http://www.criminallawandjustice.co.uk/

See here for related article by the same authors: http://theconversation.com/britains-criminal-justice-system-doesnt-know-what-to-do-about-autism-68996

Social media, neighbourhood relations and the new build estate

15 December 2016

Tina PatelDrawing on data gathered from 70 respondents, this blog reports on a recent study* which examined how residents on a new build estate (referred to here as ‘the Village’) used social media, or more specifically two Facebook pages (referred to here as ‘FB(A)’ and ‘FB(B)’) associated with the Village, to build relationships with one another, develop a sense of pride in place, and, establish ‘rules’ about acceptable neighbourly behaviour.

Both FB(A) and FB(B) had high numbers of members and posts were made on a regular basis on matters usually related to the Village, such as Village events and updates on the next phases of the development, or on issues of interest to its residents and/or members, such as local toddler playgroups and sports clubs. It was also evident that the Facebook pages played a key role in setting standards of neighbourly behaviour and establishing codes of conduct. Although these were informally set and met with varied degrees of conformity. What was clear though was that those who chose to actively use FB(A) and FB(B), found it to be a useful way of being able to create social bonds with other residents and importantly to stay connected whilst physically away from the Village. The Facebook pages also allowed for the development of neighbourhood reciprocity and the strengthening of community spirit in the Village. Many of the respondents were clearly proud of the Village, and engaged in activities which sought to promote its interests.

However, not all members of FB(A) and FB(B) reported positive experiences. This was especially true for members using FB(B), who referred to issues around social media’s anonymity enabling opportunities for abuse, and what they felt were the hidden agendas and self-promotion interests of some of its members. Tensions existed in views about what the neighbourhood rules were, especially in terms of who were considered to be rule-setters and rule-breakers. This appeared an issue given that Facebook allowed more easily for rule-setters and rule-abiders to highlight what they considered to be offending rule-breaking behaviour (or bodies), and in some cases name-and-shame them. It is worth noting that in many ways, the tensions that existed in the Village were linked to the specific difficulties associated with large, diverse new build estates per se – and in many of these cases, social media allowed for support and solutions to be offered to those who reported difficulties.

In short, the study’s findings suggest that neighbouring is still important and brings with it a number of personal and social benefits. But, processes of neighbouring have clearly changed. Specifically, they have moved away from being conducted solely or even largely on a face-to-face basis – not least because our lives are busier, with key commitments (such as sites of employment) occurring in places away from the neighbourhood. In addition, the neighbourhood has grown. It has become more diversified and has come to contain a varied composition of residents whose lives and interests differ enormously from one another. Although this composition issue has not lessened the value of neighbouring, it has nevertheless forced it to change.

It is therefore unsurprising to see neighbouring occurring more regularly in the virtual realm and via the use of social media sites such as Facebook. Neighbouring in this way more readily allows differences to be negotiated, not least because many of these differences can be kept out of view or made relatively insignificant, up to a point at least. Social media, if used considerately, in proportion and with caution, can allow ‘new neighbours’ to initially connect with each other, to build meaningful relationships and to sustain these in ways that a reliance on in-person contact alone could not allow. From this emerge opportunities for healthy and positive neighbourly relations.

* An academic paper based on the study and its findings is currently being prepared.

Dr Tina G. Patel is a senior lecturer in Criminology. To hear more about Tina’s work, you can follow her on Twitter: @DrTinaPatel or in Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrTinaPatel

‘The Last Night of Freedom’ Consumerism, Deviance and the Stag Party

29 November 2016

Tony Ellis“Remember, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is the firm instruction and advice that is given to ‘Doug’, played by American actor Justin Bartha, as he is about to embark on his ‘bachelor party’; his ‘last night of freedom’ before his marriage in the popular comedy film The Hangover. After journeying to Las Vegas with three friends with the intention of just having some drinks together to celebrate Doug’s impending marriage, the following morning his three friends wake up on their hotel room daniel-briggsfloor, hungover, to find a live tiger in their bathroom, a baby in their wardrobe, a chicken wandering aimlessly around empty wine bottles, beer cans, clothes and broken furniture strewn across the floor, and ‘Doug’, the groom, missing. Told through a series of flashbacks as the characters attempt to piece together the night’s events and find their missing compatriot under a mist of collective amnesia, the film focuses upon one night of seemingly unintended extreme drink and drug fuelled revelry that involves deviant and criminal behaviour. The film was released in 2009 and was greeted with positive reviews from critics; earning it the accolade of one of the highest grossing films worldwide during the year of its release.

While the film offers an, at times, very humorous take on what is a well-established rite of passage for men in many Western societies, it actually offers a useful analytical window to a variety of contemporary social issues, such as, gender, risk-taking, self-destruction and harm, deviance, and crime, all of which are tangled up in the aggressive pursuit of personal gratification and pleasure through hyper consumption in one of the world’s numerous ‘party capitals’. Initially in the film, the substances consumed by the actors appear to be the culprits for their sudden descent into raucous, extreme and unrestrained hedonism that leaves a trail of mayhem and destruction in their wake; repeating age-old associations that the ‘drug does the damage to the consumer’. Yet, as the story unfolds, we see aspects of the characters that had remained ‘hidden’ initially. The character ‘Stu’ played by Ed Helms – a discernibly middle class straight-laced dentist who is horrified at waking up to find one of his front teeth is missing and later that he had married a lap dancer during the night – struggles throughout the film to come to terms with the emergence of this seemingly unfamiliar ‘darker side’ that is attached to his personality as well as his exploits during the night that seems to drastically contradict and oppose the values that structure his life and sense of self.

Furthermore, it is through ‘Stu’s’ internal conflict and moral quandary that we can begin to carve out and extract important contemporary sociological themes around self-identity, the pressure and the will to enjoy and consume to sometimes extreme levels, and the kinds of behaviours that emerge in commercially-cultivated contexts where socially-expected normative comportment is largely absent and actually discouraged. Are the character’s drink and drug-fuelled antics simply another exemplar of that old adage of ‘boys will boys’? Is this really how men ‘should’ celebrate the eve of marriage? Or do in fact these behaviours represent manifestations of an obscene form of hyper, or hegemonic (Connell, 2005), masculinity that is performed and embraced in certain contexts? While contemporary notions of masculinity are certainly significant within the film, particularly the connections that are established with risk-taking, self-destruction, heterosexuality, excessive consumption and ‘cool’ individualism, further important questions can be derived in relation to the increasing emphasis that is now being placed contemporarily upon ensuring one is enjoying oneself, taking time out from the ‘pressures’ of work and family life to enjoy the moment, to live for the now, before the arrival of inevitable commitments to partners, children and families which restrict opportunities for hedonistic wanton and crazy indulgence. Central to this are also the numerous consumerist leisure spaces that have been developed to both cater for and promote this ideology. These are all important tropes that are now a highly visible part of our contemporary social life and ones that frequently appear in the marketing and advertising of various consumer products, including the stag/bachelor party and The Hangover film depicting it. We are bombarded with messages that increasingly encourage us to occasionally suspend day-to-day comportment, to take ‘time out’ from our usual routines, to forget our age, profession, responsibilities, and the social expectations/constraints that accompany these to gleefully throw ourselves into supposedly limitless hedonistic pursuits. To what extent is this ‘extension’ of youth or the ‘dissolution’ of life stages that has become symptomatic of life in late capitalist economies (see Hayward, 2012; Smith, 2013) and something many young people must now carefully negotiate (Raymen, 2016), an important context to frame the events within the film, but also the behaviour of the many men we have observed and interviewed in our research study?

While for obvious reasons the antics engaged in by the characters during the film are rather extreme and exaggerated, the connection that is established in the film between deviance, harm, crime and the stag/bachelor party are already quite firmly established ones within popular culture. A brief perusal of media outputs produces numerous stories of British men at home and abroad ending up in trouble because of stag party antics that have ‘gone too far’. A similar perusal of company websites specialising in the sale of stag parties and the various paraphernalia (inflatable sheep, women and phalluses, t-shirts) associated with them provides further evidence of these tropes of edgy, deviant, excessive behaviour, ‘hyper’ masculinity, debauchery, and personal freedom that permeate the stag party. Yet acknowledgement of this is largely ignored in what is a surprisingly small body of academic work carried out on the stag party. The existing sociological work on these events mostly acknowledges and attempts to deal with the ritualistic parodies of humiliation and self-degradation that frequently characterise these events (see Thurnell-Read, 2011; 2012). Finally, anecdotal evidence from large numbers of married men, and those who have attended stag parties, demonstrates the social expectations that quite often accompany these events. We include ourselves in this too: Daniel’s stag party involved excessive alcohol consumption and he was forced to walk up and down a beach covered in glitter, armbands and dressed only in women’s underwear. Although Anthony has not had his own stag party – but will in due course have it – he has attended numerous others. Heavy drinking and pranks, as well as various forms of deviant and in some cases criminal behaviour, were both expected and realised during some of these events. As researchers, we had both encountered and collected qualitative data on stag parties taking place in the night time economy through our respective research projects, and share a mutual interest in deviant, risk-taking and criminal behaviour within this leisure context. So, this quite firmly established relationship was one that we sought to explore further through ethnographic research and together we set about the task of attempting to make some sense of these occasions.tony-ellis-blog

In particular, as discussed above in The Hangover, we were interested in the ways in which excessive alcohol consumption, associated risky behavior and harm can, and very often did, collectively evolve as social norms in these contexts (see Hall and Winlow 2015). What struck us immediately during our observations but also during interviews we conducted was the general expectation and anticipation that the ‘stag’, and his compatriots, should enjoy themselves and this extended to certain activities that they felt theyshould be engaging in. Their expectations were very often for a ‘wild’, ‘mad’, ‘crazy’ night or weekend that would be worthy of a place in folklore; one that the group would remember for the rest of their lives; evidence they had ‘lived’ and would not need to suffer the indignity of remorse or regret over what might have been later in life. There were quite intense feelings of desperation and anxiety when faced with the prospect of having not enjoyed oneself, of having not taken the opportunity, of not having ‘lived’. Amongst many of our respondents this sheer desperation was palpable and was underlined with the threat of feelings of personal humiliation and inadequacy because there were often very awkward assumptions made in relation to what these men had come to learn was expected of them in a leisure context and situation which suspends those constraints that are attached to day-to-day behaviour. Our research shows that many of the things suggested, and which took place, simply echoed much of the commercial ideology surrounding what the stag party has come to be about – a “last night of freedom”, hence the company with the same name offering drinks packages, club entry and the promise of a night surrounded by half-naked beautiful women. Importantly, these various observations extend beyond the mere context of the stag party and the night time economy to various other forms of leisure and spheres of social life. They speak powerfully to life under advanced liberal capitalism and the way in which it has quite fundamentally altered our emotional and collective lives. Feelings of fear, insecurity and precariousness in relation to employment, relationships, friendships, personal identities and leisure can be very typical for increasingly anxious subjects fixated on avoiding a terrifying abyss of social and cultural insignificance that contains the various ‘losers’ in late capitalism’s ubiquitous competitive contests for personal distinction (Hall, 2012; Hall et al, 2008; Horsley, 2015; Smith, 2013; Smith and Raymen, 2015; Standing, 2011; Winlow and Hall, 2009).

As we discuss in our work, risky and potentially harmful activity did trouble some of the men we encountered; catapulting some of them into moral quandaries or dilemmas about their behaviour and the consequences of it. For some, their retrospective musings revolved around a tension between following the strong and palpable injunction to enjoy, the importance of having stories to tell, of being able to say they had ‘lived’. In fact, when we took them aside – out of the group context of pressurised and competitive consumption – some were quite philosophical about these issues, while some were scared and ashamed about what they did. This raises further important questions that criminology should be routinely concerning itself with: namely why, even when faced with the prospect of harming oneself or potentially others, do some individuals act in damaging ways? Furthermore, and in pertinence to the discussion here, why are various forms of harm normalised, accepted, embedded, actively endorsed and encouraged, particularly in commercialised contexts? Our work here along with the cultural significance and positioning of events like stag parties, raises such important and significant questions for criminology and sociology to consider against the broader backdrop of the dominance of consumer capitalism.

You can access the full article published in Deviant Behaviour journal here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01639625.2016.1197678

Dr Anthony Ellis – Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology, University of Salford

Dr Daniel Briggs – Ethnographic Researcher, Universidad Europa de Madrid. For more on Daniel’s work see here: http://alternativevista.com/

References

Connell, R (2005) Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity

Hall S, Winlow, S and Ancrum, C (2008) Criminal Identities and Consumer Culture: Crime, exclusion and the new culture of narcissism.Cullompton: Willan

Hall, S and Winlow, S (2015) Revitalising Criminological Theory: Towards a New Ultra-Realism. London: Routledge

Hayward, K (2012) Pantomime Justice: A cultural criminological analysis of ‘life stage dissolution’ Crime Media Culture. 8 (2) 213-229

Horsley, M (2015) The Dark Side of Prosperity. Surrey: Ashgate

Raymen, T (2016) The Paradox of Parkour: An Exploration of the Deviant-Leisure Nexus in Late-Capitalist Urban Space. University of Durham: PhD Thesis

Smith, O (2013) Easy money: cultural narcissism and the criminogenic markets of the night-time leisure economy. P. 145-158. In S. Winlow and R. Atkinson (eds) New Directions in Crime and Deviancy. London: Routledge

Smith, O, and Raymen, T (2015) Shopping with Violence: Black Friday sales in the British Context. Journal of Consumer Culture. 0 (0) 1-18

Standing, G (2011) The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London: Bloomsbury

Thurnell-Read, T (2011) Off the leash and out of control: Masculinities and embodiment in Eastern European stag tourism. Sociology.Vol 45 (6): 977-991

Thurnell-Read, T (2012) Tourism, Place and Space: British Stag Tourism in Poland. Annals of Tourism Research. Vol. 39, No. 2, p.801-819

Winlow, S and Hall, S (2009) Retaliate first: Memory, humiliation and male violence. Crime Media Culture Vol 5 (3) 285-304

European Society of Criminology Conference

29 September 2016

Tina PatelFrom 21st to 24th September this year, I was lucky enough to spend several days hearing about the work of fellow criminologists (and sociologists of deviance!), at the European Society of Criminology’s Annual Conference, held in Münster, Germany (http://www.eurocrim2016.com/). All matter of criminological subjects were covered … crime prevention, criminal justice processes and systems, victim support, offender motivation, criminal behaviour, to name a few. Typical of the ESC, there were lots of paper presentations – and inevitably this meant I was only able to attend a tiny percent of presentations. Those that I attended covered research work on extremism and terrorism, cybercrime, immigration, honour crimes and sexual violence. I was inspired by the several thought-provoking plenaries, and especially hopeful for the future of critical criminological work when I met a number of postgraduate and early-career researchers.

I was also honoured to have been able to present my own paper. Based on arguments contained in my upcoming book ‘Race and Society’ (to be released in November 2016, by Sage publications), my conference paper was titled ‘Cultural repertoires in the media’s coverage of child sexual exploitation’. In it, I discussed the media’s coverage of two child sexual exploitation (CSE) cases in Rochdale (Greater Manchester) and Rotherham (South Yorkshire), UK. These cases gained prominent media attention in the period between 2010 and 2015. The CSE involved young white female victims and male abusers of black and minority ethnic (BME) background, in particular of Pakistani heritage and of Muslim faith. The paper argued that these cases were narrated in the media entirely through a cultural repertoire, and drew on older racialised panics about the black (or in particular, brown) menace and white victims. This further presented racialized profiling methods as necessary. Apart from the obvious concern around racial profiling, I argue that there is also the problem that the crime of CSE becomes racialised – presented as a form of culturally-specific deviance, rather than one about gender and power. I concluded by emphasising how the media’s racialised (re)presentation of these CSE cases takes into account their relative power in modern society, as well as their status, along with other elites, as joint-producers of information about race and racism.

Thank you to the ESC organisers and delegates for enabling a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking and inspiring conference. And, thank you to the people of Münster for your warm welcome, wonderful weather and delicious food!

Dr Tina G. Patel is a senior lecturer in Criminology. To hear more about Tina’s work, you can follow her on Twitter: @DrTinaPatel.

The politics of race, the place of hate

19 July 2016

Tina PatelIn revisiting older theories on racialisation processes, and in particular the racialisation of crime, I am academically curious about this subject, but at the same time, given that I am what is often referred to as ‘a brown body’ (Patel, 2016) who has felt the venom and impact of racism, I am concerned at what fate lies in wait for me: a brown-bodied (and a dark-skinned one at that) woman of south-Asian heritage – especially within recent times whereby Brexit has once again made it logical and acceptable for some to openly abuse all those considered to be ‘non-White’. I am British, but am always challenged and devoid of its privileges. I am thus, not (nor ever able to be) a ‘true Brit’ – not least because the brown-body does not fit into the racial logic of ‘true Britishness’. Indeed, in recent times – an era marked by terror attacks and child sexual exploitation cases, to be brown (which is always then equated with Muslim-ness), is to be considered anti-British and a security threat, and has been met with numerous attempts by criminal justice agents and their allied services to heighten surveillance, control and ultimately the remove all those considered brown. As I discuss in my forthcoming book, ‘Race and Society’ (Patel, 2016), those who differ racially from the ‘host’ nation are always perceived as ‘immigrants’ of some sort – they can’t be anything else but ‘immigrants’, and illegal ones at that. Craig (2007, cited in Law, 2010: 119) notes how racialised “immigrants have been characterised as ‘cunning’, ‘loathsome’, ‘unprincipled and likely to ‘swamp’ British culture”. A quick scan of the international press on any given day illustrates the staunch fear and hatred with which immigrants have come to be universally viewed. Indeed, many of these sentiments were common place in campaigns on the UK’s recent referendum on EU membership.

As a criminologist though, I am also interested in the way in which race-hate based criminal behaviour also becomes racialised, with offending behaviour carried out by some groups being considered as a rational and excusable response to some other more dangerous threat. That offending behaviour is therefore perceived as non-criminal, or less criminal at least. I argue (2013: 41) that this is because ‘White bodies’ are able to re-assign labels of problem, racist and deviant, largely because of their normative, moral and superior status – a privileged position emerging from centuries of practices in which whiteness has remained unchecked. This reinforces the normality of their racist ideology. In particular, those supporting Far Right ideology, place emphasis on positive approaches to a national identity – which goes hand in hand with a pro-white ideology, and cultural pride, rather than on an anti-black view and motivations of hate (Berbrier 2002). This is a claim made about one Far Right group, the English Defence League, who have been ‘selective’ in its discrimination (Copsey 2010), by carefully harnessing existing culturally racist views within mainstream society, and then going on to re-frame them within discussions about ‘human rights’, ‘English culture’ and the threat of ‘Sharia law…..being adapted and enforced in England’ (English Defence League 2012). I have argued (in Patel, 2013) that this careful re-presentation of Far Right values and beliefs allows for any direct accusations of xenophobia, racism and fascism to be refuted to such a degree that some may now refer to the English Defence League as a social populist mass movement (Allen 2011; Sheffield 2011).

For more on these issues, you can read Tina’s book, ‘Race and Society’, which is published in early Tina Patel book coverNovember 2016. A copy can be pre-ordered at: https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/race-and-society/book242912

Tina Patel Senior lecturer in Criminology

References

Allen, C. (2011). Opposing Islamification or Promoting Islamophobia? Understanding the English Defence League. Patterns of Prejudice. 45(4), pp. 279-294

Berbrier, M. (2002). Making Minorities: Cultural Space, Stigma Transformation Frames, and the Categorical Status Claims of Deaf, Gay, and White Supremacist Activists in Late Twentieth Century America. Sociological Forum. 17(4), pp. 553-591.

Copsey, N. (2010). The English Defence League: Challenging Our Country and Our Values of Social Inclusion, Fairness and Equality. UK, Faith Matters.

English Defence League (2012). Mission Statement. [Online]. (Retrieved April 2012) (URL: http://englishdefenceleague.org/about-us/mission-statement/)

Law, Ian (2010) Racism and Ethnicity: Global Debates, Dilemmas, Directions. Harlow: Longman.

Patel, T.G. (2013) Ethnic Deviant Labels within the ‘War on Terror’ Context: Absolving White Deviance. Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp. 34-50. http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/data/ip/ip021/docs/Vol_4_Iss_1.pdf

Patel, T.G (2016) Race and Society. London: Sage. Forthcoming – November 2016.

Sheffield, J. (2011). “Bye-Bye Fascists”: A Critical Analysis of the English Defence League. Internet Journal of Criminology. [Online]. (Retrieved April 2012) (URL: http://www.internetjournalofcriminology.com/Sheffield_A_Critical_Analysis_of_the_English_Defence_League_IJC_Aug_2011.pdf)

A presentation and a pleasant surprise

12 July 2016

Tony EllisI recently attended, and presented at, the British Society of Criminology’s (BSC) annual conference in Nottingham, which was held from 6th – 8th July 2016. The theme of the conference was Inequalities in a Diverse World and I took this opportunity to speak to other delegates about the threat of interpersonal violence; a threat that particular groups who are disadvantaged and made vulnerable by various inequalities continue to face.

For the last two decades official data on crime namely police recorded crime and the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), have indicated a sustained decline in violent crimes; although this trend has recently halted with some increases in several types of violence, including ‘domestic’ violence and homicide. While the longer term trends are encouraging, these recent recorded rises require our attention and, in this vein, I have recently written critically in several publications about some of the conclusions that are being drawn from these longer term trends (see Ellis, 2015; 2016). Importantly, the fact that some of them seem to be glossing over somewhat the persistence of violence in some people’s lives, particularly those experiencing multiple forms of disadvantage.

This was the focus of my ethnographic research in the North of England with men involved in serious violence. This work was recently published as a monograph with Routledge (Ellis, 2016) and was nominated for the BSC’s Critical Criminology Network book prize (sponsored by Palgrave Macmillan) prior to the conference. I drew upon data and analytical insights from this research in my conference paper to suggest that evidence of a violence decline had not penetrated down to the everyday understandings and perceptions of the men that I spent time with. On the contrary, they believed themselves to be enlightened individuals who had seen the world for what it truly is: competitive and unforgiving. As I explained to delegates, they are cynical realists who felt pacifism or a refusal to engage in violence when threatened, were not viable options. Their firm commitment to using violence against others was driven by the omnipresent threat of humiliation and social insignificance, which they believed go hand-in-hand with passivity. They felt it was better to accept the inevitability of violence and prepare yourself physically and mentally to deal with it. Those who did not were considered foolish, naïve, unworldly and destined for a life of shame, self-loathing and regret for failing to stand up for or show any respect for themselves.

These men’s lives, their experiences and the general themes covered in the conference paper are discussed in much greater depth in my book, which I was delighted to find out during the conference had won the Critical Criminology Network prize. The award was formally announced at the conference dinner alongside the winners of several of this year’s other prizes.

Anthony Ellis

Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology

References

Ellis, A (2016) Men, Masculinities and Violence: An Ethnographic Study. London: Routledge

Ellis, A (2015) ‘Hard Evidence: crime rates are down, but is the world a less harmful place?’ The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/hard-evidence-crime-rates-are-down-but-is-the-world-a-less-harmful-place-46654

 

Unlocking the Knowledge and Experience of Autism in the Prison: A Staff and Inmate Perspective

11 July 2016

Clare AllelyHer Majesty’s Young Offenders Institute (HMYOI) Feltham is the first prison or young offender institution in the country to be awarded Autism Accreditation. Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institute (HMYOI) Feltham has been working with The National Autistic Society (NAS) for over two years to improve the way they support offenders with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who are in custody. The aim of Accreditation is to improve autism practice across all areas of prison life, including: admission, prison staff training, behaviour management and the physical environment, with the long term aim of tackling issues often faced by prisoners with ASD and ultimately reducing the risk of recidivism in this group.

Clare Hughes, Criminal Justice Manager for Autism Accreditation, The National Autistic Society, said: “We’re delighted to award Feltham with Autism Accreditation and that the Minister could be here to mark this important moment”.

Clare Hughes goes on to highlight a number of important issues: “Autistic people can end up in the prison system, just like anyone else. But their experience is often more traumatic because their additional needs aren’t recognised and met. This pilot has made clear that improved understanding of autism among prison staff, simple adjustments and better support can address many of these issues and improve prison life for prisoners and staff alike” (http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/media-centre/news/2016-02-25-first-autism-accredited-prison.aspx).

However, despite prison interest and some prisons being involved with pilot work within the UK, Feltham remains the only prison in the UK to have Autism Accreditation. Given that there are a number of studies suggesting that the prevalence of ASD is higher in the prison population when compared to the general population (e.g., Scragg & Shah, 1994), it highlights the urgent need for more prisons to gain Autism Accreditation and for further research to gain more of an understanding the specific needs of inmates with ASD and prison staffs knowledge of the disorder.

Recognising the importance of research in this field, lecturers at the University of Salford, Dr Clare Allely and Dr Toni Wood, have combined their expertise in a unique project which will involve questionnaires and semi-structured interviews of a broad section of prison staff as well as inmates with ASD with the aim of increasing our understanding of what areas could be improved on and, crucially, to assist in the development of a toolkit for prison staff in order to try and increase the identification, recognition and understanding of ASD within the prison environment.

Our project addresses a real gap in the research. To date, the research looking at these issues is sparse. In fact, to date, there has only been one study which has explored prison staffs’ knowledge and understanding of ASD (McAdam, 2009). McAdam (2009) identified five prisoners with a diagnosis of an ASD (four with a diagnosis of AS and one with autism) over six months in one of the largest prisons in England. Two of the five seemed to need little support but the other three struggled significantly with the prison environment. Overall, McAdam (2009) emphasised that in prison, many individuals with ASD do not receive the appropriate care that they need. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed.

The importance of projects such as the one by Dr Toni Wood and Dr Clare Allely cannot be stressed enough when you read the literature which suggests that individuals with ASD are more vulnerable to bullying and social isolation within the prison environment (Allely, 2015a). In a review of the literature published last year, Allely (2015b) identified only four studies which investigated the experience of individuals with ASD in the prison. While important and increasing the awareness of this area, all four studies involved case studies and small samples.

The case reports reviewed by Allely (2015b) clearly highlighted that inmates with ASDs can experience numerous difficulties within the prison environment such as poor relationships with prison staff and other inmates. Specifically it is important to bear in mind that the environment is experienced as particularly stressful, distressing and intense for many individuals with ASD compared to their neuro-typical fellow inmates. These findings are also supported in another review which was published around the same time (Robertson & McGillivray, 2015).

However, as highlighted by Dr Clare Allely and Dr Toni Wood, there is a significant lack of empirical research investigating the experiences of individuals with ASD in the prison environment and prison staffs’ knowledge and understanding of the disorder. Our aim is that the findings from this project, and the development of the toolkit, will help inform appropriate and effective provisions, interventions and support for individuals with ASD in prison. Additionally, to increase awareness and identification of individuals with ASD in the prison environment (McCarthy, Chaplin, Underwood, Forrester, Hayward et al., 2015a; Underwood, McCarthy, Chaplin, Forrester, Mills, & Murphy, 2016). Ultimately, we hope to increase recognition of this area with the hope that more prisons in the UK will seek Autism Accreditation.

The urgency of further research is further emphasised by a number of studies which have shown that the severity of ASD traits is a risk factor for suicidality and common mental health issues in prison inmates (McCarthy, Underwood, Hayward, Chaplin, Forrester, Mills, & Murphy, 2015b).

The researchers on this project state that “It is hoped that this project is just the beginning of much more research in this relatively neglected area that we will be working on in years to come”. 

References

Allely, C. S. (2015a). Autism spectrum disorders in the criminal justice system: police interviewing, the courtroom and the prison environment. Recent Advances in Autism, 1-13.

Allely, C. S. (2015b). Experiences of prison inmates with autism spectrum disorders and the knowledge and understanding of the spectrum amongst prison staff: a review. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, 6(2), 55-67.

Lewis, A., Pritchett, R., Hughes, C., & Turner, K. (2015). Development and implementation of autism standards for prisons. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, 6(2), 68-80.

McAdam, P. (2009). Knowledge and understanding of the autism spectrum amongst prison staff. Good Autism Practice (GAP), 10(1), 19-25.

McCarthy, J., Chaplin, E., Underwood, L., Forrester, A., Hayward, H., Sabet, J., … & Murphy, D. (2015a). Screening and diagnostic assessment of neurodevelopmental disorders in a male prison. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, 6(2), 102-111.

McCarthy, J., Underwood, L. I. S. A., Hayward, H., Chaplin, E., Forrester, A., Mills, R., & Murphy, D. (2015b). Autism Spectrum Disorder and Mental Health Problems Among Prisoners. European Psychiatry, 30, 864.

Robertson, C. E., & McGillivray, J. A. (2015). Autism behind bars: a review of the research literature and discussion of key issues. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 26(6), 719-736.

Scragg, P., & Shah, A. (1994). Prevalence of Asperger’s syndrome in a secure hospital. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 165(5), 679-682.

Underwood, L., McCarthy, J., Chaplin, E., Forrester, A., Mills, R., & Murphy, D. (2016). Autism spectrum disorder traits among prisoners. Advances in Autism, 2(3).

Clare Allely Lecturer in Psychology