Posts from July 2016

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:

Tina Patel Senior lecturer in Criminology


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:

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.

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:

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


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.


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” (

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”. 


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