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Constructive Connections: building resilience of families affected by the criminal justice system

8 July 2020

Dr Kelly Lockwood, Lecturer in Criminology, has co-authored – with Professor Tony Long and others – a new report into how best to help build resilience among families impacted upon by the criminal justice system. The authors’ work Constructive Connections: building resilience of
families affected by the criminal justice system
, researched young people’s views about their encounters with the CJS. The report highlights that the key message from young people was the need to humanise their experience – from arrest of a parent to the years after their release: “They felt themselves to be victimised by the authorities and by the community, and this led to massive disruption in their lives: the loss of their childhood”.

Read the report’s Executive Summary here

Please cite as: Long T, Lockwood K, Raikes B, Sharratt K, Loucks N, Nugent B (2019) Constructive Connections: building resilience in families affected by the criminal justice system. University of Salford, University of Huddersfield,
Families Outside. ISBN 978-1-912337-28-6

Exploring migrant sex work in ‘Brexit Britain’

8 July 2020

Dr Laura Connelly, Lecturer in Criminology, and expert on issues within the context of the sex industry, is current collaborating with Fez Endalaust (SWARM) and the English Collective of Prostitutes on a project exploring migrant sex work in ‘Brexit’ Britain. The project examines how the effects of the (quasi)criminalisation of sex work are compounded by changes in immigration policy and practice.

UK homicide rates are up amongst young men, and austerity and inequality may be to blame

8 July 2020

Dr Antony Ellis, Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology, has published an article in The Conversation and a blog for the London School of Economics discussing explanations for the steady year-on-year increase in the UK’s homicide rate since March 2015 which has affected young men in particular.

Tony highlights in The Conversation article that “The sharp rise in homicide among disadvantaged young men since 2015 correlates with intensifying austerity. Like men who came of age during the 1980s, today’s disadvantaged youth have grown up in the aftermath of a global recession and amid austerity that has limited their prospects. This raises another tragic reality of rising violence today. As during previous rises, largely disadvantaged and insecure young men are competing with one another for reputation and social status. In the process, they’re turning on men just as disadvantaged, economically marginalised and politically abandoned as them“.

Salford Professor Neal Hazel engages with Youth Justice policy and practice audiences

8 July 2020

Salford Professor Neal Hazel has been speaking to Youth Justice policy-makers and practitioners around the UK, with a focus on innovation in the sector. In January 2020, Neal delivered a keynote address to Kent Hackathon 2020, Ashford, Kent. This large practice workshop for the police and other criminal justice professionals was designed to help participants think innovatively about new ways to prevent serious violence.

In 2019 Neal presented at Constructive Resettlement and Child First to leaders across the youth custodial estate on developing a new model for thinking about working with children. He also spoke at the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance Conference, Birmingham, on The youth justice system and the arts

Understanding lethal violence in the post-2008 crash landscape

8 July 2020

Dr Antony Ellis, Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology, has published a theoretically-ground-breaking article on the rise in lethal violence in post-2008 recession United Kingdom in the British Journal of Criminology. His article offers theoretical analysis and reflections on the recent rises in lethal violence recorded in the United Kingdom. The rises have attracted considerable media attention. More informed discussions have drawn plausible causal associations between rising lethal violence and the policy context of austerity. Criminology, however, has been relatively silent so far on the recent rises and this potential association. In response, Anthony’s article critically considers the utility of one of the most widely cited theoretical frameworks in the study of historical patterns of violence in the western nations: the ‘civilizing process’. It then moves on to consider the applicability of insights from the ultra-realist criminological perspective. The article suggests that the ultra-realist concept of the ‘pseudo-pacification process’ provides a useful means of furthering our understanding of these rises in the current socioeconomic context of post-crash capitalism.

Salford Professor appointed to the Youth Justice Board by the Secretary of State

8 July 2020

The start of the new year 2018 has been an exciting time for Professor Neal Hazel, who was appointed to the Youth Justice Board. Find out more here.

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