The Deportation of Chevon Brown – A Breach of Human Rights?

It can be difficult to find easy to understand examples of the state breaching individual human rights, but the recent deportation of Chevon Brown might just be one such example.

This case study from February 2020 is relevant to the ‘state crime and human right’s topic within the A-level sociology Crime and Deviance module.

In February 2020 Chevon Brown was deported to Jamaica from the United Kingdom.

He had just been released from Prison having served 8 months of a 14 month sentence for danagerous driving and driving with no insurance.

He was 21 when he decided to take his car for a spin, despite being a learner driver with no insurance, and when he saw police, he says he panicked, and sped up, which led to a 5 minutes high speed chase, and he puts his actions down to stupidity, and he’s paid the ultimate price.

Britain has the right to deport foreign citizens who have been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison, under the UK Borders Act, which came into force in 2007, unless doing so would infringe their human rights, by sending them back to a country where their life would be at threat, for example.

Chevon was 14 when he moved to Britain with his father on a Jamaican Passport. Despite having ‘indefinite leave to remain’ in the UK, he is still technically a Jamaican national, and so the UK had the right to deport him.
The problem is, he no longer has any friends or family in Jaimaica, and his father is remaining in the UK, with his other children.

Since returning to Jamaica, Chevon says he doesn’t feel safe. “I am nervous walking down the street,” he says. “Anything could happen – every day people die here.”

According to UN data, Jamaica had a murder rate of 47 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016. In the UK, the rate was 1 per 100,000.

Chevon was deported along with 40 other criminals, many of whom had committed more serious offenses, such as murder, and he says the Jamaican media as labelled them all with the same brush, so it is difficult for him to make friends or find a job.

Sources – The BBC News May 2020.

Sociological Questions to consider about this case study

  1. Is deportation for ‘dangerous driving’ an appropriate punishment?
  2. Given his lack of friends and family in Jamaica, the alleged discrimination he’s facing (due to negative media labeling) and his increased chance of being murdered, did the UK government breach his human rights by deporting him?
  3. Is this deportation an example of institutional racism?
  4. Do you think the original decision to imprison him for 14 months was fair, or just another example of institutional racism?

By contrast you might want to consider this in relation to the case of Anne Sacoolas, the American Diplomat’s Wife who actually killed a British Teenager by driving on the wrong side of the road, fled back to America and is now being protected by the US Government, rather than being deported back to the UK to stand trial.

How Coronavirus is changing crime and deviance

The societal reaction to Coronavirus is certainly a very stark illustration of the context dependency of crime and deviance…..

The recent emergency legislation which put the country into lockdown has made a whole swath of previously ‘normal activities’ deviant, if not criminal, and it’s changing the nature of what we think of as both criminal and deviant.

The Emergency Legislation in the UK: Grey Areas

The ‘government advice’ is that no one is allowed to go out of doors without good excuse, which includes:

  • Buying essential food and medical supplies for you own household and vulnerable people
  • Getting money, to exercise and for essential work
  • To avoid injury, illness or risk of harm. 

Social gatherings of more than two people are also banned except from within the same household.

Emergency legislation gives police the powers to enforce lockdown laws, by insisting people go home and by issuing fines of up to £60, arrest, or dispersal using reasonable force.

However, it’s unclear about what actually constitutes deviance with the above advice and legislation: the law doesn’t state how many times people are allowed out, what constitutes food, and while advice says stay local when doing exercise, it doesn’t specify what local means!

As a result, there is room for interpretation over what constitutes ‘deviant behaviour’, and the police in some areas have been more rigorous in enforcing the lockdown than in others.

So what counts as deviant in the age of the lockdown?

There is some uncertainty, but clarity seems to be emerging as the agents of social control offer more explicit guidelines on what people can and cannot do, hence why this bizarre situation is such a wonderful example of the context dependency of deviance…..

Deviant: Sunbathing, picnicking and playing sports

For example Liverpool Council have made it clear that you can go outside if you keep moving (the ticks below) but not to stop or play sports…..

The police’s reaction to various people flouting lockdown rules also gives further clarification:

Deviant: Not social distancing

People are now being fined for getting too close to other people.

The first example of this I know of was Steve Mackie, who was fined £500 for ‘repeatedly approaching people queuing‘ outside a certain branch of Tesco.

The police have also allegedly fined some runners for ‘running to close to people‘.

Deviant: letting your kids outside four times in one day

A father in the West Midlands was recently fined £680 because his son had been spotted outside by the police four times in one day. I feel sorry for this guy, I can imagine it’s tough to have to keep your teenage kids indoors at this time.

Deviant: taking a 240 mile round trip to buy bread

One guy was recently stopped by the police doing 110 MPH on the motorway, he tried to explain his driving-jolly as buying bread, but he didn’t get away with it.

Here at least is some clarity on what counts as local – not 120 miles away!

Deviant: running for more than 30 minutes?

Michael Gove recently suggested that people shouldn’t be running for more than 30 minutes….

So am I a criminal?

Upgraded to assault: spitting at key workers

Spitting or coughing at key workers may now be prosecuted as ‘common assault’. One man has already been jailed for 26 weeks for spitting at a police officer, saying he wanted to give her Covid-19.

Fair enough I say, just being a thoroughly unpleasant individual.

Coronavirus: making it easier for some ‘normal’ criminals

Meanwhile there is one criminal activity you’re less likely to be prosecuted for – watching your T.V. without a licence because enforcement letters and visits have been stopped. I guess it makes sense keeping in mind how crucial TV is for social control!

Finally, trials for all non serious crimes have been put on hold, so I guess some criminals are actually getting some extra free time to enjoy their ‘softer’ variety of lockdown (rather than jail)

What is Social Control?

Social control refers to the mechanisms a society uses to get individuals to conform. This post covers sociological perspectives on social control such as Functionalism, Marxism and Interactionism

A broad definition of social control is ‘all of the formal and informal mechanisms and internal and external controls that operate to produce conformity’*

Social control is the opposite of deviance. Sociologists of deviance ask ‘why do people break social norms and values’? Social control theorists ask ‘why do people conform to social norms and values’?

NB for students studying the crime and deviance component of A-level sociology, most resources tend to focus on the ‘crime and deviance‘ aspect, NOT the social control aspect, but the question of why people conform is just as important as the question of why people break the rules!

Origins of the Concept of Social Control

The concept is often traced back to the seventeenth century Philosopher Thomas Hobbes who argued that in a society of self-interested individuals a great power (the State) was needed to prevent things deteriorating into a war of all against all.

Individuals agreed to give up some of their individual freedoms by promising to obey the laws of the State, and in return the State promised to protect individuals.

Talcottt Parsons (1937) developed one of the earliest sociological perspectives on social control. He argued that conformity was not just produced by external agencies coercing individuals to obey rules through the threat of punishment, but also through individuals internalizing norms and values through socialization.

Travis Hirschi (1969) developed this idea further when he argued that juvenile delinquency was the result of an individual’s bonds to society were weakened. His theory emphasized the importance of ties to family, peers and other social institutions such as education and work as important in maintaining social control.

Types of social control theory

One way of dividing up theories of social control is to separate them into conformity producing and deviance repressing approaches (Hudson 1997) suggested there were

Conformity producing theories tend to focus on how people learn to conform by internalising social norms and taking on social roles (like with the Functionalist view of the family or education)

Deviance repressing theories tend to look at the relationship between deviance behaviour and the measures used to reduce it (like with right and left realist approaches to deviance).

Better methods combine both types of approach

Parsons’ approach to social control

Parsons was interested in the question of how societies produce enough conformity to reproduce themselves (or carry on) across several generations.

He pointed out that the majority of people to do not seem to mind conforming to most of society’s norms and values for most of the time during most of their lives. In other words most people willingly conform.

Parsons argued that socialization was central to this ‘willing conformity’. Socialization within institutions such as the family and education helped individuals to internalize the norms and values of a society and convince people that a ‘good-person’ was one who willingly conformed to society’s rules.

Matza’s Techniques of Neutralisation

David Matza’s work on ‘techniques of neutralisation’ supported this view. He pointed out that even people who broke the laws of society still shared the general values of that society.

Matza argued that when people committed deviant acts, they employed ‘techniques of neutralisation’ to explain why they had broken social norms and/ or values.

Techniques of neutralization may include such things as ‘I was drunk, so I was out of control’ or ‘that person is nasty, they deserved it’, and they are used by individuals to justify why they were temporarily deviance on that particular occasion.

Matza argued that ‘techniques of neutralisation’ enabled people to convince themselves that there were exceptional circumstances which explained their occasional acts of deviance, while at the same time allowing them to maintain their self-concept as someone who generally conforms to social norms most of the time.

Hirschi’s Control Theory

Hirschi’s theory of social control emphasized the importance of attachments and social bonds. The more bonds an individual has to society, the more time he or she spends involved with other people and social institutions, then the less likely that individual is to commit deviance.

In Hirschi’s theory, deviance doesn’t really need explaining: it happens whenever an individual is cut free from social bonds and has the opportunity to be deviant.

Marxist Approaches to Social Control

Unlike the three consensus approaches above, Marxists tend to see social control as being consciously or unconsciously ‘engineered’ by the capitalist class and the state.

In terms of ‘conformity producing’ approaches – Marxists see the norms and values of education as working to produce a docile and passive workforce – as outlined in Bowles and Gintis’ Correspondence Theory.

The media is also seen as an important agent of social control – processes such as agenda setting and gatekeeping mean the elite’s view of the world is presented as normal, thus producing ideological control.

Marxists are also critical of how ‘deviance is reduced’ – seeing the police as working with the elite and the state – working class street crime is, for example, over-policed and prosecuted, while Corporate Crime is relatively under-policed and prosecuted.

Interactionist Approaches to Social Control

The labelling perspective sees social control and deviance as having an ironic relationship.

The more the agencies of social control try to prevent deviance, by labelling and policing certain behaviours as deviant, then the more deviance will be created.

A lot of research from the interactionist perspective has focused on how it is certain types of people (rather than behaviours) who tend to get labelled as deviant, and thus are more likely to become deviant.

Sources

(*) Giddens and Sutton (2017) Essential Concepts in Sociology

Global phishing scams – too difficult to stop?

A recent BBC Panorama documentary provides an insight into how global computer fraud works. The documentary focuses on one criminal organisation based in India who use phishing scams to extract hundreds of pounds out of their victims.

This is a good example of a global crime, and clearly relevant to both globalisation and crime and deviance. In this case the scammer-criminals are in India, their victims in Great Britain, America and Australia.

In the UK we get 21 million scam calls a month, 8 every second, and some scamming organisations can make millions of dollars a year from their victims.

The program starts by focusing on ‘scambaiters’ – individuals who play along with the scammers and film themselves on YouTube doing so. Some (who don’t film themseves) go further and use hacking to try and disrupt the scammers.

One of the people who ‘hacks the hackers’ calls himself Jim Browning on YouTube – the video below give you an idea of what he does!

He seems to be quite a successful anti-hacker – he’s gained control of one call center’s security cameras and managed to record details of 70 000 scam calls.

How the scams work

The scammers in call centers in India take control of people’s computers, and freeze them. A pop up window then tells them their computer has been infected with a virus, and their security compromised, as well as providing a a ‘Microsoft’ (or something similar) number to call to fix the problem.

The scammers in the call center (NOT working for Microsoft) then tell their victims their computer is infected, that their money is at risk and charge them hundreds of pounds to ‘remove’ the ‘viruses’

Police in the UK get around 50 000 reports every year of Indian scams, and police in the UK have successfully worked with police in India to shut down several call centers, but there are many more that have not been shut down, and some of those that do will re-open shortly afterwards in a slightly different location.

High reward and low risk…

For the scammers it would seem there is a lot of potential reward ($10s of thousands) and very little risk of getting caught or punished.

Part of the reason for the low prosecution rates is that the police in India need complaints from victims in the UK (or wherever they may be based) in order to take action against a call center.

All of this further complicated by international payment companies not doing enough to restrict illegal business operations – the documentary uses evidence collected by Jim Browning to track one guy (Amit Chauhan) running an illegal call center who uses PayPal to extract hundreds of thousands of dollars every month from his victims, despite PayPal being aware of the allegations against the scammer.

Final thoughts… to difficult to police?

The documentary ends on a rather depressing note – the guy above hasn’t been prosecuted, and it seems this is going to be an ongoing problem for years to come….

The deportations of foreign nationals – an example of a state crime?

The British government recently tried to deport 42 Jamaican nationals who had committed offences and in the United Kingdom and served more than 12 months in jail.

However, a last minute human rights challenge in the Court of Appeal meant that only 17 were deported and 25 were taken off the plane, because for the government to deport them would have been against their human rights, protected under International Law.

Many of those people who were saved from deportation had come to Britain from Jamaica as children, and had lived in Britain for several years, some for over a decade, and some even had families here.

The government attempted to claim that all 42 had been committed of serious offences. Some had, but others appear to have been committed on relatively minor drugs offences.

One of the people taken off the flight (according to this BBC article) had actually served for the British army in Afghanistan, had been diagnosed with PTSD and been convicted of GBH, related to his poor mental health.

Is this a state crime?

Technically the government has the right to deport people who have committed an offence that resulted in more than 12 months in jail, UNLESS it is against their human rights.

So whether these deportations are examples of state crimes depends on whether deporting them harms their human rights….

The guidelines for this lie in the United Nation’s charter of Human Rights, and as far as I’m aware the lawyers for the 25 people taken off the plane picked up on article number 8 – the right to legal support if we are treated unfairly.

There’s also a possibility that deporting people with young families breaches article number 16.

Is this an effective measure of control?

While shipping criminals out of the country is obviously a very effective way of getting rid of criminals, and a pretty effective deterrent, I have to ask what the effect of this will be on those leaving behind younger children?

What do you think? Is this an appropriate response, should criminals’ individual rights be taken into account in such matters?

No Third Runway @ Heathrow – a nice illustration of the complexities of globalisation

the third runway at Heathrow, shows the evolution of green crime and the complex nature of globalisation.

Plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport have been ruled illegal by the court of appeal because they are not compatible with the UK’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

The UK government signed up to the zero-carbon by 2050 target as part of the recent Paris agreement, and now that it’s ratified any future national development plans must be as close to carbon neutral as possible.

Ministers have two choices now. They can withdraw the whole policy statement or try to amend it to make it to make the proposed Heathrow development carbon neutral.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This event fits in well to the Global Development module and also ‘Green Crime’ topic within Crime and Deviance.

This event shows how environmental law, specially relating to climate change, is evolving. This ruling was the first time in history that a government project was declared illegal because of the future harm it might do to the environment.

It’s also an example of the paradoxes, contradictions or conflicts within globalisation – we’re effectively preventing one form of globalisation (flying) because of another emerging global norm – the consensus around the need to take action on climate change.

It’s a great example of the power of social movements – the UK government DID NOT take into account the climate impact of the Heathrow third runway in its initial development report, and it was a legal charity ‘Plan B’ which took them to the court of appeal, which then declared the government was acting illegally.

NB this isn’t an example of a global law – the Paris agreement is a treaty, the UK government voluntarily ratified it, making it UK law, and that’s why it’s binding – it requires the Nation State to have made it illegal to NOT consider the carbon impact of development projects.

Hence it’s debatable whether this kind of anti-development trend is going to become a truly global norm going forwards – the U.S. and China are hardly likely to ratify the Paris agreements, for example.

NB – we might still get more airport capacity, just not at Heathrow. Birmingham, following HS2 is one possibility for future airport expansion.

And pollution up north matters less than in London, so more planes up there probably wouldn’t be illegal, let alone a catastrophe.

Sources/ find out more

The Guardian – third runway ruled illegal.

The Cyprus Rape Case – A Sad Example of Victim Blaming

You might have seen the unfolding of the ‘Cyprus gang rape case‘ over recent months.

This seems to be a good example of how the courts in Cyprus engage in ‘victim blaming’ when it comes to rape, and seems to illustrate many of the ideas of radical feminism – about how patriarchal institutions punish women for the violence men do against them. It’s of obvious relevance to Feminist theory applied to Crime and Deviance.

The Cyprus Rape Case…

On 17th July 2019 a British woman filed a report in a police station in Ayia Napa claiming she had been gang raped by 12 Israeli men. The men were detained, and various examinations carried out, linking 7 of them to the alleged victim through DNA evidence and or shared scratches/ bruises. The incident was also filmed.

On 27th July the victim visited the police station again, to give a statement, but after 8 hours of questioning without a lawyer retracted her original report saying she had consented to having sex with all 12 men.

The alleged rapists were then released and allowed to go home to Israel while the British woman was charged by the Cypriot authorities with making a false statement – and had to spend the next 6 months on bail why she waited for her trial to take place.

On the fourth of January, the woman was found guilty of misleading the police, but the judge refused to take into account certain crucial pieces of evidence – he didn’t even look at the video footage which was taken, for example.

As punishment she received a four month sentence, and was allowed to return home to the UK, and she is now going to appeal her conviction.

If you want to find out more, from a Feminist perspective, then this Huffington Post article is a useful source.

IMO this is a grim case which clearly shows the lengths the police and the courts will go to in Cyprus to protect men by blaming women who get gang raped.

Keeping Women out of Prison

Why do women offend, reoffend and how do we break the cycle?

This recent Positive Thinking Podcast on radio 4 (30 December 2019) explores why women offend, reoffend and how to break the cycle.

It has obvious relevance to the Crime and Deviance module and this is also an excellent example of a Feminist inspired programme, with the focus on stories rather than stats and solutions rather than causes.

Women make up a tiny proportion of the overall prison population and are twice as likely as men to be given a short sentence (of two years or less). However, the reoffending rates for women given short sentences is around 70% compared to men’s which is 20%.

It’s suggested that short prison sentences hit women a lot harder than men, especially the 50% of them who have children. A short sentence is just enough to mess up their lives and break down their social and emotional support networks, but not enough time for them to receive the structured support/ therapy that might help them break out bad habits such as substance abuse, for example.

The programme is co-presented by an ex-offender, Whitney, who has had 10 convictions for offences such as drugs and carrying weapons, and has spent time in jail. The programme focuses a lot on her story about why she started and continued offending ( rather than focusing on statistics) but its real focus is on solutions.

Whitney’s case is presented as ‘typical’ and it’s pretty bleak (well worth a listen first five mins of the podcast) – she was abused as a four year old by someone known to the family, and taken into foster care at 7 years of age along with here siblings, then spent the next several years in various foster homes, making 47 run-away attempts during that period. She was also excluded from multiple schools.

Eventually the authorities let the siblings go back and live with their mother, it seems because of their belligerence, but rows happened between Whitney and her mother, and that’s where her criminal record started. However, it was getting caught carrying a knife that led to her first jail sentence – she never used or drew the knife, just carried it for self defence, and she didn’t actually get a jail sentence for carrying it – she got sent down for failing to stick to the restrictions but on her as part of her remand-sentence – interfering with her tag and staying out clubbing after curfew.

She describes going to jail for 2 months as something which ‘broke her’ – she says she saw women going and coming back during that time, saw and learnt things that maybe she never should have.

Probably the most interesting section is when Whitney asks ‘could I as a four year old stopped myself from being abused? Could I as a 7 year old stopped my siblings being taken into care?’

The answer – ‘Probably not’ reminds us that Whitney is actually a victim of abuse, and that’s the root cause of her offending behaviour, so maybe being tough on such people by giving them prison sentences is not the right answer, especially when the stats show that prison does very little to break the cycle of offending.

Solutions – breaking the cycle of offending

The show looks at three projects working on solutions – one of the most interesting is a hair dressing salon in Dagenham, Essex, in which one enterprising woman trains ex offenders and drug users in level one hair dressing.

Part of the reason this works is that hairdressing is very social, and so it gives the students a connection to ‘normal’ life – and the feeling that ‘other people’ are interested in them – one student referred to didn’t have that as all she’d ever known was abusive relationships.

This project is really about going back to the very basics and just giving women the building blocks to structure their lives, and it seems to work – out of more than 40 people who took the course, only 3 didn’t complete it – 1 died and 2 went back to their own ways.

It’s worth mentioning that are some obvious links to left realist criminology here!

There are two other solutions mentioned, but I’ll let you listen to this excellent podcast to find out about them, it really is well worth a listen!

The Forced Labour behind Christmas Cards

A family recently found a plea for help in a ‘charity’ Christmas Card from Tesco. The message read “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organisation.”

The Christmas Card in which the plea for help was found!

According to this Sky News report, the message requested that whoever read it contact a British journalist, Peter Humphrey who had himself been incarcerated in the same prison (on false charges), and forced to make Christmas related products for various other big name high street companies. The family contacted Humphrey, who validated the message.

This is at least the third time that someone has found a similar message in products made in Chinese prisons.

Relevance to A-level sociology

  • Firstly, this is a good example of negative globalisation – where the most oppressed people in one of the most oppressive nations on earth suffer at the end of a global supply chain which delivers consumers in the UK cheap products, in this case Christmas cards.
  • Secondly, it’s a good example of Corporations engaging in what Matza might call the ‘denial of responsibility’ – even though they benefit from the cheap (/free) labour of Chinese prisoners, they can deny responsibility because the supply chain is so large they claim they can’t check every case of human rights abuses which goes on along it. It’s a case of out of site, out of mind.
  • Finally, it’s another reminder of the fact that that China is a human rights abuser and a state criminal actor.

Final thoughts

If you want an ethical Christmas, I recommend you don’t celebrate it – do what I do and just start your New Year’s detox early instead!

China’s Persecution of the Uighurs – A Horrible Example of a State Crime

The Chinese government is currently engaged in an ongoing act of cultural genocide against the Uighur Muslims, a minority population within North Western China.

As part of this cultural genocide, 15000 mosques have already been bulldozed and thousands of Uighur Muslims have been rounded up and forced into ‘re-education’ camps (which the Chinese government calls ‘job training’ centers.

In these camps they are forced to renounce their faith and their traditions, and to speak Mandarin Chinese.

The Chinese state has used surveillance technology including facial recognition, mandatory fingerprinting, Iris scans, and routine checks on phones, combined with AI based predictive software to flag up suspects who ‘refuse alcohol’ or who ‘discuss the Koran’.

The camps were constructed following a series of terror attacks in the region, leaked government documents have President Xi dictating his officials to show ‘no mercy’ in the battled against extremists, and that anyone ‘infected’ by extremism requires a painful ‘interventionary treatment’ where their ‘erroneous thinking’ can be eradicated.

Relevance of this to A-level sociology

Firstly, it’s a horrific example of a contemporary state crime – this is a flagrant abuse of the human rights (as ‘protected’ by the United Nations) by the Chinese State.

Secondly, it’s a good example of both the power of the Nation State (China) to abuse people, and the powerlessness other Nation States to do anything about it – pretty much every country on Earth is ignoring this, including Muslim majority countries.

Thirdly, it’s an interesting (and again horrific) example of how surveillance can be used to control people.

Source: The Week, 30 September 2019.

Find out More

This Al Jazeera news article is a useful starting point.