Federal prosecutors in the U.S. recently charged dozens of wealthy parents with committing fraud in attempts to get their children into elite universities such as Yale and Stanford.
Parents have adopted strategies which range from faking athletic records and test scores to outright bribes.
Lori Loughlin (a sitcom star) and her husband Mossimo Giannulli (a fashion designer) allegedly paid $500 000 to get their daughters into the University of Southern California’s rowing crew, even though they weren’t actually rowers.
Felicity Huffmann (of Desperate Housewives) allegedly paid $15 000 to an invigilator to ensure her daughter did well on a SATs test.
The institution which facilitated all of this elite education fraud was called ‘The Key’ – a ‘college counselling business’ in Sacremento which paid off invigilators to provided certain students will correct answers or even correct their test sheets. He also bribed college sports officials to take on students who didn’t play sports.
This was all covered up by getting parents to donate to a bogus charity to help disadvantaged students, in reality of course the money went to the bent officials faking the test scores etc.
NB – this may not actually be as bad as the legal situation – if you look at Harvard’s entrance stats, 42% of students whose parents made donations got in, compared to only 4.6% of the wider population, and of course the whole of the university system is already stacked in favour of the rich given that it’s so expensive to get a university degree!
Relevance to A-level sociology
This is clearly relevant to the reproduction of class inequality within education, and supports the Marxist perspective on crime, within crime and deviance.
Fatal Stabbings in England and Wales are now taking place at the quickest rate since records began in 1946 (Source: The Guardian). This is clearly relevant to the Crime and Deviance module!
Two recent cases suggest that violent crime is getting out of control – Jodie Chesney was stabbed in the back while chatting with her friends in a park in Romford and in an unrelated case, Yousef Makki was stabbed to death in a leafy suburb of Cheshire. Neither victims appeared to have any links to violent individuals or crime.
According to Brooke Kinsella in the Daily Telegraph, Knife crime spiked at the beginning of the decade and then fell for several years, due to a range of policies from increased mandatory sentencing for knife crime and improved youth services
However, it started to increase again from about three years ago, with a sudden spike last year, so the above two cases do seem to be part of a recent trend.
Possible reasons behind the recent increase in knife crime
There have been £250 million in budge cuts in this areas since 2010, resulting in the loss of 20 000 police and cuts to youth mental health services.
Writing in The Times, former MET police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe suggests the rise is linked to a increased supply of cocaine from Colombia – resulting in a price fall and more competition between drugs gangs for business. So the roots here are global.
To my mind, it’s likely a combination of factors that are driving this… genuine ‘external causes caused by the influx of drugs and then failed Tory policies – a double header of marketisation leading to increased exclusions (as schools look to boost their league table position) and funding cuts leaving the poor with little option other than to turn to crime.
Maybe all we’re seeing in these innocent victims of knife crime is years of neoliberalism finally catching up with the middle classes?
The National Minimum Wage is currently £5.20 and hour for 18-20 olds, rising to £7.83 per hour for those aged 25 and over.
According to one recent study (based on a survey of 4000 workers), 20% of 18-30 year-olds reported being paid less than the minimum wage, which is, on the part of their employers, illegal.
Formal detection and prosecution rates, however, are much lower than this reported 20%…
Between 2013-2018 the government fined around 17, 000 employers for failing to pay their workers the minimum wage, with a total number of 67 000 workers being underpaid. Collectively, these criminal employers have had to pay £9 million in back pay for and have been fined an additional £6.3 million in total.
The most likely offenders were retail and hospitality, but it’s not just small businesses illegally underpaying their workers, there are some big names in there too, such as certain branches of Wagamama’s and TGI Friday’s.
The stats suggest that the government isn’t punishing these criminal employers sufficiently
This doesn’t seem to be very ‘victim centred’ – from the perspectives of the victims (the underpaid workers) – If you work out the average underpayment (£9m/ 67K) this = £134 per worker, now this not may sound like a lot, but if you’re on minimum wage, then this could well be a significant amount of money!
The government has the power to fine underpaying employers 200% of wages not paid, whereas if they’re paying back £6 million on £9 million not paid, this is nearer 60%. Minimum wage is around £7, and if you get caught underpaying then you pay an additional £4 on top – it is a deterrent, but not much of one… these are the kind of figures that could well encourage some employers to gamble and try and get away with underpaying workers.
As far as I’m aware, none of these criminal employers have gone to jail for failing to pay minimum wage, they have only been fined, so there’s no physical deterrent – unlike if you steal something, which is basically what this is.
Add to this the fact that these employers have to know what they are doing… underpaying the minimum wage simply is not something you can do accidentally! The above fines seem like very soft punishment for powerful actors pre-meditatively steeling from their vulnerable workers.
So it appears if you’re unfortunate enough to be employed by an employer who breaks the law and pays you less than the minimum wage, then you’re not going to get justice under the present government.
Overall this seems to be great evidence to support the marxist theory of crime and punishment – the idea that elites do not get punished effectively when they break the law.
A recent report by the International Relations Committee (made up of members of the House of Lords) has concluded that it’s highly likely that British Weapons are the cause of significant civilian casualties’ in Yemen, where Saudi-backed forces are fighting Houthi rebels.
A few stats on the Saudi-Yemen conflict and Britain’s role in it…
Britain has sold £4.5 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia since the conflict in Yemen began in 2015.
Independent experts have estimated that around 150 civilians died every month in autumn 2018 as a result of Saudi airstrikes.
85 000 children have died of famine or disease since the conflict began, and a further 14 million people are at risk of famine.
The report concluded that the UK government is just on the wrong side of international humanitarian law, because on balance of evidence it believes that the Saudis are using British weapons to kill civilians.
The report recommends that the UK government should be making independent checks to see if UK- arms are being used illegally by the Saudis, instead relying on ‘inadequate’ investigations by the Saudis themselves.
Germany and Norway have already banned arms sales to Saudi Arabia, based on their own independent assessments of the Saudi’s killing of civilians in Yemen.
Relevance to A-level Sociology
This is a contemporary example of a state crime – the UK government selling arms to a country which then uses them to kill non-combatant civilians, which is in breach of international humanitarian law.
It’s also a good example of how ‘money trumps human rights’, or at least how it trumps the human rights of the 100s of civilians being killed each month in Yemen. £1 billion a year in arms sales is a LOT of money, it represents a lot of UK jobs, and a lot of tax revenue for the UK government.
It’s also a good example of selection-bias on the part of the UK government – they choose not to listen to certain independent reports of Saudi Arabia’s illegal use of UK weapons, because then it makes it possible to carry on profiting from selling them arms.
Shamima Begum was just 15 years old when she left her home in Bethnal Green, London, to join Islamic State in Syria. Now, four years later, she has witnessed two of her children die of illness and malnutrition, and fears for the life of her third child, born in a refugee camp in Eastern Syria, from where she’s requested to return to the UK, having shown no remorse for her dealings with ISIS.
The ‘punishment’, if we can call it that, is to strip of her of UK citizenship, which the Home Secretary can only do in this case because he believes Begum has the right to apply for Bangladeshi citizenship, even though she has never visited Bangladesh.
Interestingly, the UK government isn’t simply allowed to strip an individual of their citizenship and render them stateless, they are only allowed to do so in begum’s case because her Bangladeshi heritage allows her to apply for citizenship there. However, the Bangladeshi authorities say she won’t be allowed in.
Even if the UK government is legally allowed to strip Begum of citizenship, this still feels like the UK government is somehow denying responsibility for Begum – surely it would be more appropriate to bring her back to the UK, put her on trial, and actually punish her as the UK citizen she really is, rather than trying to revoke it.
The argument that she’s ‘our responsibility’ is rooted in the fact that she was radicalised in the UK and managed to leave without any effective ‘safeguarding intervention’.
What the UK government’s response shows is just how difficult it is for nation states to deal with such international criminals…. Maybe it’s because we’ve got no long-term solutions? Maybe the government doesn’t want to bring her back because the population would be so against it, as 78% of the population believe she should have had her citizenship revoked.
This could very well (probably is) an example of popular punitiveness, despite the fact that she’s not really being punished as such!
However, just passing the buck onto another country because of a legal technicality doesn’t seem right, and what kind of message does this send out about how to deal with international criminals more generally?
Whatever your opinion on the Shamima Begum case, it certainly illustrates a the problems of dealing out justice where international crimes which cross boarders are concerned, and maybe suggests that nation states are too small to deal with such criminals?
Maybe we need to take a lesson from Escape to LA? Rather than nation states dealing with them in country of origin, we just put by stateless regions on earth, and build a wall round them, and see how they get on…?
We could also film it with drones and turn it into a form of entertainment….. the scary thing is this doesn’t actually sound that far-fetched, I can actually see most people getting on board with the idea!
In January two ‘drill’ musicians from the Brixton group 410 were effectively jailed for playing a particular song: ‘Attempted 1.0’. Two artists from the group, Skengdo and AM, both received 9-month suspended sentences for performing this song.
Here it is with lyrics:
It’s still up as of 20th Feb…. I don’t how much longer it will remain up, but while it does it’ll give you a pretty good idea of what the authorities may have deemed to offensive: the strap-line for a start… ‘attempted… should’ve been a murder’ and then all the various references to guns and people getting knifed.
The problem is, by performing this song 410 weren’t technically engaged in an illegal act. The laws preventing inciting of violence only apply to specific acts, and this is not the case with this song.
The two artists were actually found guilty of breaking a criminal behaviour order (CB0) that had forbidden them from mentioning death, injury or rival drill crews in their songs. The nine-month suspended sentence is for breaking the CBO not inciting violence, which they weren’t technically doing by performing their song.
The authorities have criminalised this non-criminal act for these particular artists.
Relevance to A-level sociology
This is a good example of a ‘right realist’ policy in action – In fairness to the authorities, there has been a recent increase in knife crime, and this is all part of the response to that. I imagine most of the public would agree with this harsh treatment.
And it’s fair to say that some Drill songs which have been put up on YouTube do have specific references to gang’s ‘score cards’ and specific knife and gun and attacks. So there is a real basis for all of this it’s not just hyperreal.
However, it also relates to the labelling theory of crime – here we have a legal act (performing a song) which is turned into an illegal act for this specific band by the actions of the authorities. Maybe this is an unnecessary moral panic about this form of artistic expression?
What ‘blaming Drill’ for the increase in knife crime fails to take account of is all of other underlying factors which result in inner city violence – such as funding cuts, relative deprivation, poverty, and structural inequalities which stretch back to the 1980s.
This is also a new development in the censorship of particular cultural forms: using ASBOs to effectively restrict certain forms of freedom of speech. What’s next I wonder:
– Banning violent video games? – Preventing campaigners discuss poverty and inequality? – or climate change?
It’s highly unlikely that Criminal Behaviour Orders are going to be used to stop people spreading Fake News or Politicians lying to us.
Jose Mourinho, the ex-Manchester United manager, recently pleaded guilty to tax fraud in Spain, and accepted a 2 million Euro fine. He was also sentenced to 12 months in jail, but as part of a deal made with the prosecutors will not actually serve any time.
He had used offshore companies to disguise his earnings from image rights evading 3.3 million Euros in tax.
Mourinho is not the only footballing celebrity to have face tax evasion charges:
This is a straight forward example which supports the Marxist view of crime… Marxists state that all classes commit crime (here the ‘celebrity class’, and they also state that there is not equality before the law… and here all three effectively buy themselves off a jail sentence.
Although TBH I’m not sure how courts in other countries would deal with poorer tax evaders, maybe this type of crime is always dealt with so softly.
What these case studies certainly do suggest is that the law in Europe offers no real deterrent to evading tax – Mourinho only had to pay back 60% of the amount he evaded, for example. It seems that if yer rich, the criminal justice system makes it rational for you to have a go at evading tax… you’ve literally nothing to lose if you get caught.
Maybe what the law around tax evasion needs a proper does of right realism… mandatory jail sentences? Or maybe the right realist tough on crime approach is only supposed to apply to the poor?
Drug gangs are expanding their operations from large city centres such as London, Birmingham and Manchester into smaller towns and rural areas. To do so they are using a new business model referred to as ‘county lines’ – dedicated mobile phone drug deal lines which local drug dealers in smaller towns can use to order drugs from the suppliers in the city centres. According to a recent report by the National Crime Agency, there are over 1000 established county line networks which are each capable of making profits of £800, 000 a year.
These lines are so profitable that gangs increasingly resort to violence to protect them, so this county line model of drug gang expansion probably goes a long way to explain the 50% increase in knife crime since 2015. In fact, a spike in knife crime in a small town or city is believed to be an indicator that a new drug line has been opened up.
How county lines work
Drug gangs in larger cities establish branded mobile phone lines using ‘burner phones’ which are disposable and anonymous, and these are then used to send out group messages to the local dealers around the country offering what drugs are for sale, which is mainly heroine and crack cocaine. Frequently there are special offers such as two for the price of one deals. The drugs are delivered by runners who also collect payment from the local dealers.
Children and drug lines
School-aged children, typically aged 15-17, but as young as 11, are usually used to deliver the drugs and collect payment. The charity Safer London estimates that 4000 children from London are involved. Sometimes these children might stay away in a drug-hub for an extended period, which is known as ‘going country’ or ‘going OT’ (out there).
The children recruited are usually vulnerable, having been excluded from school or from broken families, and many are drug users themselves. They are roped into the gangs by the lure of financial reward, or some might be debt bondage because of their drug habits. Once in, they are exposed to a violent lifestyle and effectively take all the risks for the upstream dealers.
NB – from a legal perspective, the use of children as drug mules now counts as child trafficking, so anyone caught being involved in this is likely to get a very lengthy spell in jail.
A particularly insidious aspect of these drug networks is a process known as cuckooing…. Where a new local recruit’s house in a rural or coastal taken over by a drug dealer from one of the main centres and that house is turned into a local dealing hub, used to store and possibly manufacture drugs, and sell drugs.
One way this can escalate is that the local dealer is allowed to get into debt, and then has their house taken over as a means to repay this.
Such victims will often be drug addicts with mental health issues and are also likely to be in poverty.
Countering the problem of drug gangs and drug lines
This is an enormous problem, and its growing fast: 75% of police forces believed new lines had been opened up in 2017 and it’s estimated that the 1000 lines in existence are worth £500 million a year. With that kind of coverage and that amount of money involved, tackling this isn’t going to be easy!
A new National County Lines Coordination Unit has recently been established so the 43 police forces in England and Wales can easily share information, and the police are using anti trafficking and anti-slavery laws to punish the dealers.
In a week of raids in January police arrested 600 people and referred 600 children and 400 adults to safeguarding authorities. More than £200 000 in cash and 140 weapons were also seized.
Relevance to A-level sociology
This is obviously highly relevant to the crime and deviance specification. Probably the most obvious links are to right and left realism, and to my mind it’s a great example that proves the limitations of the right realist approach – the nature of this crime is that it’s hidden, and so right realist crime control techniques will probably be ineffective in controlling it.
It seems to offer support for left realism – relative deprivation and marginalisation are the root causes, and maybe addressing these are the only way we’re going to see a reduction in drug related crime in the future?
Victimology is the study of who the victims of crime are, why they are victims, and what we can do about this.
Victimology is a relatively recent edition to the A-level sociology Crime and Deviance specification, and is mainly addressed through applying the sociological perspectives.
Patterns of Victimisation
The risk of being a victim of crime varies by social groups.
Social Class – The poorest groups are actually more likely to be victims of crime. The Crime Survey of England and Wales shows us that crime rates are higher in areas of high unemployment and deprivation.
Age – Younger people are more at risk of victimisation – those most at risk of being murdered are infants under one (infanticide), while teenagers are more vulnerable than adults to assault, sexual harassment, theft and abuse. While older people might be abused in care homes, this is something of a media stereotype, in general the risk of victimisation declines with age.
Ethnicity – minority ethnic groups are at greater risk than whites of being victims of crime, as well as of racially motivated crimes. In relation to the police, ethnic minorities, the young and the homeless are more likely to report feeling under-protected and over controlled.
Gender – Males are at greater risk of being victims of violent attacks, about 70% of homicide victims are male. However, women are more likely to victims of domestic violence than me, sexual violence, people trafficking and rape as a weapon of war.
Repeat Victimisation – There are a few people who are unfortunate enough to be a victim of crime many times over. According to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, a mere 4% of people are victims of 44% of all crimes in any one year. In contrast, 60% of people experience no crime in any given year.
Evaluation – Where do these statistics come from?
The most representative Victim Survey is The Crime Survey of England and Wales. This covers approximately 35 000 adults in England and Wales in private households. The survey asks about crime the individuals have been victims of within the last year, and asks whether they reported these crimes to the police.
A problem with this survey is that certain aspects of victimisation are absent:
Some people are missing from it – such as children and the homeless
Some crimes are not asked about – e.g. corporate crimes
Some crimes even if asked about might still be under-reported (e.g. domestic violence because of the setting)
Sociological Perspectives applied to Victimology Positivist Victimology
Mier’s (1989) defines Positivist victimology as having three main features:
It aims to identify the factors that produce the above patterns in victimisation
It focuses on interpersonal crimes of violence
It aims to identify how victims have contributed to their own victimisation.
Earlier Positivist studies focussed on the idea of ‘victim proneness’, seeking to identify the social and psychological characteristics of victims that make them different from and more vulnerable than non-victims. For example, Von Hentig (1948) identified 13 characteristics of victims, such as that they are more likely to females, elderly and ‘mentally subnormal’. The implication is that the victims in some sense ‘invite’ victimisation because of who they are.
An example of positivist victimology is Marvin Wolfgang’s (1958) study of 588 homicides in Philadelphia. He found that 26% involved victim precipitation – the victim triggered the events leading to the homicide, for instance, being the first to use violence.
Evaluations of Positivist Victimology
It is easy to tip over into ‘victim blaming’.
Positivism tends to focus on ‘traditional crime’s – it doesn’t look at green crime and corporate crime for example.
It ignores wider structural factors such as poverty and powerlessness which make some people more likely to be victims than others.
Critical victimology is based on conflict theories such as Marxism and Feminism. From a critical point of view the powerless are most likely to be victimised and yet the least likely to have this acknowledged by the state (this is known as the ‘hierarchy of victimisation’).
Critical Criminology focuses on two elements: the role of structural factors in explaining patterns of victimisation and power of the state to deny certain victims victim status.
Structural factors are important in explaining why some people are more likely to be victims of crime than others. Factors such as poverty and patriarchy make some people more likely to victims of crime than others.
Structural factors are important, because from a Marxist perspective because poverty and inequality breed crime and thus living in a poor area means that you are more likely to be both a criminal and a victim of crime while Feminists emphasise that the structure of Patriarchy perpetuates crimes against women such as sex-trafficking and domestic violence, meaning that women are far more likely to be victims of sex-crimes than men.
At another level, global power structures mean that many people are the victims of harms done by Western Corporations and State Crimes carried out by Western World Governments (Bhopal and the Drone Wars are two good examples) and yet victims in faraway places are highly unlikely to see justice.
Criminologists who focus on ethnicity and crime would also suggest that Structural Racism means it more likely that ethnic minorities are going to face not only racial crime from the general public, but also discrimination at the hands of the police. Refer to the ethnicity and crime material for more details!
To overcome this, critical criminologists suggest that criminologists should focus on ‘Zemiology’ (the study of harm) rather than the study of crime, to pick up on the true nature and extent of victimisation in the world today.
The state’s power to apply or deny the label of victim can distort the actual extent of victimisation. From a critical criminological perspective, the state often sides with the powerful, and does not define their exploitative and harmful acts as crimes. Tombs and Whyte (2007) for example showed that employers’ violations of health and safety law which lead to thousands of deaths of workers in the UK each year are typically explained away as industrial accidents, thus leaving no one to blame and leaving the injured and dead workers as non-victims.
From a Feminist point of view sexism within the CJS means that most women who are victims of DV and rape fail to come forward, and those who are do are often treated as the guilty party themselves in court, and so are often denied formal victim status and justice.
Tombs and White note that there is an ideological function of this ‘failure to label’ or ‘de- labelling’ – by concealing the true extent of victimisation and its real causes, it hides the crimes of the powerful and denies the victims any justice.
Evaluations of Critical Victimology
It disregards the role victims may play in bringing crime on themselves (e.g. not making their home secure).
Realists argue that it isn’t the job of criminologists to criticise governments and the police, this isn’t the most effective way to reduce crime and thus help victims of ‘ordinary crimes’ such as street violence and burglary.
A combination of the main A-level text books were used to write this post.
Mafia syndicates in Italy have an estimated annual turnover of £150 billion, making it much larger than Italy’s largest holding company (which includes Ferrari).
Increasingly, it is not drugs or people trafficking which bring in the money for the Mafia, but there involvement in agriculture, or basic food production.
Today, the Mafia are invested in Italy’s food industry from ‘Field to Fork’…. their agricultural interests extend to extortion, illegal breeding, backstreet butchering and the burial of toxic waste on farmland.
In 2018 the estimated value of the ‘agromafia business’ stands at £22bn, equivalent to 15% of Mafia revenue. This may seem mundane, but think about it: everyone has to eat, and most people like to eat everyday, so it should be no surprise that this is a growth area… it’s simply where the demand is!
There are all sorts of ways the Mafia can make money out of the food business – the most obvious is counterfeiting, and it is estimated that up to 50% of all olive oil sold in Italy is cut with poorer quality oil. To do this, the Mafia makes use of its global criminal ties… cutting it with lower quality oil from Africa.
One of the more unfortunate costs of this whole business is the thousands of workers who are currently being exploited working for Mafia controlled agribusiness. The figures are quite significant:
It’s also estimated that up to 5000 restaurants are controlled by the Mafia, which is useful for money laundering.
Up until quite recently the Mafia also used to lease huge swathes of public land and make a fortune by claiming back EU subsidies on this land, making a 2000% profit in the process: they basically used their white collar connections in local governments to make sure no one else got involved with the bidding process.
However, this final practice has been clamped down on.
Relevance to A-level sociology
This is a useful update to the globalisation and crime, and especially to Glenny’s work on the McMafia: it shows how the Mafia are ‘evolving’ in their global criminal activities.