Synoptic Surveillance and Crime Control

Thomas Mathiesen (1997) argues that control through surveillance has developed beyond Foucault’s panopticon model. The panopticon allows the few to monitor the many, but today the media increasingly allow the many to monitor the few. Mathiesen argues that in late modernity, there is a significant increase in surveillance from below, which he calls the ‘synopticon’ – where everybody watches everybody else.

An example of synoptic surveillance is where the public monitor each other, as with video cameras mounted on dash boards or cycle helmets to collect evidence in the event of accidents. This may warn other road users that their behaviour is being monitored and result in them exercising self-discipline. For an example of synoptic surveillance in action see below, and you might also like to check out this Facebook page devoted to people caught doing illegal things on camera.

 

Thompson (2000) argues that powerful groups such as politicians fear that the media’s surveillance of them may uncover damaging information about them, and this acts as a form of social control over their activities.

chris-huhne-vicky-pryce
Chris Huhne (M.P) and partner Vicky Pryce – Caught out by Surveillance Technology and jailed for 8 months in 2013

Discussion Question: Does fear of surveillance and thus fear of getting caught and publicly shamed prevent politicians from doing deviant and criminal acts?

The synopticon suggests that ordinary citizens might have more power to ‘control the controllers’ – as with the example of activists filming the police at protests. However, this bottom-up scrutiny can still be stopped by more classic law enforcement such as the police confiscating cameras from ‘citizen journalists’.

 

Discussion Questions:

Are people more likely to obey the law because of synoptic surveillance?

Does the increase in synoptic surveillance mean elites in particular are more likely to obey the law?

 

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Public Space Protection Orders and Criminal Behaviour Orders

ASBOs are one of the best known crime control methods in the UK – the problem is they don’t exist anymore, they’ve been replaced by Public Space Protection Orders and Criminal Behaviour Orders.

Public Space Protection Orders

Public Space Protection Orders – are a geographically defined version of ASBOs that could severely restrict people’s freedoms in urban space

Examples of how they are being used include:

Criminal Behaviour Orders 

The criminal behaviour order (among other things) replaced ASBOs in 2014 – these still require a person to abstain from antisocial behaviour but also stipulate that the person receiving the order undergo some kind course of corrective treatment (such as an anger management course). The order will also specify who is responsible for making the person undergo the correct treatment, and this effectively means that this strategy of crime control overlaps with the more left-realist focus on intervention and community empowerment.

Example (taken from the above web site)

An example given by the Home Office (in “Putting Victims First”) seeks to illustrate how the Criminal Behaviour Order will enable agencies to deal more effectively with anti-social behaviour:

A young person convicted of criminal damage after having broken the window of an elderly person’s house following an ongoing campaign of harassment. Under the current system, they could be prevented from going near their victim’s house, but under the new system, the same order could also require them to make good the damage to the victim’s window and engage with a mentoring programme to address the reasons why they were harassing the victim.

Evaluating Broken Windows Theory

Broken Windows Theory suggests that high levels of physical disorder such as litter, graffiti, vandalism, or people engaged in Anti-Social Behaviour will result in higher crime rates. Broken Windows Theory is one aspect of the Right Realist approach to criminology

The evidence supporting Broken Windows Theory is somewhat mixed

This 2008 ‘£5 Note Theft and Social Disorder Experiment’ offers broad support for the theory…

In this (slightly bizarre sounding) experiment an envelope containing a £5 note was left poking out a letterbox, in such a way that the £5 note was easily visible. The researchers did this first of all with a tidy garden, and later on (similar time of day) with litter in the garden – on the first occasion 13% of people took the envelope, on the second, the percentage doubled to 25% – suggesting that signs of physical disorder such as littering encourage deviant behaviour.

broken windows theory

The experiment was actually a bit more complex – for the full details see the Keizer et al source below – this was also actually one of six experiments designed to test out Wilson and Kelling’s 1996 ‘broken windows theory’.

A second experiment, however, does not support broken windows theory…

Empirical results of the “Moving to Opportunity” program (reviewed in 2006) – a social experiment in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Boston did not support Broken Windows Theory. As part of the program, some 4,600 low-income families living in high-crime public housing communities—characterized by high rates of social disorder—were randomly assigned housing vouchers to move to less disadvantaged and less disorderly communities. Using official arrests and self-report surveys, the crime rates among those who moved and those who did not remained the same.

The problems with evaluating Broken Windows Theory

Wesley Skogan (see source below) identifies several reasons why Broken Windows theory is hard to evaluate – mainly focusing on how hard the theory is to operationalise:

  • Firstly, there are several different ways of defining ‘social disorder’ (litter, vandalism, antisocial behaviour) – so which do you choose?
  • Secondly it is difficult to measure levels of social disorder accurately – how do you actually measure how much disorder what type of littler represents – is one sofa in a garden worth 14 toffee wrappers, or what? And if you’re talking about anti-social behaviour, you can’t necessarily rely on public reports of it because sensitivity levels vary, and it’s just not practical to measure it using observational techniques.

For these reasons, the validity of broken windows theory is always likely to remain contested, and so it’s worth considering the possibility that it’s popularity could be more to do with ideological bias rather than being based any significant body of supporting evidence.

Further Reading

Keizer et al – The Spreading of Disorder – Science Express Report

More details on the Moving to Opportunity study

This chapter by Wesley Skogan identifies a number of reasons why Broken Windows Theory is difficult to evaluate

ASBOs – Arguments For and Against

ASBOs are a form of Zero Tolerance crime control and have been in use in the UK since 1999 – below are a few examples of how they’re used. Read them through and consider the arguments for and against using them in each case…

An ASBO for shop lifting

In 2013 jobless single mother Jade Underwood received a CRASBO banning her from 80 stores because of her serial shoplifting. She also made neighbours’ lives a misery and verbally abused mothers taking children to a nearby school.

CRASBO.jpg

Shopkeepers and neighbours told how the 5ft menace treated shoplifting like a job and blighted their lives. One said she was such a problem that the local branch of Boots in Edgeley, Stockport, stopped putting make-up out on display.

Former neighbour John Duggan, 55, said Underwood had ‘absolutely no shame whatsover’.

‘She used to wear tracksuits and looked just like Vicky Pollard from the TV show [Little Britain],’ he said. ‘She is a little toad, she’s just horrible.

But Underwood posted a defiant message on Facebook, saying: ‘Heyy yah dont bring me down, least am famouse!! Yah all whata leve meh alone.’

An ASBO for Public drunkeness and Abusive Behaviour 

A Rhondda man who was banned from hospitals for two years in a landmark ASBO case in 2012 was placed on a second order, months after the first expired.

In 2012, Geoffrey Russell Thomas, 59, became the first person in Rhondda to be given a banning order from hospitals to curb his unacceptable drunken anti-social behaviour which included continued foul, abusive, threatening and drunken abuse of residents and hospital staff.

thomas

The new ASBO means he will have spent an almost-unbroken four years subject to an order which bans him from attending any hospital anywhere, unless it is in the case of a genuine emergency or pre-arranged appointment.

He is also banned from being drunk in a public place, using abusive or threatening language or behaviour towards any other person.

Paul Mee, head of public health and protection at RCT Council, oversees the Anti Social Behaviour Unit and its work.

He said: “The disproportionate nature of this man’s offending on the wider community, including the men and women who are employed to provide care for others, means we have no choice but to continue dealing with him robustly and effectively.

“Despite a two-year order banning him from doing so, he has continued to drunkenly abuse and threaten many people, including those who were trying to help him.

“He has clearly not learned his lesson and continues to act in an anti-social, drunken, threatening and abusive manner, so we will continue to protect the public and the frontline workers who have to deal with him from this unacceptable behaviour.”

An ASBO for playing loud country music 

From 2010 – A country and western music fan has vowed to keep listening to his favourite songs, despite admitting breaching anti-social behaviour laws.

Partially-deaf Michael O’Rourke, 51, of Peterhead, admitted breaching an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) after complaints from neighbour. Dolly Parton is among Michael O’Rourke’s favourite artists

O’Rourke commented….

“My neighbours were just being vindictive… If you’re joined onto another house you’ve got to expect a bit of noise.”

He explained: “I play my music every day. Who doesn’t like music? I like country and western, 60s music, Scottish music. I also like some of the up-to-date stuff. Why should I stop listening to my favourite music just because of a few vindictive folk? I’ll never stop playing my vinyl.”

One former neighbour said: “I wasn’t sorry to see him go. He wasn’t the best of neighbours.”

 

An ASBO for Riding your Scooter on the Pavement?

In 2009 a woman criticised police after she was sent a letter about her 12-year-old son riding his push scooter on the pavement.

scooter
The letter told Vicki Richardson that if officers were called because her son, Thomas Read, was riding his scooter again he could be given an asbo.

She wrote to Hucknall Police Station in Nottingham about the letter as her son thought he would get into trouble for going out to play.

A police spokesman said the action was part of their policy to control anti-social behaviour.

For more examples of ‘dubious’ ASBOs check out ‘Statewatch‘.

Why is Crime Falling?

 

According to both Police Recorded Crime and the Crime Survey of England and Wales, there has been a steady decrease in crime in England and Wales since 1995 – that’s over 20 years of crime reduction. 

There are several possible reasons behind this decrease in crime (IF you believe the statistics, of course!)

The Relative Decrease in Property Crime since 1995

Trends in Property Crime - Crime Survey of England and Wales
Trends in Property Crime – Crime Survey of England and Wales

The Office For National Statistics identifies seven existing theories/ pieces of evidence for why property crime has fallen. Read them through and consider how many of them support Rational Choice Theory. 

ONE – The rise in the use of the internet has roughly coincided with falls in crime 

In 1995, use of the internet was not widespread. As it became more popular, it may have helped to occupy young people’s time when they may otherwise have turned to crime. Farrell et al., 2011 suggests the internet also provides more opportunity for online crime – which possibly explains the increase in Fraud in recent years, although this may be down to improvements in detection and recording of this offence.

TWO – Reduced consumption of drugs and alcohol is likely to have resulted in a drop in offending

A 2014 Home Office research paper ‘The heroin epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s and its effect on crime trends – then and now’ supports the notion that the changing levels of opiate and crack-cocaine use have affected acquisitive crime trends in England and Wales, potentially explaining over half of the rise in crime in the 1980s to mid-1990s and between a quarter and a third of the fall in crime since the mid-1990s. (Bunge et al., 2005).

THREE – Significant improvements in forensic and other crime scene investigation techniques and record keeping

Advancements in areas such as fingerprinting and DNA testing may have led to a reduction in crime.perceived risk to offenders may have increased, inducing a deterrent effect (Explaining and sustaining the crime drop: Clarifying the role of opportunity-related theories, Farrell et al., 2010).

FOUR – The increase in abortions

The ONS also site this classic study by Levitt et al – which suggested that the introduction of legalised abortion on a wide number of grounds in the US meant that more children who might have been born into families in poverty or troubled environments and be more prone to get drawn into criminality, would not be born and therefore be unable to commit these crimes (The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime, Donohue and Levitt, 2001).

FIVE – Changes (real or perceived) in technology and infrastructure.

This includes an increase in the use of situational crime prevention technieques such as CCTV, which may act as deterrents to committing crime (CCTV has modest impact on crime, Welsh and Farrington, 2008). 

SIX – Longer Prison Sentences

The impacts of longer prison sentences and police activity on reducing crime, particularly property crimes, are likely to act as deterrents (Acquisitive Crime: Imprisonment, Detection and Social Factors, Bandyopadhyay et al., 2012).

SEVEN – Target Hardening

Increased quality of building and vehicle security is also likely to have been a factor in the reduction in property crime. This concept of ‘target-hardening’ which makes targets (that is, anything that an offender would want to steal or damage) more resistant to attack is likely to deter offenders from committing crime (Opportunities, Precipitators and Criminal Decisions: A reply to Wortley’s critique of situational crime prevention, Cornish and Clarke, 2003).

Findings from the CSEW add some evidence which may support this, indicating that alongside the falls in property crime, there were also improvements in household and vehicle security. Since 1995, there have been statistically significant increases in the proportion of households in the 2014/15 CSEW with:

  • Window locks (up 21 percentage points from 68% to 89% of households)
  • Light timers/sensors (up 16 percentage points from 39% to 55% of households)
  • Burglar alarms (up 11 percentage points from 20% to 31% of households)

The ONS also notes that it does not endorse any one of the theories over the others and that many of these theories are contested and subject to continuing discussion and debate.

NB – Just because most of the above theories seem to offer broad support for RTC and RAT theories, doesn’t mean there aren’t other factors that need to be considered when explaining the decrease in property crime.

Crime and Deviance Exam Practice Questions (10 markers)

The ten mark question on crime and deviance in the A Level Sociology Crime and Deviance/ Theory and Methods paper will ask you to analyse two reasons/ ways/. Below are a few exemplars (well, one for now, more to follow!) I knocked up, which should get you 10 marks in the exam… 

My suggested strategy for answering these 10 mark questions is to make two points which are as different from each other as possible and then try to develop each point two to three times. You don’t have to evaluate each point, but it’s good practice to put a brief evaluation at the end, but don’t spend too long on this, focus more on the development (which is basically analysis).

NB – Usually there is an item attached to these questions, but more of those later!

Question: analyse two reasons for the formation of subcultures (10)

Point 1 – Consensus theorist Albert Cohen suggested status frustration was the root cause of subculture formation.

According to Cohen deviant subcultures are a working class problem – working class boys try hard in school, and fail, meaning they fail to gain status (recognition/ respect) – these boys find each other and form a deviant group, whereby they gain status within the group by being deviant – by doing things which are against the rules – for example bunking lessons – and the further you go, the more status you get. 

Another Consensus theory which we could apply here is underclass theory – Charles Murray would argue that lower class boys fail at school because their parents don’t work and fail to socialise them into a good work-ethic, hence offering a deeper ‘structural cause’ of why subcultures are more likely to form among the lower social classes.

Hence applying these two consensus theories together, the process goes something like this – and individual is born into the underclass – they are not socialised into a work ethic – they fail at school – they get frustrated – they find similar working/ underclass boys – they gain status by being deviant.

A Problem with this theory is that it blames the working class for their own failure, Marxism criticises consensus theory because the ‘root cause’ of subcultures is the marginalisation of working class youth due to Capitalism.

Point 2 – Interactionists would point to negative labelling as the root cause of subculture formation

According to Howard Becker, teachers have an image of an ‘ideal pupil’ who is middle class – working class pupils don’t fit this image – they dress differently and have different accents, and so teachers have lower expectations of them – they thus don’t push them as hard as middle class students – over the years this results in a self fulfilling prophecy where working class students are more likely to decide they are failures and thus think that school is not for them – It is this disaffection which results in subculture formation.

David Gilborn further applied this idea to the formation of subcultures among African-Caribbean students – according to Gilborn teachers believed black students to be more disruptive and thus were more likely to pick them up for deviant behaviour in class, while White and Asian students were ignored – this marginalised black students who when on to develop anti-school subcultures as a form of resistance against perceived racism.

In contrast to subcultural theory, in labelling theory it is the authorities who are to blame for the emergence of subcultures, rather than the deviant youths themselves.

A criticism of labelling theory is that it is deterministic – not everyone accepts their labels, so not every negative label leads to a subculture.

This should be sufficient to get you 10/ 10. 

Foucault – Surveillance and Crime Control

Michel Foucault is one of the most influential sociological thinkers of the last half century. One of his key contributions to criminology is his focus on how the nature of crime control has shifted from using the threat of violence and the fear of being physically punished to control through surveillance – fear of being seen to be doing something wrong.

Punishment has changed from being a violent public spectacle (such as hanging) to being hidden away, behind closed doors. It has also changed from being swift and physical, done on the body, to being more drawn out and psychological – punishment today is typically about changing the mind and the soul.

This reflects a change in how power is exercised in society – we have moved away from what Foucault called ‘sovereign power’ – which is control through the threat of force, to ‘disciplinary power’ – which is control through the monitoring and surveillance of populations.

Sovereign power was typical of the period before the 18th century when the monarch had power over people and their bodies, and thus inflicting punishment directly on the body was the means of asserting control.

Foucault illustrates the use of sovereign power by describing a particularly gruesome execution which took place in 1757, which forms the introduction to his classic book ‘discipline and punish’ (see appendix below).

Foucault points out that by the end of the 18th century this type of extreme public punishment no longer took place, instead punishment took place in prisons, behind closed doors and there was more of an attempt by authorities to control and reform criminals through the use of timetables and other interventions such as educational programmes.

Foucault argues that disciplinary power evolved significantly in the late 19th century with Jeremy Bentham’s new design of prison known as the panopticon – which consisted of a central observational tower and prison cells arranged around it in such a way that the prisoners could potentially be under observation at any time, but could not see whether they were being observed or not. Because of this, prisoners had to self-monitor their behaviour so that, in effect, they ended up disciplining themselves as a result of being under constant surveillance (or because they were subjected to disciplinary power in strict Foucauldian terms)

The significance of Foucault (the important bit)

Foucault argues that the use of disciplinary power has extend everywhere in society – it is not only in prisons that disciplinary power (surveillance) is used to control people; and it is not only criminals who are subjected to disciplinary power.

Disciplinary power (surveillance) is now everywhere and everyone is subjected to it – the most obvious examples are the use of CCTV in public spaces; but disciplinary power is also at work in schools – through the use of electronic registers and reports; we can see it in workplaces – through the use of performance monitoring; and we can even see it in our personal lives – both pregnancy and childhood are highly monitored by health care professionals and social workers for example, and most of us just accept this as normal.

Most people now obey the rules because they know they are being watched – they regulate their own behaviour for fear of becoming the wrong kind of person – a failing student, an unproductive worker, a bad mother, an obese-person, for example.

NB – This is quintessentially sociological – it is only in very recent human history that we have become so obsessed with monitoring every aspect of our daily-lives, and one of Foucault’s points is that this constant surveillance doesn’t necessarily improve our lives – there are both winners and losers.

Appendix: An extract from the beginning of Michel Foucault’s ‘Discipline and Punish’

On 2 March 1757 Damiens the regicide was condemned “to make the amende honorable before the main door of the Church of Paris”, where he was to be “taken and conveyed in a cart, wearing nothing but a shirt, holding a torch of burning wax weighing two pounds”; then, “in the said cart, to the Place de Grève, where, on a scaffold that will be erected there, the flesh will be torn from his breasts, arms, thighs and calves with red-hot pincers, his right hand, holding the knife with which he committed the said parricide, burnt with sulphur, and, on those places where the flesh will be torn away, poured molten lead, boiling oil, burning resin, wax and sulphur melted together and then his body drawn and quartered by four horses and his limbs and body consumed by fire, reduced to ashes and his ashes thrown to the winds” (Pièces originales…, 372-4).

“Finally, he was quartered,” recounts the Gazette d’Amsterdam of 1 April 1757. “This last operation was very long, because the horses used were not accustomed to drawing; consequently, instead of four, six were needed; and when that did not suffice, they were forced, in order to cut off the wretch’s thighs, to sever the sinews and hack at the joints…
Bouton, an officer of the watch, left us his account: “The sulphur was lit, but the flame was so poor that only the top skin of the hand was burnt, and that only slightly. Then the executioner, his sleeves rolled up, took the steel pincers, which had been especially made for the occasion, and which were about a foot and a half long, and pulled first at the calf of the right leg, then at the thigh, and from there at the two fleshy parts of the right arm; then at the breasts. Though a strong, sturdy fellow, this executioner found it so difficult to tear away the pieces of flesh that he set about the same spot two or three times, twisting the pincers as he did so, and what he took away formed at each part a wound about the size of a six-pound crown piece.

“After these tearings with the pincers, Damiens, who cried out profusely, though without swearing, raised his head and looked at himself; the same executioner dipped an iron spoon in the pot containing the boiling potion, which he poured liberally over each wound. Then the ropes that were to be harnessed to the horses were attached with cords to the patient’s body; the horses were then harnessed and placed alongside the arms and legs, one at each limb.

“The horses tugged hard, each pulling straight on a limb, each horse held by an executioner. After a quarter of an hour, the same ceremony was repeated and finally, after several attempts, the direction of the horses had to be changed, thus: those at the arms were made to pull towards the head, those at the thighs towards the arms, which broke the arms at the joints. This was repeated several times without success. He raised his head and looked at himself. Two more horses had to be added to those harnessed to the thighs, which made six horses in all. Without success.

“After two or three attempts, the executioner Samson and he who had used the pincers each drew out a knife from his pocket and cut the body at the thighs instead of severing the legs at the joints; the four horses gave a tug and carried off the two thighs after them, namely, that of the right side first, the other following; then the same was done to the arms, the shoulders, the arm-pits and the four limbs; the flesh had to be cut almost to the bone, the horses pulling hard carried off the right arm first and the other afterwards.

“When the four limbs had been pulled away, the confessors came to speak to him; but his executioner told them that he was dead, though the truth was that I saw the man move, his lower jaw moving from side to side as if he were talking. One of the executioners even said shortly afterwards that when they had lifted the trunk to throw it on the stake, he was still alive. The four limbs were untied from the ropes and thrown on the stake set up in the enclosure in line with the scaffold, then the trunk and the rest were covered with logs and faggots, and fire was put to the straw mixed with this wood.

“…In accordance with the decree, the whole was reduced to ashes. The last piece to be found in the embers was still burning at half-past ten in the evening. The pieces of flesh and the trunk had taken about four hours to burn. The officers of whom I was one, as also was my son and a detachment of archers remained in the square until nearly eleven o’clock.

 

Cultural Criminology – Crime as ‘Edgework’

Cultural Criminologists argue the exact opposite of Right Realism who focus on the ordinary motivations and repetitiveness of much crime. Instead, they stress the highly emotional nature of crime – instead of what the criminals will gain, these researchers are interested in how committing the crime actually makes people feel. The focus of cultural criminologists is on the thrill of the act – it can offer a brief escape from an otherwise grey emotional existence. They argue there is an intoxicating mix of fear and pleasure that often accompanies risk taking.

According to these theorists, crime is not a rational mundane activity, where costs and benefits are weighed up. Rather it is a reaction against the mundane. It is a time when those involved momentarily experience status, excitement and even some control over their own lives, which are otherwise characterised by feelings of worthlessness and insecurity.

Two Postmodern thinkers associated with this point of view are Katz and Lyng. Katz (1988) argues that people get drawn into crime because it is seductive, because it is thrilling. Postmodernists interpret this simply as part of a postmodern society which calls on us to enjoy our leisure time – crime is one means whereby some people do just that – this is very much the feeling of many people who took part in the London Riots in 2011.

Lyng (1990) developed the concept of ‘edgework’ – by this he meant that crime was a means whereby people could get a thrill by engaging in risk-taking behaviour – going right to the edge of acceptable behaviour, and challenging the rules of what is acceptable. Again, we can see this very much as an outgrowth of a postmodern society which encourages and rewards risk-taking behaviour.

The risks involved in law breaking act as a challenge, and crime is carried out precisely because the rules are in place. Cultural criminologists argue that most young offenders do not set out on their escapades assessing the chances that they will be arrested, and this is why the steady increase in control in culture over our lives (CCTV, ASBOs, anti-terrorist legislation and creation of new offences) does nothing to deter, but actually creates more law breaking as they are faced with more ‘thrilling’ challenges.

Does Prison Work?

According to the government’s Prison Population Statistics – as of 31 March 2016 the total prison population in England and Wales was just over 85,400. The number of people in jail has been increasing especially rapidly since Michael Howard declared that ‘Prison Works’ in 1993 – a mantra adopted by successive governments. Since that time, the prison population has doubled, with an average increase of 3.6% per year. (In Scotland and Northern Ireland the increase was considerably less during this period)

 

prison population UK 2016

This trend would suggest that we have truly entered the era of mass incarceration (David Garland’s concept),  but does prison actually work?

Does Prison Work?

If your measure of success is rehabilitation and the prevention of re-offending then it appears not: the proven re-offending rate within one year is just under 25%, and about 37% for juveniles.

Prison UK
Prison Doesn’t Work

NB These are the ones we know about, and this is only re-offending within one year, the actual re-offending rates are more than double this figure and the National Audit Office, re offending costs us the equivalent of staging another Olympic Games every year.’

To put these figures in context, if a school had 25-50% of its pupils who achieved no GCSEs, OFSTED would be called in and the management sacked, yet for some reason we tolerate these levels of failure where prison is concerned.

Possible Reasons why Prison Doesn’t Work

Firstly, most (as in about two thirds) have no qualifications and many prisoners have the reading age of a 10 year old when they go into jail – and lack of educational programmes in jail does little to correct this. Basically most prisoners are unemployable before they go inside, and they are doubly unemployable when they come out with a criminal record.

Secondly, our prisons are crammed full of people serving sentences for non-violent crimes, many of whom come from troubled and complex backgrounds – for example, 25% of prisoners grew up in care and over 40% have no home to go back to when they are released.

Thirdly, at the same time as the prison population doubling, in the last five years the number of staff employed in the prison estate has been cut by 30%, with the prison budget being slashed by a quarter.

The result is overcrowding and terrible conditions. It is estimated that 1/5 prisoners spends 22 hours a day in their cells; violence and drugs are rife and suicide rates are at their highest for 25 years.

This means that many jails simply aren’t the kind of environments which are conducive to rehabilitation – this is the focus of many documentaries, most recently the BBC’s ‘Life in Wandsworth Prison

This documentary demonstrates how under-staffing has resulted in a lack of care for prisoners, with many being locked-down for 23 hours a day, with scant mental-health care provision where required (which many prisoners do). In addition to this the documentary also shows how drugs are readily available in the jail, with weed being openly smoked in front of the guards and it’s clear that many of the prisoners are victims of violence while inside.

It costs £36 000 a year to keep someone in jail, maybe this money could be better spent on social schemes to prevent offending?

 

 

 

Postmodern and Late Modern Criminology

A Summary sheet covering post and late modern theories of crime – focusing on Jock Young’s ‘Vertigo of Late Modernity’, the cultural criminology of Katz and Lyng (edgework), and Foucault’s concept of discplinary power and the shift to control through surveillance. 

Post and Late Modern Theories of Crime

(PM/ LM Theories of Crime Control PART 1)

Introduction – Post/ Late Modern Society and changing crime

  • Post-Modern society refers to society since about the 1970s

  • Numerous social changes mean that both the nature of crime and the causes of crime are more complex

  • Some of the key social changes which influence criminal behaviour (and crime control) include

  • The rise of the consumer society – the norm of high consumption

  • globalisation, de-industrialisation and increasing instability and uncertainty

  • The fact that we live in a media-saturated society which celebrates celebrity-culture

  • The increase in individual-freedom (individualisation) and cultural diversity

  • Various technological changes, especially the increasing centrality of ICT.

  • This revision sheet (and the main class-notes) only look at sociologists who have developed new theories about the relationship between changes in post/ late modernity and changing crime.

  • Other areas of the course which could be included under postmodernism include gloablisation and crime, and aspects of the media and crime.

Jock Young – Late Modernity, Exclusion and Crime

  • The 1950s was a ‘golden age’ of full employment, cultural inclusion and low crime

  • Today, de-industrialisation has resulted in low-employment, instability, insecurity, uncertainty, social-fragmentation and high crime rates

  • Economic exclusion combined with the pressure to consume and be a celebrity result in anomie

  • Crime is a means of coping with this anomie – it offers us a ways not necessarily to get rich (like Merton says), but to ‘be somebody’, vent our frustrations, or simply escape.

  • As a result, crime gets more diverse, more spread out in society, and nastier (more extreme).

Cultural Criminology – Edgework

  • Developed by Katz and Lyng in the 1980s and 1990s

  • Criticises Rational Choice Theory – crime is not always rational, it is done for emotional reasons

  • Crime is increasingly about ‘edgework’ – flirting with the boundaries of the acceptable because it’s exciting, or thrilling.

  • This is very much part of living in a risk-society (Ulrich Beck)

Simon Winlow – Violent Night

  • Researched young working class men in Northern cities who regularly engaged in binge-drinking and violence at the weekends.

  • Found that their jobs were low-status and insecure, they offered them no sense of identity

  • Binge-drinking was a way to escape the boredom and low-status of work.

  • Fighting meant numerous things – it was about status, but also simply thrilling and exciting.

  • Offers broad support for both the theories above.

Surveillance and Crime Control

(PM/ LM Theories of Crime Control PART 2)

Michel Foucault – The Birth of the Prison and the rise of Surveillance

  • Punishment used to be violent, carried out on the body and it used to be done in public, now punishment is psychological, it expects people to change the way they think, and it is carried out in prisons, behind closed doors.

  • This reflects a shift from sovereign power to disciplinary power.

  • Sovereign power involved controlling people through the threat of force – people were punished severely and other people obeyed because they were afraid of the same punishment.

  • Disciplinary power now involves controlling people through surveillance and expecting people to change their own behaviour – prisoners are locked away and monitored, and change their own behaviour because they know they are being watched.

  • This logic of control now extends to everyone – even non-criminals – surveillance is now everywhere in society – it is not just criminals who are under surveillance by agents of social control, we are under surveillance from cradle to grave – school, work, pregnancy, child-birth, on the streets and roads, our health data.

  • Most people now obey the rules because they know they are being watched – they regulate their own behaviour for fear of becoming the wrong kind of person – a failing student, an unproductive worker, a bad mother, an obese-person, for example.

  • NB – This is quintessentially sociological – it is only in very recent human history that we have become so obsessed with monitoring every aspect of our daily-lives, and one of Foucault’s points is that this constant surveillance doesn’t necessarily improve our lives – there are both winners and losers.