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Does Prison Work? The Stats suggest not!

What can prison population statistics tell us about Crime Control in the UK?  Is Prison an effective strategy for controlling crime?

These are questions that should be of interest to any student studying the Crime and Deviance option within A-level sociology.

Scotland, England and Wales have high prison populations 

Prison population england.PNG

In England and Wales we lock up 40% more people than in France and almost twice as many people as they do in Germany, which are broadly comparable countries.

Yet there is no link between the prison population and levels of crime 

prison population and crime rate.PNG

  • England and wales have seen a rising prison population and a rising then a rapidly falling crime rate
  • Finland has seen a declining prison population and a rising and then a gradually declining crime rate.
  • Canada has seen a broadly level prison population and yet a relatively stable crime rate.

Most people are serving short sentences for non-violent offences 

what people are sentenced for.PNG

Nearly 70% of the prison population are in for non-violent offences – which means that 30% are in for violent offences. In those prisons where the two populations are mixed, this must be awful for some of those non-violent offenders.

People are getting sentenced for longer 

long sentences for serious offences.PNG

I’m not sure what’s underlying this rise in more serious offences …. the most obvious long-sentence crime of murder has decreased in recent years, so maybe this is for violent gang related and terrorist related crimes which involve in harm rather than death ? Something to research further!

Does Prison work?

In short, if controlling crime is what you hope to achieve, then no it doesn’t because nearly 50% of those sent to prison are recalled within 1 year of being released.

reoffending rates England 2019.PNG

However, there are more reasons why you might want to lock people up other than just rehabilitating them and preventing future offending – there is an argument that they just deserve to be punished whether they reoffend or not.

How do community service orders and suspended sentences compare to prison?

it seems that both of these are more effective at preventing reoffending, but the difference isn’t that great:

  • 63% of people who serve sentences of less than 12 months reoffend compared to
  • 56% of those who receive community orders and compared to
  • 54% of those who receive suspended sentences.

reoffending community service compared prison.PNG

HOWEVER, this may be due to the fact that those avoiding jail have different circumstances and/ or different characters to those who do go to jail – they might just be the kinds of people less likely to reoffend already!

Conclusions 

Overall these prison statistics suggest that while we like to lock people up in England and Wales, there is little evidence that doing so prevents crime.

Maybe we should be looking for cheaper and more effective solutions – such as early intervention (initially expensive but cheaper than several years in and out of jail), or public shaming for example?

Sources 

This post is based on data taken from ‘Prison the facts, Summer 2019‘, published by the Prison Reform Trust.

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Sociological Perspectives on Punishment

One way of controlling and reducing crime is to punish offenders. Given that punishment typically involves restricting people’s freedom and sometimes inflicting harm on people, it requires some justification as a strategy for crime control. Two main justifications exist for punishment: Crime reduction and retribution. These methods link to different penal policies.

Reduction

One justification for punishing offenders is that it prevents future crimes. This can be done through:

  • Deterrence – Punishing the individual discourages them from future offending – and others through making an example of them. This relates to Durkheim’s Functionalist Theory that crime and punishment reinforce social regulation, where prison sentence for a crime committed reaffirms the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

  • Rehabilitation – The aim is to change offenders’ behaviour through education so they can earn an ‘honest living’ on release

  • Incapacitation – Removing the capacity for offenders to re-offend through long term prison sentences, cutting of hands, chemical castration or the death penalty.

Retribution

Reducing crime is not the only function of punishment, it also performs a straightforward ‘retributive function’ – in which the criminal is simply punished for harming another person, and the victim gets a sense of satisfaction that the criminal is ‘paying for their crime. This is an expressive rather than an instrumental view of punishment – it expresses society’s outrage at the crime.

Left Realism

Left realists believe that prison alone is an ineffective method at reducing crime. They believe it needs to be combined with the practice of restorative justice…which involves the offender actively doing something to make up for the harm done as a result of their crime. This may involve measures such as reparation, (paying back) mediation, (offender meeting victim) reintegrative ‘shaming’, (facing offenders with the consequences of their actions and family conferencing which seeks to bring offender, victim and members of the community into some form of dialogue and ‘healing’ process. All this is very unlike the anonymous processing and exclusionist shaming of the courts and prison sentences.

Home office research suggests meeting the offender benefits 80% of victims who choose to participate. For some victims it is about forgiveness – letting go of anger in order to move on with their lives. But for many, meeting the offender is about confronting them with the real impact of their crime, asking the questions that never get answered in court, and the hope that – for some offenders at least – understanding the impact of their actions might help to prevent them reoffending.

The research evidence on RJ is stronger than for almost any other criminal justice intervention. Research using randomised control trials (Home Office/Ministry of Justice seven-year, £7m evaluation of the impact of RJ) has found that offenders who met their victim compared to those who did not, the frequency of reoffending fell by 27% (ie 27% less crime after RJ). However, at present fewer than 1% of victims of crime have access to a restorative justice process. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/17/restorative-justice-cuts-crime)

Marxism

According to the Marxist Sociologist David Gordon prison benefits the Capitalist system in three major ways:

  • The imprisonment of selected members of the lower classes neutralises opposition to the system, keeping potential revolutionaries from forming together and taking political action.
  • The imprisonment of many members of the underclass also sweeps out of sight the ‘worst jetsam of Capitalist society’ such that we cannot see it
  • By punishing individuals and making them responsible for their actions, defining these individuals as ‘social failures’ we ignore the failings of the system that lead to the conditions of inequality and poverty that create the conditions which lead to crime. Our attention is diverted away from the immorality and greed of the elite classes.

NB – We are not talking about small numbers here – Focussing on the USA, David Garland argues that we have entered the era of mass incarceration. Approximately 2.3 million people are in jail in the US (about 750/100 000)

Focusing on the UK, the prison population has doubled since 1993 from approximately 40 000 to nearly 90 000 today.

There is evidence to support the Marxist view that it is mainly the marginalised who end up in jail – Looking at stats on prisoners we find that…

10% of men and 30% of women have had a previous psychiatric admission to hospital before they come into prison.

48% of all prisoners are at, or below, the level expected of an 11 year old in reading, 65% in numeracy and 82% in writing.

71% of children in custody have been involved with, or in the care of, social services before entering custody.

NB2 – While Right Realists would claim that locking more people up is a causal factor in the crime rate going down over the last two decades, this claim is challenged. This correlation may be a coincidence – other factors (such as abortion and the rise of ICT meaning more people stay indoors) may also play a role in this).

 Interactionism

Once a person is labelled as deviant, it is extremely difficult to remove that label. The deviant person becomes stigmatised as a criminal or deviant and is likely to be considered, and treated, as untrustworthy by others. The deviant individual is then likely to accept the label that has been attached, seeing himself or herself as deviant, and act in a way that fulfils the expectations of that label. Even if the labelled individual does not commit any further deviant acts than the one that caused them to be labelled, getting rid of that label can be very hard and time-consuming. For example, it is usually very difficult for a convicted criminal to find employment after release from prison because of their label as ex-criminal. They have been formally and publicly labelled a wrongdoer and are treated with suspicion likely for the remainder of their lives.

Total Institutions and The Mortification of the Self

Erving Goffman (1961) argued that places such as mental asylums, concentration camps and prisons function as ‘total institutions’ – places which are closed off to the outside world and where inmates’ lives come under the complete control of the institution.

According to Goffman, becoming an inmate in a total institution involves a process of “mortification of the self” – inmates are subjected to degrading and humiliating treatments designed to remove any trace of individual identity. For instance, personal clothing and items are confiscated, inmates are strip searched, their heads are shaved, and they are issued an ID number. The point of such treatment is to mark a clear separation between the inmates’ former selves and their institutional selves. Inmates are constantly under surveillance and they have no privacy. Minute behaviour is observed and assessed, and if necessary, sanctioned.

As a result of having every aspect of their daily lives controlled, inmates effectively lose the ability to construct their own identities and function independently. Rather than making sick people well, asylums make them more insane, and rather rehabilitating, prisons actually make prisoners more criminal.

Post and Late Modernism

In his classic text, entitled ‘discipline and punish’ Michel Foucault’s points out that punishment has changed from being very direct, immediate and physical – involving torture and sometimes death to being more focused on incarceration and rehabilitation. However, although punishment today may be less severe than in the past, the state has expanded its control over its citizens in more subtle ways and ‘invades’ our private lives much more than at it ever used to. This is especially true when you look at the way criminals are treated today. While prisoners are unlikely to be subjected to torture or death (unless you’re Muslim, black or stupid and live in Texas) they are subjected to an ever increasing array of what Foucault calls ‘technologies of surveillance’ – they are kept under surveillance programmes and are expected to reform their behaviour.

Prison is the most obvious example of this – with prisoners under (potential) constant surveillance, while those who avoid prison might have to subject themselves to being tagged, visit probation officers, or turn up to ‘rehabilitation classes’ (such as drug counselling or anger management) all of which involve surveillance and behavioural modification.

Foucault sees the growth of prison as a means of punishment as reflecting the move from sovereign power to disciplinary power – Sovereign power involves direct physical coercion to get people to obey the laws, and under this system punishments are carried out on people’s physical bodies – punishment is harsh – it is a spectacle.

Today, however, political and economic systems are maintained through ‘disciplinary power’ – power is exercised through surveillance – people change their behaviour because they know they are being watched. Prison seams more humane than physical punishment but in reality it is much more invasive as a means of social control.

NB – As with Marxism above, we are talking about huge numbers 7 million people (1/32 of the population) are either in jail, on probation or parole, and Garland uses the concept of Transcarceration to refer to this shift. Certain people move between various state institutions – from care – to prison – to mental hospital – throughout their whole lives, effectively being under constant surveillance by the state.

David Garland – The Punitive State and The Culture of Control

David Garland argues that there has been a relatively recent shift in attitudes towards punishment.

He argues that in the 1950s the state practised ‘penal welfarism’ – in which the criminal justice system did not just try to catch and punish offenders, but also tried to rehabilitate them, so that they could be reintigrated into society

However, since the 1950s individual freedoms have increased, while social bonds have weakened, life is more uncertain and less predictable, and (despite the fact that crime is now decreasing) the public are more worried about crime than ever.

As a result, the state has now abandoned ‘penal welfarism’, it is much less concerned with rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners, it’s primary concern is now convincing the public that it is taking a tough approach on crime and reassuring communities that something is being done about crime.

Garland argues that we have now moved into a new era in which a ‘punitive state’ enforces a ‘culture of control’ – there are three main ways in which the state now seeks to control crime and punish offenders:

  • The state increasingly identifies potential groups who are at risk of offending at a young age and take early interventions. This links to the Actuarialism (risk management) strategy referred to in a previous topic.

  • The state locks increasing amounts of people up, Garland argues we have entered the era of ‘mass incarceration’ and ‘transcarceration’.

  • Politicians increasingly use the issue of crime control, and ‘being tough on crime’ as a means to win elections – in effect, crime control has become a political tool which politicians use to win power, rather than being about reducing crime perse.

Evaluations of Garland

  • This is an important contribution in that it draws our attention towards the ‘political nature of crime control – and it helps to explain the increasing prison populations and ‘transcacerated’ population even though crime has been decreasing for decades.

  • This is a rather cynical theory – Garland seems to be saying that politicians today simply use their ‘tough on crime’ approach to get votes and maintain power, rather than trying to do anything which will really address the underlying causes of crime. Is this really the case?

  • Michel Foucault would probably argue that this theory is too simplistic in terms of its understanding of political power – it diverts our attention away from other agencies of social control in preventing/ constructing deviance through surveillance.

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The Role of the Police in Controlling and Reducing Crime

This post simply applies a few perspectives to the role of the police in society

Consensus Theory and Right Realism

The Consensus Approach views the police as a neutral force who generally do a good job, having a close working relationship with law abiding citizens and responding effectively to the needs of local communities, defending them against the anti-social and criminal behaviour of a minority people. From this point of view most failings of the police are due to lack of funding and there not being enough police on the streets.

Right Realists – believes more emphasis should be put on Zero Tolerance policing – the main role of the police is to work with local communities and businesses to target those areas and individuals who are persistently anti-social and criminal and to clamp down hard on even minor offences. This obviously involves targeting weapon and drugs dealers, but also clamping down on anti-social behaviour, and the police being very visible on the streets to act as a physical deterrent against crime. Obviously Zero Tolerance policies would also involve the police working closely with the courts after offences have taken place.

Zero Tolerance Policing can incorporate ‘military style policing’ where the police act against whole communities.

Left Realism

Left Realists believe that ‘Zero Tolerance’ policies are legitimate but that the police should spend more time getting to know local communities – which involves a less militaristic approach to policing, speaking to and befriending local youths rather than pouring their beer down the drain and constantly ‘moving them on’. This will also involve more referrals to social outreach projects. Policing for Left Realists is more about working with communities and not alienating them through ZT in order to prevent crime in the very long term. Community Support Officers are a good example of ‘community policing’ – they do not have enough powers to engage in Zero Tolerance approaches.

Marxism

According to Marxists the police engage in ‘selective law enforcement’
David Gordon argues that the police mainly focus on policing working class (and underclass) areas and the justice system mainly focuses on prosecuting working and underclass criminals. By and large the system ignores the crimes of the elite and the middle classes, although both of these classes are just as likely to commit crime as the working classes.

Marxists argue that the government puts more police on the streets in working class and underclass estates and underfunds the policing of businesses and Corporations engaging in Corporate Crime. Evidence for this lies in Tombs and Whyte’s study which found that The Financial Services authority (which investigates complex financial crimes) and the Health and Safety Executive (which investigate health and safety breaches by Corporations have had their funding cut in recent years.

Interactionism

Howard Becker suggests that police interpret working class and middle class behaviour differently – In a low-income neighbourhood, a fight is more likely to be defined by the police as evidence of delinquency, but in a wealthy area as evidence of high spirits. The acts are the same, but the meanings given to them by the audience (in this case the public and the police) differ.

Those who have the power to make the label stick thus create deviants or criminals. Eventually, ‘over-policing’ alienates marginalised groups and makes it more likely that they will actually turn to crime (a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy).

Aaron Cicourel also developed a class-based analysis of how agents of social control interact differentially with people from different class backgrounds in ‘The Negotiation of Justice’ – he suggested that middle class parents have more power to ‘negotiate’ effectively with the authorities and are more able to get their children off being given deviant labels – by convincing the police that their kids are really ‘good kids’ and their anti-social behaviour is a ‘one off’.

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Zero Tolerance Policing – An Evaluation

A brief evaluation of Zero Tolerance Policing

Zero Tolerance Policing involves the police strictly clamping down on minor criminal activities such as littering, begging, graffiti and other forms of antisocial behaviour. Clamping down might take the form of on the spot fines, or mandatory jail sentences, as with the ‘three-strikes’ rule in California.

The best known example of Zero Tolerance Policy was its adoption in New York City in 1994. At that time, the city was in the grip of a crack-cocaine epidemic and suffered high levels of antisocial and violent crime. Within a few years of Zero Tolerance, however, crime had dropped from between 30 – 50%.

In the UK Zero Tolerance has been applied in Liverpool, a relatively high-crime rate city. Following its introduction in 2005, overall recorded crime fell by 25.7 per cent in the three years to 2008 with violent crime falling by 38%.

Another application of Zero Tolerance is the ASBO – you can get an ASBO for antisocial rather than criminal behaviour, and go to jail if you breach it, thus ASBOs police minor acts of deviance.

The rationale behind the ASBO stems from the right realist (right wing/ new right/ neoliberal view of the causes of crime – they hold the individual responsible for crime, seeing the individual as making a rational choice to commit crime – if people believe the reward of committing crime outweighs the risk of getting caught and the cost of the punishment, they will commit crime – ZT addresses this by increasing the punishments for minor crimes. This also fits in with Broken Windows Theory – by focussing on minor crimes, this prevents these spiralling into major crimes, and it fits in with the New Right’s view that the state should be ‘tough on crime’

The biggest strength of ZT is that it seems to work – as the figures above demonstrate. It is also relatively cheap to implement and seems to have an immediate effect on crime, unlike the more expensive, long term, social solutions preferred by Left Realists. It also makes the public feel as if something is being done about crime, and gives victims a sense of justice.

However, there are many downsides – Firstly, Zero Tolerance Policing in New York resulted in a lot more people being arrested for possession of marijuana – 25 000 a year by 2012 (one every ten minutes) – some of those people lost their jobs or rental houses as a result. If labelling theory is correct, once labelled as a criminal, these people will find it very hard to get jobs in the future.

Secondly, despite the claims of the right wing governments who implemented them, comparative analysis shows that there are other causes of crime reduction – crime has gone down in cities in the US and the UK without the widespread use of Zero Tolerance techniques – Target Hardening, the increased time people spend online (and thus not on the streets), the declining use of drugs, and even abortion have been suggested as the REAL reasons crime is going down.

Thirdly, Zero Tolerance might be racist in consequence – somewhere in the region of 85% of people dealt with under Zero Tolerance in New York were/ are black or Hispanic.

Fourthly ZT focuses on minor crimes, and street crimes, ignoring the more serious crimes committed by elites, which Marxists see as more harmful. It also does little to address the underlying causes of crime.

Finally, and in conclusion, there is the very real possibility that rather than being about reducing crime, ZT policies are ideological in nature – they allow politicians to claim that they are the ones reducing crime by being ‘tough on crime’, but in reality, crime is going down anyway because of other reasons. Thus maybe ZT has been so widely used because it benefits politicians rather than society as a whole.

Related Posts

Environmental Crime Prevention Strategies 

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Controlling and Reducing Crime – The Role of the Community

Most people manage to get through their whole lives without getting on the ‘wrong side’ of the formal agents of social control (the police, the courts and prison), so it should be no surprise hat many of the perspectives emphasize the role that the community plays in preventing crime and controlling crime.

Consensus Theory and Right Realism

Both Consensus Theory and Right Realism emphasise the importance of informal social control at the level of the community in keeping crime rates low. The following theories all emphasise the importance of the community in controlling crime:

  • Hirschi’s ‘Bonds of Attachment’ theory
  • Charles Murray’s Underclass Theory/ NEETS
  • Wilson and Kelling’s Broken Windows theory

Left Realism

According to left realism, crime is highest in those areas which suffer the highest levels of relative deprivation and marginalisation.

  • Relative deprivation refers to the discontent people feel when they compare their positions to those similarly situated and find that they have less than their peers.

  • Marginalisation is where one is ‘pushed to the edge’ of that society – on the outside of normal society looking in, lacking the resources to fully participate in that society.

According to Left Realists, the conditions of relative deprivation and social exclusion ‘breed crime’, most obviously because criminal means (rather than legitimate means) are often the only way people in such areas can ever hope to achieve material success, while you have relatively little to lose if you get caught.

Left Realists argue that the government should focus on tackling marginalisation and relative deprivation and marginalisation through Community Intervention Projects (aka Social outreach projects).

Community intervention projects involve such things as local councils working with members of local communities to provide improved opportunities for young people ‘at risk of offending’ through providing training opportunities or a more active and engaging education for certain children.

Marxism

According to Marxism, the fact that we have whole communities of the underclass is a structural feature of Late-Capitalism because with technological advances, Capitalism requires an ever smaller workforce. Thus we now have millions of permanently unemployed and underemployed people living in Britain.

Just for emphasis – this is the same as Underclass Theory, but from the Marxist Perspective, members of the underclass are victims of Capitalism creating unemployment through technological obsolescence.

Postmodernism/ Late Modernism

Postmodernists argue that the capacity of local communities to control crime informally, even with the help of state-intervention, is limited because communities today have a high turnover of population – communities tend to be unstable, short-lived and fleeting. Moreover, Postmodernists point out that the concept of ‘community’ is irrelevant to many people’s lives today because society is not made up of ‘communities’, it is made up of ‘networks’ Rather than being integrated into tight-knit communities restricted to one place, we have weaker connections to a higher number of people via virtual networks which spread over large distances.

These networks mean that we become susceptible to a whole range of ‘new crimes’ such as cyber-bullying, trolling, phishing, identity theft, which take place in ‘virtual space’ and there is thus nothing local communities can do to control such crimes. Moreover, members of these virtual networks are also relatively powerless to stop criminals operating through virtual networks. In short, in the postmodern, networked society, communities are powerless to control crime.

Related Posts 

Right Realist Criminology – Includes an introduction to Realism and detailed class notes on Right Realism covering rational choice theory, broken windows theory, Charles Murray’s views on the underclass, situational crime prevention and environmental crime prevention (mainly zero tolerance policing)

Left Realist Criminology – class notes covering relative deprivation, marginalisation, subcultures, early intervention, community based solutions to crime and community policing.

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Actuarial Justice and Risk Management

Feely and Simon (1994) argue that a new ‘technology of power’ is emerging throughout the justice system. It differs from Foucault’s disciplinary power in three main ways:

  • It focuses on groups rather than individuals
  • It is not interested in rehabilitating offenders, but simply in preventing them from offending
  • It uses calculations of risk or ‘actuarial analysis’. This concept comes from the insurance industry which calculates the statistical risk of particular events happening – for example the chances of drivers having an accident.

Feely and Simon argue that this actuarial approach is increasingly used in crime control – airports for example screen passengers before they come to an airport – passengers are awarded points based on gender, age, ethnicity, criminal convictions, and the more points, the more likely you are to be stopped at customs.

Social Sorting and categorical suspicion

David Lyon (2012) argues that the purpose of sorting is to be able to categorise people so they can be treated differently on the basis of risk. This subjects people to ‘categorical suspicion’ – they become suspects simply because they are a particular age or ethnicity (or combination of factors).

In 2010 West-Midlands police sought to introduce a counter-terrorism scheme to surround to mainly Muslim suburbs of Birmingham with about 150 surveillance cameras, some of them covert, thereby placing whole communities under suspicion.

One of the most obvious problems with actuarial risk management strategies of crime control is that it may reinforce the processes of labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy emphasised by interactionists.

Young Minds – An example of social control through actuarialism?

The text below is taken from the Young Minds’ web site – how would Simon and Feely interpret this advice?

Young People at Risk of Offending – Advice for Parents (Young Minds)

No parent wants their child to become a ‘young offender’. But unfortunately, many young people do end up getting involved with crime or antisocial behaviour. Parents Helpline advisor Claire Usiskin advises parents on how they can help support their child.

The factors that cause young people to offend are often complex. Both parents/carers and the young person may feel blamed and stigmatised, although the factors contributing to the situation are often not their ‘fault’.

Young people who experience the following issues are more at risk of offending:

◾Poor housing or living in a neighbourhood with poor services
◾Financial hardship
◾Difficulties achieving at or attending school
◾Bullying (as a victim or perpetrator)
◾Behavioural problems
◾Hyperactivity or poor impulse control (for example ADHD)
◾Specific learning difficulties (for example dyslexia)
◾Violence or conflict within the family or social environment
◾Drug or alcohol issues within the family or social environment
◾Family or peer group attitudes which condone crime
◾Abuse or trauma in childhood
◾Spending time in local authority care

These ‘risk factors’ tend to add up, so the more of these factors a young person is exposed to, the more likely they are to get involved with crime.

As a parent or carer it can be very difficult to support your child or young person to stay the right side of the law. Peer groups can be very powerful, and teenagers may feel it is more important to stay ‘in with’ their friends than to respect the law.

Even if the child is experiencing some of the risk factors above, parents and carers can do a lot to support their child and try to prevent them breaking the law.

◾ Just one strong, positive child-carer relationship can offset many other problematic issues. Spell out clearly what is and isn’t acceptable, and tell them why this is. If relatives or friends are around, ask them for help in backing you up and giving your child firm but caring messages about keeping to boundaries.

◾ Do your best to get help and support for the child around education and mental health – even if services are not so easy to access, it is worth fighting for the child’s rights. If you think your child has learning difficulties or another condition that has not been diagnosed, ask your GP or school for an assessment.

◾Youth services, mentoring schemes and anti-crime, drug or gang projects are often run by practitioners, including ex-offenders, who have a lot of expertise in engaging with young people and motivating them to change their behaviour.

◾If you are struggling to parent your child and feel things are getting on top of you, ask for some support for yourself via the GP or a local counselling service. It’s not a sign of failure, it shows strength in wanting to be the strongest you can to support your child.

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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.

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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‘.

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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.