Susie Atherton, Teaching Fellow in Criminology, Keele University
Susie has been blogging brilliantly about the BSC conference in Nottingham. You can read her first post here.
Another day of scrutinising tweets has shown how well this year’s conference is examining ‘Inequality in a Diverse World.’ As Prof. Neil Chakraborti said, ‘British Criminology is in good health’, which is demonstrated for me by the themes from this year’s conference showing a distinct shift towards applying what we criminologists know, getting it out there and not shying away from the difficult issues. Presentations on the experiences of trans-gender prisoners (Mia Harris) show academics engaged with these debates and delegates responding to this through their tweets, keen to understand and share knowledge about the detrimental practices in prisons for this group. There is a clearly a need to understand their experiences and how current legal provisions manages this. Karen Heimer and Stacy de Coster presented work on the narratives of women in prison and their perceptions of mothering, a theme recently examined in a text edited by Lucy Baldwin (‘Mothering Justice’) examining the treatment of mothers in criminal justice and broader social policies, from a range of practitioners and academic researchers. The announcement of a new journal on Gender Based Violence is welcome, given the wealth of research and scope of issues this can cover.
The rights of animals were also examined by academics from the University of South Wales (Dr. Harriet Pierpoint and Dr. Jennifer Maher), Middlesex (Angus Nurse) and Brighton (Prof. Peter Squires). Abuse and neglect of animals was discussed as ‘worthy of moral consideration and legal protections’, given the disturbing statistic that ‘97% of animal species receive little or no protection from legislation and those charged [with] their welfare are often abusers.’ Squires discussed the killing of animals in the name of sport, a campaign picked up by twitter in recent times, with the images of trophy killing, the outpouring of grief and outrage over Cecil the Lion. It is good to see that criminology, as a social science, is examining these issues I hope current and prospective PG students continue this trend, to perhaps consider zemiological perspectives beyond what is legally defined as criminal. If I had my PhD to do again, I would definitely design a therapeutic programme for ex-offenders which involved kittens in some way, to demonstrate their effect on reducing re-offending – I am certain it would work!
As Nick Howe and Mary Corcoran discussed, to examine social problems in the context of what the criminal justice system can do is needed, as it highlights the important role of the third sector, along with concerns about how agencies such as the police can adequately respond to issues generated by current social policies. Referring to domestic abuse cases, a report out today begs the question, how can the state protect victims if there is nowhere suitable to house them? Housing in communities seems to be at the very heart of social problems and also solutions, and yet, for many achieving this goal is out of reach, and for others, the focus is to see a house as an investment, not a home. This brings to mind again the theme of the impact of inequality, in that different approaches in policing and the courts, and the inclusion of the third sector are always going to be constrained in demonstrating their effectiveness, where social exclusion thrives and were the disadvantaged are misled and mis-represented.
I was really struck by the range of methodologies present in papers, from ethnography getting the attention it deserved, from papers and most importantly, giving Professor Dick Hobbs the Lifetime Award – a lot of crimtweeters were very pleased about that one! But there were also some exciting new forms of studying crime, through examining essays written by women who have committed serious crimes (Heimer and de Coster) and lyrical criminology (Steve Wakeman) which is something I want to know more about. Finally, the use of social networking data as a predictor of crime – computational criminology (Prof. Matthew Williams). Accessing data from social networking sites was something I used in my own research in a much less sophisticated way, but for me it was a useful resource by which to examine community life and experiences as well as responses to agencies using social networking to promote their work, such as charities and also Neighbourhood Policing teams. To use it as a form of ‘big data’ is an exciting new frontier and will no doubt generate plenty of new research opportunities. This was also demonstrated by Kelly Hannah Moffat in her paper on big data and social injustice.
So, I heartily agree with Prof. Chakraborti, that British Criminology is in good health – these ramblings are from just some of the #BSCConf2016 tweets and surely the tip of the iceberg, but they do show how criminologists are engaging with new forms of data, contemporary challenges and understanding and embracing what a truly diverse world we live in.