Building Foundations- A message for those at the start of their PhD.

As we start a new academic year, our Chair reflects on the early stages of the PhD.

So much of the early stages of the PhD is understanding the PhD process and what is expected of you. Where is the bar we’re aiming for? What level of writing? What level of knowledge? What level of analysis? An original contribution to what now?! It’s learning; how you work, how you write, how you get the best out of yourself. Building relationships, with other PhD students, with your supervisors, with your networks. Building resilience. Building confidence. And learning the field, learning your research topic. That in-depth knowledge of your topic begins from year one.

We’re in the PhD for the long haul. It is, as many say, a marathon. And the PhD can take over your life, and the lives of people around you. What do you mean people aren’t interested in discussing Goffman and Foucault?! The PhD has a presence with you, in your mind, a companion. The things you put in place in the first year need to make sense for the distance. You can’t sprint or push through for the whole of the PhD. There may be sprinting moments, but the way you work needs to be sustainable for the longevity. Be kind to yourself. Build practices that make sense for you and make sense for the marathon.

The first part of the PhD is important. It feels like nothing is happening and you’re getting nowhere. But this is building your foundations; your working practices, your knowledge, your confidence. And your PhD rests on these foundations. They are essential. It may feel like you’re lost in those early days, going down blind alleys of reading, different directions, different distractions. Is this relevant? Is it important? It may feel that you’re not achieving anything, going around in circles. But the foundation-building of the first year is fundamental. Trust that it is important. You absolutely need it. It makes for a strong PhD resting on solid ground.

This stage matters. You’re doing the building. Be patient. Be sensible. Be kind to yourself.

Claire Davis, BSC Postgraduate Chair.

 

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Thinking Differently about Youth Justice – Event & Call for Papers

The BSC Postgraduate Committee’s ‘Thinking Differently’ series brings together academics and practitioners to critically explore contemporary issues in criminology and challenge taken-for-granted assumptions. The series seeks to build on the work of the BSC Postgraduate committee’s work by hosting events that seek to provide a meaningful and relevant contribution to the criminology postgraduate experience within a supportive and inclusive environment.

Thinking Differently about Youth Justice

Contemporary youth justice can be suggested as laden with both problems and opportunities. Despite difficulties resolving the longstanding disproportionate treatment of particular groups (Smithson et al 2013, Uhrig 2016), opportunities to divert significant volumes of young people from youth justice services have also arisen. While responses to those who remain have become refocused on areas such as education (Taylor 2016), the status of young youth justice experts has also become elevated, with the promise that young voices can gain greater prominence (YJB 2016). This current state of flux has heightened the need for critical scrutiny (Phoenix 2015) while also cementing the importance of relationships between research, policy and practice, such as through the Greater Manchester Youth Justice University Partnership.
The BSC Postgraduate Committee would like to welcome postgraduates to the one-day event Thinking Differently About Youth Justice where space will be provided for discussion, reflection and the drawing together of contemporary themes in youth justice.

FREE Event

Tue 25 April 2017, 10:00 – 16:00 BST

Charles Wilson Building
University of Leicester
University Road
Leicester
LE1 7RH

Please book your FREE place via the Eventbrite link below.

Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bsc-postgraduates-thinking-differently-about-youth-justice-tickets-32033181107?aff=eac2

Confirmed Speakers:

Professor Jo Phoenix (Open University)
The Death of Youth Justice?

Professor Hannah Smithson (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Knowledge Transfer and Youth Justice: Developing and Embedding Youth Justice Research in Practice

Dr Kate Gooch (University of Leicester) and Piers von Berg (University of Birmingham)
Session title tbc

Call for abstracts

We invite abstract submissions of 300 words from postgraduate students on the theme of Thinking Differently About Youth Justice drawing on themes described above, and contemporary issues more broadly. Please email your abstracts to roxanna.dehaghani@le.ac.uk by 24th March – we will provide outcome notifications by 31st March.

Photo credit: BBC

PhD Blog – Communication is key: Why does Communication in Youth Justice Matter?

 

As we resume our PhD guest blog series after the summer break, this weeks blog is from Gabriella Simak.
Profile_PictureGabriella is in the 3rd year of a PhD in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Bangor University. Her research interests are related to youth justice policy, more specifically the use of restorative justice models in the current retributive framework of youth justice. Gabriella’s PhD is exploring how the speech, language and communication needs/difficulties affect restorative justice in the context of referral orders in England and Wales. Her project employs a mixed methods approach, including a wealth of data from interviews with YOT practitioners, Speech and Language Therapists, non-participant observation of Youth Offender Panel meetings, and case level quantitative data on young people sentenced to referral orders.
Gabriella has an MA in Comparative Criminology and Criminal Justice. Her dissertation focused on the implementation of Family Group Conferencing in Welsh Youth Justice Services, titled Youth Justice in Wales: Possibilities through the Family Group Conferencing Model.  Gabriella is originally from Canada, and completed her undergraduate degree in Criminology and Sociology at the University of Toronto – making her a truly international criminologist! This blog post showcases her PhD work to date. If you wish to contact Gabriella about her research, please email sop00f@bangor.ac.uk.
Communication is key: Why does Communication in Youth Justice Matter?

This study explored how communication impacts restorative justice measures in the context of referral orders, including whether reparation to the victim and to the wider community is possible for young people with communication difficulties in England and Wales.

Research questions:

  • How are speech language and communication needs (SLCNs) identified in Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) for young people on Referral Orders?
  • How do communication needs of young people affect the reparation process in Youth Offender Panel (YOP) meetings?
  • How young people’s SLCNs affect referral order outcomes?
    • Hypothesis: Young people with SLCNs are more likely to breach their referral orders than those without.

Speech, language and communication needs refer to “a wide range of difficulties related to all aspects of communication in children and young people. These can include difficulties with fluency, forming sounds and words, formulating sentences, understanding what others say, and using language socially” (Bercow, 2008: 13). Key research points to the difficulties young people with SLCNs face when engaging with services within the young justice system. Recent studies have estimates the prevalence of SLCNs in the young offender population to be up to 60% (Gregory and Bryan, 2007: 507), whereas 6% in the general population in the UK (Law, et al. 2010). Communication difficulties, such as lack of understanding, poor vocabulary and difficulties with expressive language have a negative impact on how young people’s behaviour is perceived by YOT (Youth Offending Team) practitioners (Gregory and Bryan, 2009: 8). Research shows that young people with low levels of language ability are likely struggle particularly with verbally mediated interventions (Bryan and Gregory, 2013: 360). Referral Orders were introduced by the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 and should operate on the restorative justice principles of responsibility, reparation and reintegration (Ministry of Justice, 2015: 10).

This project explored the impact on young people’s SLCNs on referral orders using a mixed methods approach. Twenty two YOTs with seconded Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) were identified and approached (Five in Wales and 17 in England). Participants included: YOT Case Managers, Referral Order Coordinators, Early Intervention Officers, Volunteer Community Panel Members (VCPMs) and seconded SLTs from a total of 16 YOTs. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants in person, over the telephone and interview questions were available in questionnaire format for participants’ convenience. Non-participant observations of Youth Offender Panel meetings were undertaken, including initial and review panel meetings. Finally, quantitative case level data were collected from one YOT in Wales to answer the third research question.

Practitioners interviewed mostly agreed that there was a large prevalence of SLCNs in young people on referral orders and that communication is of great importance in referral order processes. Young people mask their SLCNs by adapting behaviour that may be perceived and misinterpreted as difficult by YOT practitioners. The two main themes emerging were SLT service provision and SLTs role within the YOTs and the second theme was practitioners effectively engaging and communicating with young people with SLCNs during the referral order process. There were differences of SLT service provision within individual YOTs in terms of the SLTs role, such as screening young people, referral to SLTs by YOT Case Managers, and whether the SLT was able to provide intervention for those young people with identified SLCNs. Similarities in the role of SLTs were training of YOT practitioners in SLCN awareness and engaging young people in interventions. SLTs had an important role of providing material for YOT practitioners and a consultancy role for practitioners to discuss particular cases. In Wales, there was a need for bilingual English and Welsh SLT service provision for those young people who are more comfortable using Welsh.

In terms of YOP observations, VCPMs’ level of experience in engaging young people greatly differed with more experienced volunteers engaging more effectively with young people during panel meetings. Volunteer panel members were provided information through the referral order report written by the YOT Case Manager, including the Asset assessment, which informed panel members’ approach to engaging young people in a dialogue. Reparation directly to the victim was affected by young people’s SLCNs in terms of their ability to express themselves both verbally and participating in reparative activities.

Just like any programme based on restorative justice principles, referral orders assume open communication between stakeholders. However, effective communication is lacking, a power imbalance is created which hinders reparation and restoration of the harm. Most interventions in referral order processes are verbally conducted, and require young people to understand and process complex information. Consequently identification and appropriate support of young people with SLCNs is of great importance in order to successfully complete referral orders, young people must be able to communicate with other stakeholders. Analysis of case level data on young people with SLCNs indicate that there is no significant relationship between young people’s SLCNs and their referral order completion/breach rates. Therefore the hypothesis was rejected.

 

References:

BERCOW, J., 2008. The Bercow Report A Review of Services for Children and Young People (0–19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs. Nottingham, England: DCSF Publications.

BRYAN, K., FREER, J. and FURLONG, C., 2007. Language and communication difficulties in juvenile offenders. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 42(5), pp. 505-520.

BRYAN, K. and GREGORY, J., 2013. Perceptions of staff on embedding speech and language therapy within a youth offending team. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 29(3), pp. 359-371.

BRYAN, K., 2004. Preliminary study of the prevalence of speech and language difficulties in young offenders. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 39(3), pp. 391-400.

GREGORY, J. and BRYAN, K., 2009. Evaluation of the Leeds Speech and Language Therapy Service provision within the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme provided by the Leeds Youth Offending Team. Leeds% 20SLT% 20report% 20Jun% 2010a.pdf (accessed 12 December 2010).

LAW, J., GARRETT, Z. and NYE, C., 2010. Speech and language therapy interventions for children with primary speech and language delay or disorder (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (3), pp. 1-79.

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE, 2015. Referral Order Guidance. United Kingdom: Ministry of Justice.

 

#BSCconf16 – ‘My first BSC conference but definitely not my last’ by Roxanna Dehaghani

Roxanna is a PhD student and graduate teaching assistant at the University of Leicester. She presented a paper at this years BSC conference entitled ‘Vulnerable by law but not by nature: exploring custody officers’ conception of youth and childhood vulnerability in the context of police custody’ . She presented this on Thursday 7 July from 11-1230 in the ‘Childhood, Juvenile and Youthful Vulnerabilities’ parallel. Roxanna has written an interesting piece for us before about vulnerability in police custody, you can find this here.

The 2016 British Society of Criminology conference, hosted at the Nottingham Conference Centre, was not my first conference but it was my first BSC conference. And, as with the previous conferences I have attended, I enjoyed every moment – from the Postgraduate Breakfast (which gave me a chance to meet other PGRs) to the train home on the Friday afternoon (when I collected my thoughts and had a quick nap!).

The conference, for the PGRs, kicked-off on Wednesday morning with an informal meet-and-greet breakfast, shortly followed by a plenary entitled ‘Criminology on a Mission’ with Prof Peter Squires (Brighton) (see the blog by Ania Matczak for more detail). After a quick refreshment break we had the choice of attending one of four panel sessions. As I am nearing the end of my 3rd year I thought I had best attend the session ‘Building your Academic CV’ with Dr Steve Tong (Canterbury Christ Church) and Dr Victoria Silverwood (Birmingham City). This session provided PGR’s with invaluable gems about all things job market from a job-panel member (Tong) and a recent job market candidate (Silverwood). The conference-proper began after lunch with a talk by Mr Will Hutton entitled ‘Why Purpose Matters’ (see the blog by Ania Matczak for more detail). Of all the enticing sessions packed into the three days, I decided to focus on youth justice and policing, whilst also dipping into gender and queer criminology. Day 2, in particular, seemed to have a core theme – that of vulnerability and risk. Each session exploring this concept from different lenses. The plenary by Prof Kelly Hannah-Moffat (Toronto) entitled ‘Repositioning Criminogenic Risk in an Era of Diversity, Data Analytics and Inequality’ aligned perfectly with my ever-increasing interest in risk.

There are many lessons that one can learn from attending a conference. Firstly, you would be surprised about how various areas interact or overlap – do not be afraid to venture outside of your research topic/discipline as there are always (often not-so-obvious) links with your own work. Secondly, conferences can be daunting but they can also be a lot of fun! Some of the best ideas develop over lunch or at the drinks reception or dinner over a glass of wine (or fruit juice!). It is also helpful to discuss your ideas with experts and non-experts alike – these conversations can provide an additional perspective on your work (and it is sometimes the lack of perspective that has been causing you to stare blankly at a computer screen for weeks or months!!!). Thirdly, even if you are the only person attending from your department or institution (I was the only Leicester Law School member in attendance) you will soon realise that you are far from alone. Within the broad church that is criminology I met another Roxanna; two fellow Dutch speakers; a bunch of Leicesterians (from Criminology); other policing scholars; scholars interested in and researching the concept of vulnerability; an expert on the appropriate adult safeguard; and many, many other PGRs. Such commonalities highlight how easy it is to get to know people, establish friendships/working relationships and communicate ideas. Although many of these connections were facilitated through prior contact (through Twitter – I would recommend signing up and using this to connect with people before, during and after the conference! – or via email), many were established organically on the day.

Attendance at the BSC conference was invaluable and I would urge all PGRs to think about presenting a paper or poster at the British Society of Criminology conference next year at Sheffield Hallam.

 

#BSCconf16 experience – Sophie Pike

Sophie Pike attended the BSC Conference in Nottingham last week and has kindly written a blog of her experience of the conference. Sophie presented a brilliant paper under the ‘Homicide Investigation’ panel – a widely tweeted about panel session!  If you would like to contact Sophie about her PhD or research interests please email – Sophie.Pike@southwales.ac.uk or you can find her on twitter at Twitter at @MissSophie84.

 

Last week I attended the British Society of Criminology conference for the first time.  It was a really informative event and this blog post will give an insight into my experiences of attending.

As well as attending the conference for the first time, I was asked to present as part of a panel that my PhD supervisor, Professor Fiona Brookman, established to address the topic homicide, which was entitled ‘Homicide Investigation: UK and USA Research Findings’.  Dr Cheryl Allsop and I presented on our forthcoming paper ‘The Changing Face of Homicide Investigations – only the crime is fixed in time’.  Based on our PhD research, the talk consisted of two parts.  Firstly, I discussed some of my findings in respect of how the investigation of homicide in England and Wales has changed since the 1980s, before Cheryl explained how these changes, particularly scientific and technological changes, have enabled investigators to resolve cold cases many years after they originally occurred.  I have always found it helpful to present my PhD research and have done so at several stages over the last few years; it helps to develop your ability to justify your topic and your approach along with your ability to answer questions about the research, all of which will be helpful when it comes to the Viva.  It was great to speak to people afterwards and hear them say that they enjoyed the talk and are interested in my work – I even spoke to a prospective external examiner.  Our panel was very well received and many people commented on how they liked and found useful that each of the three talks were linked to each other.

One of the things that I most enjoyed about the conference was the diversity of the talks – there were plenty to choose from and it was not easy to decide what to go along to!  This was particularly the case with the postgraduate sessions on the first day.  In the end I opted for the session on publishing in journals and books.  It is my intention to convert my thesis into a book and there were plenty of helpful tips on how to do this. I found the hints around developing a book proposal especially helpful and I hope to put them to good use soon.  As well as attending sessions that were more closely related to my research and areas of interest, such as the session on miscarriages of justice, I attended others that I was interested in, but knew less about.  For example, I attended particularly interesting sessions on joint enterprise and animal abuse.  It was helpful to learn about new topics and to see the very different ways in which people of all different experiences conduct their research and how they present that work.

My first experience of attending and presenting at the British Society of Criminology conference did not disappoint.  It was, as ever, valuable, to present my own work and to learn more about areas that were new to me.  The importance of networking also cannot be underestimated and it was great to meet new people (including those whose names I recognised from books and journals!) and to spend time with colleagues – heading to the pub to watch the football and chatting over several glasses of wine at the conference dinner!  I would definitely recommend that other postgraduate students attend the conference if they get the chance.

 

Picture credit @BritSocCrim / Twitter

What now criminology? Anna Matczak

Anna Matczack is a PhD researcher and criminologist at London School of Economics and Political Science. She recently attended the BSC conference in Nottingham and has written this review. You can find the original review at Anna’s blog https://annamatczak.com/2016/07/11/what-now-criminology/, and contact her on twitter @MatczakAnia.
Ana also presented her poster at the BSC conference, take a look below:

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‘Everything starts at the crime scene’, said Professor Peter Squires in the first session of the British Society of Criminology conference, which I attended last week in Nottingham. So what is criminology really for? To answer this question Professor Squires put forward a number of stimulating remarks. The obvious function is to provide voices for the excluded but criminology must also remain critical in questioning authority and the power to punish. As all of the conference presentations demonstrated well, the criminological thinking in Britain has been informed by a variety of robust and interesting research. Nonetheless, according to Professor Squires, the purpose of this should not be to advance criminology as such but to have a say about the quality of justice in a given society. What the profession needs more are critical criminologists who acknowledge the broader context of crime and punishment and take the research evidence further.

The broader context of current criminology affairs was then discussed by two conference plenary speakers, Will Hutton and Professor Kelly Hannah Moffat. Will Hutton addressed, among other things, the fact that criminology should better accommodate the notion of inequality as its levels have become exceptionally dysfunctional. This observation was later interestingly echoed in a couple of sessions in which I participated. For example Dr John Moore’s presentation, Built For Inequality in a Diverse World: A Brief History of Criminal Justice showed brilliantly how important is to understand the origins of the criminal justice system, which was built on the premise of and destined for inequality; therefore criminal justice systems in general will probably never become the best mechanisms through which to achieve social justice. Furthermore, as we know there are different kinds of inequalities and Professor Harry Blagg’s presentation, Southern Theory and Southern Criminology: A Postcolonial Critique demonstrated how to maintain a critical stance towards the unequal production of criminological knowledge. Based on his observations related to the situation of indigenous populations in Australia, Professor Blagg said that the information from the ‘Global South’ becomes knowledge only if it is processed by the ‘Global North’. In the light of this highly pertinent argument, my own reflection would be that there is a significant imbalance in the knowledge recognition within the Global North itself, for example between Western and Eastern European countries.

The choice of the conference theme proved that criminology is capable of accommodating and discussing the notion of inequality. However it is still debatable whether the same applies to achieving practical outcomes, or in other words how to do public criminology well. A very interesting remark was made by a member of the audience after Will Hutton’s lecture – universities are institutions that are good at creating a sense of purpose and moral alignment but they are not good at creating conditions for moral actions. This point was played out in another session that I attended, entitled What is to be done about crime and punishment? Professor Roger Matthews, who chaired the session, made a rather strong introductory statement, saying that contemporary criminology has become theoretically weak and empirically dubious, and has no policy relevance and as a result is disentangled with the real world. Although this claim was then challenged by Professor Philip Stenning, who said that the problem lies in the political elites who are not listening, not in criminologists, in my view Professor Matthews’ opening comment was an interesting provocation that aimed to generate emotions, and possibly actions. Professor Roger Matthews’s point was that the contemporary research might be informative and interesting but lacks a tangible policy impact. To prove that research can be communicated differently he then introduced three panellists (who are also contributors to his new book, What is to Be Done About Crime and Punishment? Towards a ‘Public Criminology’) who presented fascinating and policy-focused papers on policing (Professor Ben Bowling), drug policy (Dr Caroline Chatwin) and youth gangs (Professor John Pitts).

The organization of the conference made it evident that there is an enormous willingness to engage with the wider public on the part of criminologists. Communicating criminological thinking in the form of blogging, tweeting, or poster presentations interestingly mirrored Professor Kelly Hannah Maffot’s plenary lecture, which made me rethink how criminologists have increasingly become involved in networked social activism. Nonetheless, as indicated by Professor Kelly Hannah Moffat, risk is constructed in a non-neutral way and the production of knowledge about crime in times of an information avalanche has begun to be constructed by new tech-savvy players – it is worth remembering that the profession of criminologists is only one of these players. Although we might strive for real and tangible policy outcomes, we also have to consider carefully how we should take our research to the next level.

On a more personal note, the conference took place in the shadow of the Brexit vote – a subject that appeared in almost every presentation and informal conversation. I might be a PhD candidate at a great university with promising career prospects. However since 24th June it has felt as if my identity has been limited to the ‘migrant other’. Attending the BSC conference somehow helped alleviate my disappointment in the referendum outcome and recreate a sense of belonging. I should not forget that Britain will always be the place where I gained my very first research experience, met inspirational academics and made a beginning as a criminologist. The conference experience reminded me of how much I have learnt and developed throughout my academic migrant years in the UK.

Whatever the future holds for me professionally, I promised myself to deeply cherish this thought.

The BSCPG Committee – going from strength to strength

Susie Atherton, Keele University

If you have been keeping up with our blog over the course of the BSC conference, you will see that Susie has offered some brilliant posts to update us with the key themes and messages from the conference proceedings. Here is another fantastic post from her, if you want to catch up with her previous posts you can find them here and here. Thank you Susie!

 

As an ex-chair of the committee, 2010-2012 (ish), I am so pleased to see the fine work which has gone on since my departure. When I took over, previous chairs had raised the profile of the BSC post-graduate group over the years, to have their own conference and website, and it was a valued voice for new PG students like me. To be part of it so early on in my PhD journey was exciting and at the time, developing the good work of my predecessors was helped by many others, on the journey with me and also established academics keen to pass on their wisdom and experiences.

 

Last year, in Plymouth, Professor Joe Sims was inspiring, celebrating the work of post-graduate students, telling them how valuable they are and how very important to criminology and social science. Having been out of loop since stepping down in 2012, I was so pleased to see how Rachel Morris and Anna Sergi had kept up the ethos and purpose of the BSCPG committee. Way back when I set up the Facebook and Twitter accounts, we just had a plan on how to best manage it and a hope that some members would find it useful. Since then, it has come on in leaps and bounds, now at 1,520 members and growing every week.

 

Now a new generation are taking things even further and ensuring that post-graduates in criminology (and related disciplines!) are part of the blogosphere, and seeing the opportunities of new technologies to generate debates, raise the profile of research and share experiences. I am certain for many students it is a lifeline – doing a PhD can be a lonely existence, even with the best efforts of university departments, and I hope students continue to value the work of the BSCPG committee. It is really heartening to see tweets from members such as Joe Payne (with a video!) thanking Clare Davis and her team for another great event, and I have to mention Nicola Harding for her excellent work on developing the blog and keeping it going. There is a bright future ahead for postgraduate students, and while sitting in my study and blogging away during #BSCConf2016 has been nice, I am excited to attend next year, hopefully as ‘Dr’, but that’s a blog for another day….

 

 

#BSCconf16 – Living up to the title

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.

SPECIAL CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS : Chilcot Inquiry

Special Call for Contributions: Chilcot Inquiry

We are putting out a special call for contributions to a blog piece, written by criminology postgraduates. This is an opinion piece, and we are only after a small paragraph 150-300 words, that discusses the potential implications of the report from a criminological perspective.

You can address any area of  the report or talk more generally about the impact upon wider criminal justice issues.

If this relates to your research, or would like to make a longer contribution (500-800 words) this would also be welcomed. (Please indicate in your email if you would like to offer an extended piece and I will send you the details back before you write your contribution).

Please email nicola.harding@stu.mmu.ac.uk with your contribution by Wednesday 13th July.

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BSCConf2016 – Plenary review

BSCConf2016 – Plenary on ‘criminology’ by Professor Peter Squires and the ‘near perfect storm’ by Will Hutton.

By Susie Atherton

Susie Atherton is a Teaching Fellow in Criminology at Keele University. She has recently submitted her PhD on ‘Communities, Crime and Justice: Exploring community justice and community life’ which is a case study of community justice initiatives in the North East. It examines different ways in which the police, courts and restorative justice practitioners work with volunteers and local citizens to solve the problem of crime and anti-social behaviour.

As an observer in the comfort of my study and soft leather (effect) chair it is interesting to watch how the conference this year is represented through twitter, and so I decided to collate some observations and thoughts.

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Professor Peter Squires began with asking ‘What is Criminology?’ A very important question and one which we all still need to grapple with, in order to consider its role in determining the future of criminal justice policy, the political and economic contexts in which this occurs and to critique the pervasive notion of justice as punishment. It resonated with me given my own PhD research on problem solving justice, which requires practitioners, journalists and local citizens to accept different forms of ‘doing justice.’ Any number of evaluations into such approaches, (e.g. Wolf 2007, Mair and Millings, 2011; Bowen and Whitehead 2013) demonstrate the value of problem solving approaches, innovation in courts and restorative justice. However, they also emphasize the challenges in engaging citizens to work with the state to prevent crime and re-offending, whether this is seen solely as the responsibility of the state, or a problem they wish to see removed, rather than resolved. Donoghue (2014) suggests court processes can do something which is more ‘socially meaningful’ than being part of the punishment production line and others see courts as a place for ‘therapeutic jurisprudence’ (e.g. Ward, 2014) in which the adversarial contest gives way to dialogue with defendants and partnership working with a range of other agencies to prevent re-offending.

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In his plenary, Professor Squires suggests the discipline of criminology needs to contribute to policy which is evidence led, asks more practical questions, looks forward and seeks to solve problems. In restorative justice and problem solving approaches in courts and in policing, there are examples of a response to crime which is more forward thinking. Perhaps then challenge for criminologists is to get this message out to those who still view justice as punishment to deter others, taking retributive glances back to the harms caused and justifying the rhetoric of control as a means to solve the problem of crime.

 

The theme of the political and economic contexts in which crime and the response to it occurs was then picked up by Will Hutton. He outlined the ‘near perfect storm’ of the political and social disaster of the new right project, which has seen pervasive and long term inequalities leading to what Dr Mary Corcoran described as  ‘weakening civil society.’ The acceptance of contemporary forms capitalism across the board of policy makers, politicians, the media and citizens, which Dr James Treadwell described as ‘capitalism on steroids’ has now demanded attention by criminologists. Recent events have seen high profile political figures retreat from their responsibilities, even in the face of a victorious (in the eyes of Gove, Johnson, Farage et al) referendum vote to leave the European Union (EU), in a campaign which dismissed the word of ‘experts’ and which has gambled with social and economic policy. The divisive reactions from citizens focusing their frustration and anger on immigration and the role of the EU is disturbing, but not surprising. Given that it is the experts, the researchers and academics across the country who can provide evidence on what works, for whom and why, criminology has its place in using research to examine the details of how crime and justice affects individuals and communities, whilst also understanding how social structures and political ideologies inform policy, practice and perceptions of crime and justice.

 

Both plenaries have provided some interesting themes for the conference, so, if anyone at the conference is reading this, do keep tweeting!

 

References

BOWEN, P. and WHITEHEAD, S. (2013) Better courts: Cutting crime through court innovation, New Economics Foundation and Centre for Justice Innovation.

DONOGHUE, J. (2014). Transforming Criminal Justice?: Problem-Solving and Court Specialisation. Routledge.

MAIR, G. and MILLINGS, M. (2011) Doing Justice Locally: The North Liverpool Community Justice Centre, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, London.

WARD, J. (2014) Are problem-solving courts the way forward for justice? London: Howard League for Penal Reform.

WOLF, R.V. (2007) Principles of Problem Solving Justice, Center for Court Innovation, New York: Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Picture credit to Claire Davis BSC PG Chair @ClaireDavisPHD.

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