TOPIC 10: The criminal justice system

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Situational crime prevention

  • Way to tackle crime = make it more difficult for crimes to be committed
  • Defensible space = area of physical space that can be perceived as clearly belonging to someone, arranged in way that crime is deferred
  • Newman = 'new' high-rise residential developments failed - evidenced by rapid decay/high crime rates
  • People had no control over territory in communal areas - residents not able to feel ownership of territory surrounding flats
  • Reduced capacity for surveillance of areas - could not distinguish between visitors/residents
  • Lack of ownership = reduced sense of community

Taylor (1984) = defensible space could reduce crime:

    • Increases sense of ownership --> more likely to defend it when necessary
    • Defended spaces could lead troublemakers to believe residents will actively respond
    • Increases 'sense of community' = communities take responsibility for reporting crime --> Communitarianism, more cohesive group makes people feel safer
  • 'Target hardening' = making sure it was more difficult to steal things, e.g. improving locks on houses
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Evaluation of situational crime prevention

  • Newman's ideas applied in construction of housing estates in US/UK --> lower crime rates
  • Garland (2001) = Newman ignores cause of crime, only deals with extent/impact
  • Places of crimes might shift in response to new measures --> CCTV may limit crime in introduced areas, crime may rise outside areas
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Community safety - 1

  • Intervention = identify groups most at risk of committing crime, put forms of intervention into action to limit offending
  • Community = involve local community in combating crime

Cambridge School of Criminology (1995) =

  • Positivistic research approach, longitudinal studies used --> compared backgrounds of young male offenders with males without criminal record
  • Risk factors:
    • Low income/poor housing
    • Living in run-down neighbourhoods
    • 'Impulsiveness and hyperactivity'
    • Low school attainment
    • Poor parental supervision with harsh discipline
    • Parental conflict/lone-parent families

Perry Pre-School Project =

  • 2 groups of African-American children aged 3/4 from disadvantaged backgrounds
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Community safety - 2

  • 1 groups given pre-school educational support - family received weekly visits
  • Intervention group = had half number of arrests by age 27

Broken windows theory:

  • High crime levels occur where there is loss of informal social control over minor acts of anti-social behaviour
  • If low-level anti-social behaviour can be prevented, escalation to more serious criminal acts stopped
  • Once one window breaks, all will break eventually --> preventing breaking of first window will save others
  • Stop the minor crimes and major ones less likely to happen
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Evaluation of community safety

  • Perry Pre-school project = example of dramatic impact community safety has in reducing crime rates --> but expensive to implement
  • ASBOs introduced in 1998 = do not tackle root causes of crime, some see them as badge of honour
  • Curfews/dispersal orders = caused most controversy --> councils can seek local child curfew order for up to 90 days at a time
  • Dispersal orders = introduced in 2004, gives police power to break up groups of 2 or more if seen as nuisance
  • Laws give police considerable amount of power
  • Children's Society = laws breach children's rights under European Convention on Human Rights --> take away children's rights to be outside just like adults
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Theoretical perspectives - 1

'Culture of control'

  • The adaptive response = governments identify certain groups that represent danger to society, intervene in lives at early stage to change way risk groups think/act --> e.g. 'Home Start' = volunteers help parents deemed to have problems
  • The expressive strategy = Garland: crime seen as central to politics, more important to politicians to create perception that crime is declining than to affect real changes in levels of crime

Actuarialism (Feeley and Simon)

  • CJS seeks to 'identify and manage unruly groups'
  • Stress of social control changed from controlling deviant behaviour to controlling potentially deviant people
  • Agencies of social control work out who is likely to pose greatest risk of deviance and act against them
  • Police patrol working-class/ethnic-minority areas, private security companies police shopping developments --> monitor people who enter, exclude potential troublemakers
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Theoretical perspectives - 2


  • Foucault = community safety policy --> example of way governments seek to diffuse power throughout community
  • Public concern over crime allows governments to intervene in broader range of social activity as new areas of social life - e.g. family/school redefined as potential causes of crime
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The police - 1

Traditional methods of policing:

  • Traditional 'beat' policing = officer had geographical area to control --> phased out in 1960s, replaced by officers in cars
  • Police introduced new form of policing in 1980s = involved larger groups of officers in minibuses ready to respond to disturbances
  • Methods largely replaced by 2 approaches:
    • Neighbourhood policing = teams of police/community support officers work in geographical area --> get to know members of community, respond to specific concerns
    • Reactive policing = police respond to emergency calls from public for help

Main positions in understanding relationship of police to society:

  • The consensual approach = police has close relationship with local area, police represents majority of law-abiding people, officers drawn from community and reflect characteristics, offenders caught as result of community complaints
  • The conflict approach = Scraton (1985): police seen as occupying force, officers patrol working-class/ethnic-minority areas, impose law and order that reflects interests of more powerful
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The police - 2

  • Reiner (1997): disproportionately unemployed/discriminated against ethnic-minority young men questioned by police --> police's main business involves groups, mental social maps delinate them by variety of dergoratory epithetis
  • The late-modern approach = shift towards neighbourhood policing represents extension of control over population --> police are representatives of state, integrating themselves in local communities

Reiner (1992):

  • Ways of explaining basis of police discretion =
    • Individualistic = officer has specific concerns and interests, interprets/applies law
    • Cultural = officers overwhelmingly White/male, work long hours, largely isolated from public --> development of 'canteen culture' occupation
    • Suspiciousness = officers taught to discriminate between 'decent people' and 'potential troublemakers' --> categorise people as 'police property'
    • Internal solidarity and social isolation = officers rely upon each other in terms of support --> spend large amounts of time in company of peers
    • Conservatism = officers rarely politically radical --> occupation upholds traditional values, generates strong sense of conservative values
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The police - 3

  • Masculinity = culture of officers reflects traditional working-class values of heavy drinking/physical prowess/heterosexuality/racial sterotyping
  • Structural = very definition of law biased --> against working class, upholding values of capitalist society, internal values reflect job given to do
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The courts and sentencing

  • Role of police = enforce law by protecting public/catching criminals
  • Role of courts = determine guilt, impose appropriate sentences
  • Less serious offences = magistrate's / serious = Crown courts
  • Magistrates = volunteers drawn from local community --> 40% retired, 70% professional careers before retirement
  • Senior judges = male, White, Oxbridge educated --> increased in female/ethnic minority judges in last 10 years
  • Judges drawn from narrow band of social backgrounds = unable to understand situation of those being judged
  • 50% of those who do community service/go to prison = more likely to reoffend
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  • Less complex/mechanistic societies = held together by similarity of members, share narrow range of beliefs, offenders severely punished
  • Modern/organic societies = loosely held together, less vicious punishments

Max Weber:

  • Societies developed --> form of authority changed from charismatic ruler to legal authority based on bureaucracies set up to achieve rational aims
  • CJS = attempted in dispassionate way to get people to follow law, replaced violence/desire for revenge

Norbert Elias:

  • Modern society = people learned to self control, developed agreed ways of acting
  • Self-control involved controlling anger/desire to inflict violence
  • Gradual move away from inflicting horrendous punishment to development of CJS --> included punishment intended to develop self-control
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