Saturday, 4 October 2008

Journal Watch: Criminal Justice Matters, June 2008

I know I’ve stolen this idea from AVPS, but I liked the idea and it’s much easier than just talking about individual articles from this magazine/journal.

This issue of the CJM kicks off with a topical article on the government’s policy on violent crime, exposing it as yet another bureaucratic document of the administrative criminological school which avoids questions of the wider causes of violent crime. Following this is an article on the decline of the “hang ‘em and flog ‘em” brigade in the Tory party under Cameron. Well, apparently that’s what its about but what the author of this writes seems more to me like Cameron trying to make tough on crime a little cuddly! Next is a piece on the Flanagan police review which expresses support for the idea of expanding civilian members of the police force (apparently on 10% of what the police do requires fully trained officers) whilst being opposed to mergers of police forces which it perceives as reducing local accountability (like there’s much of that at the moment!) Finally, in the last of the topical articles, is a piece on the Probation Service which I’ve already looked at.
The themed section is all about ‘Influencing Policy’ whilst there are some interesting articles by Reece Walters about Home Office covers up and Jan Berry on the relationship between the Home Office and the Police Federation, the whole section is angled around how can criminologists get influence in a Home Office that doesn’t want to listen to them? Various people note that research commissioned is most likely to be along the mines of ‘given the system we have, how do we change the outcomes’ as opposed to ‘given the following outcomes we want, how do we change the system’. But to me, if you’re doing research from a perspective different to that of the party in power, perhaps you shouldn’t be focussing all your efforts on them and perhaps you should be talking to somebody else, ie. another party with views similar to yours, or creating one.
Finally there is an ‘In Focus’ article on knife crime, which notes that despite the increasing attention on knife crime there is no evidence to suggest it is either increasing or decreasing. The 2006/7 BCS (British Crime Survey - a victim survey conducted in Britain) estimates that there were 148,000 to 198,000 knife incidents, which although large is small compared to the 2,471,000 violent incidents it estimates to occur each year. Government solutions such as knife amnesties, increased sentencing and stop and search all have a very limited effect and it is suggested that educational and awareness campaigns are necessary, but the effectiveness of these haven’t been examined. The article correctly (in my opinion) concludes with an argument that any policies will be superficial until the deeper structural causes such as inequality and poverty are tackled.

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