Bob Howard of the BBC has recently published an article looking at a scheme to combat sex offender recidivism. Originating in Canada, friendship circles are ‘based on the premise that while some offenders have friends and family to return to when they come out of prison, others have not and the more isolated they are, the more likely they are to re-offend’. Throughout the article, Sarah from London talks about her experiences as a volunteer for the child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation
Given the emotive nature of the crimes these particular offenders have been found guilty of, it is unsurprising that Sarah admits to some trepidation and concern prior to volunteering for the scheme. However, taking into account the positive results reported by Canada (currently a reduction in reoffending of 70%) it would appear to be more effective than traditional and arguably, more punitive methods.
Perhaps understandably, the scheme is not without its critics. For example Peter Saunders of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood suggests that electronic tagging would be a more appropriate response. Judging by the angry public comments which invariably follow any news story on the rehabilitation of sex offenders (this one included) it would seem that supporters of this scheme will have their work cut out.
Kelly M. Socia Jr and Janet P. Stamatel on ‘Assumptions and Evidence Behind Sex Offender Laws: Registration, Community Notification, and Residence Restrictions’
Chas Critcher on ‘Moral Panic Analysis: Past, Present and Future’
The killing of a young black man in Paris, Texas last September reignited racial tensions in the community, tensions which federal mediators have recently been dispatched to resolve. The victim, Brandon McClelland, was run over and dragged by a pickup truck driven by two white men with whom McClelland was friends. Despite this reported friendship, some community members remain suspicious. Paris has a longstanding history of racial violence and conflict, and the killing is reminiscent of the James Byrd Jr. slaying in Jasper, Texas in 1998. Moreover, Paris is residentially segregated into largely white suburbs and largely black housing projects. This segregation is reflected in both the racial make-up and quality of area schools. Given these circumstances, it should come as no surprise that suspicion and distrust are mainstays in the community.
The concept of a “racial project” put forth by sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant can be used to explore the ongoing racial tensions in Paris. According to Omi and Winant, racial projects involve the simultaneous interpretation of racial dynamics and redistribution of social resources. This process links the meanings people attach to race to the structural experiences of race, and it can happen on both the macro and micro levels. The experience of racism by blacks in the United States can be understood, both historically and currently, as a racial project wherein suspicion and distrust are fostered. Whether or not the McClelland murder was an accident may be known only to his killers. The larger issues that his slaying brings forth, however, are a reminder that the matter of race is far from being resolved.
C. Knowles on race
… Is s/he British? Is this person happy? Intelligent? These are some of the strong questions participants were asked to cast their vote about when faced with the anonymous picture of a stranger in latest Christian Nold‘s provocative installation. Over 14,000 people in one month cast their vote in the ‘Community Metrics’ in Nottingham (UK) and decide ‘live’ who of the volunteers should be deported: a sort of ‘friendly fascism’, a dystopian version of Facebook, a tease out of many reality TV shows.
The installation prompted me to read again (that’s what is good about radical art!) Emmanuel Levinas’ ideas on ethics: for the French philosopher, whose family was wiped out by the Holocaust, ethics begins with the direct encounter with the face of the Other. This action is ethical because, rather than knowing, and hence objectifying the other, by way of static representation, in the face-to-face encounter, ‘The face of the Other at each moment destroys and overflows the plastic image it leaves in me…the Other signals but does not present themselves’.
This opens a big problem for representation, especially visual, to the extent that the object of representation ‘always falls under the power of thought’. There is a sense in which, by making an image of this overflowing, by reducing the Other to a set of conventions, a-priori categories, and image-repertoire, we might be perpetrating a form of violence, which hence deny the alterity expressed by the face of the Other.
Watch Nottingham ‘Community Metrics’
Read Calhoun’s critique of Online Communities
The Longford Prize for outstanding work in the area of social and penal reform has recently been announced. Although the award has been running since 2002, honouring diverse organisations and individuals, this year is the first time the prize has been awarded to a prison. HMP Grendon was chosen for its unique approach to tackling recidivism, described by the Longford Trust as offering a “beacon of hope”’ for its inmates.
Since its creation in 1962 the prison has been seen as controversial, with its focus on the individual prisoner, as well as ensuring it remains as a ‘therapeutic community.’ Even though Grendon is part of the larger prison estate, it remains unique in both its approach and technique: prisoners have to request a transfer to the prison; once there the expectation is that they are drug free and actively participate in understanding and addressing their offending. There has been a great deal of criticism from many quarters, (including the Prison Service), in part based on perceptions that the regime is not punitive enough, effectively ignoring Grendon’s success in combating recidivism.
In spite of any encouragement offered by this award, HMP Grendon should not be seen in isolation as an eccentric experiment. Instead, we should seize the opportunity to revisit the long-standing debate, as to what it is we hope to achieve through imprisonment. If simple containment is the answer to society’s ills, then Grendon offers very little. However, if both rehabilitation and the reduction of crime are fundamental aims, then maybe Grendon can indeed offer a ‘beacon of hope’.
Rehabilitation: An Assessment of Theory and Research by Mark W. Lipsey, Nana A. Landenberger and Gabrielle L. Chapman
Jammie Thomas was already famous enough to gain a Wikipedia entry all for herself. Now that she basically won the second trial against the powerful lobby Recording Industry Against America (RIAA) for alleged filesharing of copyrighted songs (24 apparently), has become a legend. As such, stories on the blogs bounce back and fro, but you get also glimpses of her private life and personality according to whom writes the piece (does it matter if she is a single parent or maybe on the dole? Is she a pirate or a heroine?). The verdict is of historical proportion and might change the normative landscape of the music industry forever: the potential gain from infringement by individuals is access to free music, not the possibility of hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits, said the judge.
Rights holders could not insist on exploiting exclusive rights any more in the age of Last.fm and mesh-ups, and private file sharing shouldn’t be seen as an act of infringement. By the way, I’d better get all my boxes of CDs from my friend James and secure my iPod with a password, you never know…pirates are out there!
Read about On-Line Communities
Read about Pirate Strategies