Tag Archives: criminology

West Virginia Chemical Spill as State-Corporate Crime

West Virginia citizens wait in line to retrieve clean water.

West Virginia citizens wait in line to retrieve clean water.

On January 9, 2014 government officials in West Virginia discovered that over 7,500 gallons of chemicals used to clean coal had leaked out of a Freedom Industries’ chemical facility and into the nearby Elk River. The location of the leaking storage facilities was just upriver from the largest treatment facility in West Virginia affecting over 300,000 residents throughout the state. Immediately discovering the leak, government officials notified the residents of Charleston and surrounding areas to stop using tap water. The government warned against water usage for drinking, cooking, and bathing. The chemicals spilled caused skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, and wheezing to several residents. (more…)

Do Guns Make Women’s Lives Safer?

By Francois Polito (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

One of our readers responded to my previous article on the construction of rapists vs normal men in the media and the related issue of how to best respond to popular assertion that guns could play an effective role in women’s self-defense against rape. While agreeing with my overall analysis, she is looking for argumentative tools of how to counter ‘pro gun for self-defense against rape’ style arguments. Her question comes down to this: “The ‘change the society’ rhetoric makes the very concrete threats against women on a daily basis too abstract. Arguments [that advocate guns for self-defense against rape] keep the rhetoric concrete and practical and very present for very real women. And I haven’t yet found a gun regulation… argument that adequately challenges [the] point that in today’s society as it is, a woman can defend herself with a gun better than by any other means.” This is a valid question: Could it be the case that a society without firearms would be preferable from a moral standpoint, yet firearms might allow women to protect themselves in the here and now? This article is an attempt to argue why guns do not in fact make the lives of women safer.


Everyday Deviancy and the Web




Since the credit crunch of 2008, and the global financial crisis swept around the world, a new rogue’s gallery of folk devils have been the focus of media opprobrium. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has ceased to talk about ‘Broken Britain’, how everyone is ‘in it together’ and of the laissez-faire, small government ideology epitomised by the ‘big society’. Perhaps this is because the discourse sounds too hypocritical even for a politician to espouse. As jobs are lost, wages decline and the cost of living rises, the media has found a new set of folk devils to vilify, and the public to boo and hiss at. These include tax dodging millionaires, bankers engaging in a casino of shady deals and rigging interest rates, politicians fiddling expenses and associating with people involved in a criminal conspiracy of hacking phones to get the jump on other media rivals.  Even the summer riots in 2011 in the UK could only hold the headlines for a short while before the media engaged in a form of self-cannibalisation with the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics of the print media. It is no wonder; therefore, that deviancy is once again emerging as an important theory to consider within criminology after a period of disregard. This is evident with the re-emergence of the York Deviancy Conference in 2011 and the continued development of cultural criminology (Ferrell, Hayward and Young 2009). However, set between the polar extremes of the usual folk devils of feral kids and the corruption of the powerful elite is a forgotten group. What about people engaged in online deviant behaviours – everyday actions which are too nuanced and accepted to be deemed criminal, such as downloading or purchasing items that are outside of regulation or counterfeit, like medicine? Analysing such behaviours through a deviant lens can make transparent that which the Web renders opaque and shift our attention to the way that the Web has helped create novel forms of deviancy. (more…)

Want to Help Marginalized Students Improve in Schools? Stop “Stop and Frisk” (and other punitive practices, too).

Protest against police brutality

Source: Fibonacci Blue (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a previous ruling that had determined that New York City’s controversial “Stop and Frisk” practice constituted a civil rights violation, thereby placing any reforms (or the outright abolition of “Stop and Frisk”) on hold. In addition to being a highly ineffective police strategy, extremely questionable from a civil liberties perspective and undeniably a case of racial profiling, this policy might also impact marginalized students’ educational outcomes. Sociological research suggests that the interplay between constructions of masculinity and punitive criminal justice (and school) policies ends up harming marginalized boys’ educational prospects and channels them into crime – and ultimately the criminal justice system.

[ This article was originally published at Masculinities 101 ]


Part II: The Effects of School Criminalization

File:A classroom in Parshvanath College of Engineering.jpgA few weeks back, I contributed a post highlighting possible explanations for the rise of criminal justice based practices within schools.  Although these strategies have become popular for managing school crime, growing evidence suggests they are often overly excessive and may produce a host of unintended consequences. Serving as a sort of a Part II, this essay outlines the effects of what has been termed the “criminalization of school discipline” (Hirschfield & Celinscka 2011). As discussed below, the evidence stands against the school criminalization when considering its effects on: social equality, school performance, school crime, and other disciplinary strategies. (more…)

Explanations of Contemporary School Discipline

File:Saladeaula itapevi.jpgOver the past two decades, schools across the U.S. have adopted a host of punitive practices and policies to prevent and respond to student misbehavior (Kupchik 2010). These practices include the use of security cameras, metal detectors, drug-sniffing dogs, and the full-time presence of police officers. Consequentially, the distinction between school discipline and criminal justice has become highly blurred. For a host of reasons, there has been an increase in surveillance over students and a tighter link between the education and criminal justice for a host of (Hirschfield & Celinscka 2011). The purpose of this post is to provide, from the extant literature, explanations for the rise of criminal justice based practices within schools. (more…)

Getting Tough on Juvenile Justice

Within the last thirty years the presence of adolescent offenders tried in criminal court has become increasingly commonplace. Scholars critical of this growing phenomenon have documented that the number of youth transferred to adult (criminal) court has gradually risen since the mid-1970s. Whilst the ability to transfer young offenders from the juvenile to adult court has long been an option, recent literature notes that the emergence of legislation facilitating the transfer of youth offenders to criminal court is a microcosm of a “penal turn” in criminal justice practices (Kupchik 2010). That is, laws that expanded the ability to transfer youth to adult court fit within a larger social, cultural, and political movement which sought to “get tough” on crime. (more…)

Crime as a Mechanism for Governing

Whether flipping through channels, listening to the radio, or reading the newspaper, it is evident that crime has secured a mainstay position in today’s media. In order to achieve high ratings, television networks and news outlets must fill their allotted time slots with only those headlines sure to popular attention (see Best, 2004). Oftentimes, those stories and reports are generated by sensationalizing criminal events. However, the seemingly overrepresentation of crime and delinquency is not the focus for this essay. Rather, it appears that crime has become a generalized preoccupation that has transformed a number of U.S. institutions (see Hudson, 2003). More specifically, crime – and societies growing fear of crime – has become a mechanism through which a new mode of governance has emerged. (more…)

Situating Strain within Late Modernity

Robert K. Merton, in 1938, began delving into how societal arrangements could create, maintain, and exacerbate social tension and individual stress. His theory of ‘strain’ – tremendously oversimplified – proposes that crime/deviance becomes more likely when a disjuncture exists between culturally derived ends (i.e. monetary success) and what the social structure makes possible. This theoretical framework, from its onset, has been the focus of numerous efforts; being tested, criticized, buttressed, and modified to increase its viability. As a result, sociology and criminology now offer a variety of strain models so as to enhance an understanding of criminogenic conditions, criminal behaviors, and social deviance (see Merton, 1938; Cohen, 1955; Cloward & Ohlin 1960; Agnew, 1992, 2002; Messner & Rosenfeld 1994). However, criminologists and sociologists alike are recognizing conditions that, once again, may result in the modification or further development of the strain tradition.


On Youth: Rhetoric, Practices, and Punishment

File:Classroom.JPGOftentimes, there are social, economic, and political underpinnings when practices or policies are set in place. Whether a phenomenon is constructed in a new light as a social problem, an economic turn places demands on society, or there is an ideological shift within politics, these factors – together – frequently play a vital role in policy. That is, the rhetoric we employ – the way in which we discuss trends – helps dictate how issues are dealt with. This post will explore how cultural constructions of childhood helped create the juvenile justice system and the larger changes to the system that have occurred since its creation.

Perhaps it is best to start with the social construction of youth with contemporary society. The perception of youth today holds – perhaps – the same way it did some time ago; with the catchphrase “today’s youth are so bad” continuing forward with every generation. This sense of nostalgia, the fondness toward the past has not been divorced from how the youth today are constructed. Making evening news headlines and front pages are perceptions of the “monster child” – the ever worsening condition of the younger population. On the one hand, as a risky population, youth have become something to be protected from. On the other hand, however, the youth also need to be protected – they are often defenseless, ignorant to larger societal ills, and require protection. (more…)