Warning: include(/home4/crimetal/public_html/J1xBackup/modules/mod_poll/user.php) [function.include]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home4/crimetal/public_html/index.php on line 8

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening '/home4/crimetal/public_html/J1xBackup/modules/mod_poll/user.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/opt/php53/lib/php') in /home4/crimetal/public_html/index.php on line 8

Warning: session_start() [function.session-start]: Cannot send session cookie - headers already sent by (output started at /home4/crimetal/public_html/index.php:8) in /home4/crimetal/public_html/libraries/joomla/session/session.php on line 678

Warning: session_start() [function.session-start]: Cannot send session cache limiter - headers already sent (output started at /home4/crimetal/public_html/index.php:8) in /home4/crimetal/public_html/libraries/joomla/session/session.php on line 678
In Brief http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=926&Itemid=275 Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:24:51 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb The unspoken battle: sexual harassment within law enforcement agencies http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=957:sexualharassment-within-law-enforcement&catid=926&Itemid=275 http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=957:sexualharassment-within-law-enforcement&catid=926&Itemid=275

woman silencedImagine working in a company or business and being forced to endure verbal harassment. Every day, envision your work being looked down upon or experiencing unwanted sexual advances at work. These events are not merely imagined but are the reality faced by too many female agents within the ranks of federal law enforcement agencies. There have been documented incidents of sexual harassment within the Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), and the Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms (ATF). Suzanne J. Doucette, an accommodated FBI agent, had an incident when her supervisor caught her in a choke hold from behind and demanded sexual favors (Hill, 1997). This type of treatment seems to be extreme but it unfortunately can be an all too common interaction.

Sexual harassment can range from incidents like Suzanne’s, which verges on sexual assault, or something as little as fellow agents making derogatory jokes about their female counterparts. Even a derogatory joke is still, technically a form of sexual harassment. The US EEOC first defined sex discrimination in 1990, it was broken in to two parts. The first is Quid pro quo, defined as “employment related bribery or threat to obtain sexual compliance” (Bell et. al 2002). The second form of sexual harassment is a hostile environment; it is defined as when sexual behaviors that occur have “the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment”  (Bell et. al 2002).

US Special Agency badgeQuid pro quo is easier to spot or to be able to prove in court, than a hostile work environment. The difficulty is in proving what constitutes as ‘hostile’. To be able to call something hostile depends on the viewpoint of the interpreter. The legal system tends to look at whether a reasonable person would consider that sexual harassment has occurred or even if the situation was in anyway offensive.

Many instances of sexual harassment are not a physical or outright attack; the malice can be laid deep into the body of a joke or sleight of hand remark. The Federal Court’s decision of Barnes vs. Costle (1977) allowed women who were entering the predominantly male work places more leeway when dealing with what was thrown at them by the male agents. Large amounts of women began entering the criminal justice system back in 1972. Forty-one years later and women are still dealing with the problems that come with entering a primarily male environment.

Sexual harassment becomes even more difficult to prove when it is put into the setting of a male-dominated work environment like federal law enforcement agencies. Women in ‘traditional’ male positions are often treated with hostility because they jeopardize the believed “production of masculinity”.  Lonsway, Paynich and Hall (2013) studies focuses on the definition of sexual harassment and found that one half to three quarters of American women who work in law enforcement will be subject to some form of sexually harassing behavior in their work environment, with sexist or sexual remarks being the most standard response by far (Lonsway et al. 2013).  Furthermore they show that the majority of the time, any forms of sexual harassment within the federal agency was perpetrated by a co-worker. 

One powerful first-hand account is by Suzanne J. Doucette who was a ten year veteran with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, her case was the one mentioned in the introduction of this paper. Doucette managed to break free from her supervisors hold, but from that day on, her work and contributions to the agency were diminished substantially because of her supervisor (Hill 1997). When she filed a complaint it was met with typical institutional denial, it wasn’t long before her evaluations fell ‘below acceptable’, and she was soon ostracized. Shortly after, she left the Bureau and a promising career behind. As an up and coming member of the FBI, her career was cut short simply because she knew she had been wronged and wanted to change how things were done with the FBI. Suzanne is surely not the only agent from the FBI to wage a complaint but she is one of the few that have gone public with her complaint.

Texeira (2002) found that African American women are very often held to a stereotype of sexual promiscuity and as a result are vulnerable to sexual harassment.  One of Texeira’s participants Velda, a veteran officer, commented, “I just try to do my job, and who protects and serves me?”(Texeira 2002: 520). This powerful statement puts it rather simply for us all. The women who protect and serve the people of the USA deserve to be protected to the same level by the very laws that they uphold. Sexual harassment more often than not leaves more psychological scars then it can physical.  Morgan (2001) discusses the effects that are felt by those who are sexually harassed. 

Being sexually harassed is an embarrassing, if not humiliating experience. The pressure to exchange sexual favors for employment is demeaning, as is being the butt of a sexualized joke or gag. A consequence is the erosion of trust in others, especially men.  

Morgan makes a valid point that being the victim of sexual harassment, regardless of the form it takes can produce a loss of trust.  Since most of the federal law enforcement agencies are filled with men this could directly affect how the women work with their fellow agents, thus decreasing their ability to complete their cases. It is actually in the best interest of the Federal agencies if they were to stop sexual harassment and ensure that the trust between agents is strong. Women who experience multiple forms of harassment, even really low forms it of frequently have poorer job-related outcomes and poorer psychological health than others (Gruber 1998). It is not the type of sexual harassment or the fact that it happens very often but it is the lasting effect on the female that creates a negative psychological impact.

Sexual harassment in the office b & wSexual harassment cases are not limited to just a male harassing a female. It is simply the most common. All of these are products of the basic concept of hegemonic masculinity. This can be defined as “configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy in patriarchy, which guarantees the dominant position of men and the subordinate position of women” (Rabe-Hemp 2009). Rabe-Hemp (2009) addresses how female officers and agents construct their identity and image of themselves in relation to their gender. The women in the study reported that fellow female officers were better at serving women and children in victimization situations then men, thus, allowing the historical thought process of men doing “real police work” to perpetuate the sexist views that male police officers or agents might have towards their fellow co-workers. Sexual harassment can take place in many settings, but within law enforcement it is very prevalent.

Sexual harassment cartoonA study that shows this the best is the two-part study done by Lonsway, Paynich, and Hall (2013).The first part involved surveying sworn personnel within a single federal law enforcement agency. The second  was conducted with a national sample of female police officers.  The authors of this study begin by addressing the negative impact that is associated with sexual harassment. Their research showed that many did not identify the behavior as sexual harassment. This is important because most victims do not label their experience as sexual harassment. 24% of the female police officers in study one said that they experienced a “constant atmosphere” of offensive remarks. Yet, 100% of the female officers who were interviewed in the second study described experiencing at least one sexually harassing incidence during the course of the research.

The survey demographics for study one concluded that out of the 679 officers that responded 69 were women, 607 were men, and 3 did not indicate their gender (Longsway 2013). In Sample 2 they received a list of law enforcement agencies from the National Directory of Law Enforcement Administrators, Correctional Institutions and related agencies published by the Public Safety Information Bureau in 2002. The study found that overall 83.5% of the sample in Study 1 indicated that they had experienced at least one form of sexual harassment that was mentioned on the survey they took. This includes both men and women. In Study 2, they found 93.8% of female officers indicated that over the course of their law enforcement career they had experienced at least one form of harassment. For more information on these studies see this link: http://pqx.sagepub.com/content/16/2/177.abstract

The first known response was the fear of being labeled. The second response was the ‘no big deal’ thought process, that it is simply a part of being in law enforcement.  Lastly, the third response recorded was that the respondent would handle the situation on their own, by talking to the person on their own or enlisting peers.Women within the ranks of federal law enforcement and women who enter any male-dominated field seem to be sentenced to ridicule and harassment. The research from previous studies and with the use of empirical data it is easy to see that not only do women within federal agencies endure sexual harassment but they must endure the psychological effects that come with the harassment. The loss of trust and the self-doubt that is created due to having equal work to male co-workers being undervalued and eventually discarded all together can be detrimental. 

Table from Lonsway et al.




































The use of surveys allowed the authors of the two studies to get specific and realistic answers from the officers who returned the surveys.They received information regarding, whether the women had been harassed or not but as well the type of harassment, who the perpetrator was and whether the incident was reported or otherwise dealt with. Furthermore, they were able to gather data on what the individual who was being harassed did as a response to the perpetrator of the harassment. The data received from these studies will help further research on the issue and make it a more central issue in modern law enforcement. 

Federal court cases have worked hard since the 1970’s to make the work place a safer environment for women. Currently women are accepted into the working world, with the exception of male-dominated work environments such as law enforcement. Sexual harassment is not tolerated on paper but it is a different story in practice. The original topic that sexual harassment has a negative effect on women has held true and is now backed with empirical data.



Barnes vs. Costle (1977) Legal bref: https://www.calstate.edu/HR/SHLaw.pdf


Bell, Myrtle P., Mary E. Mclaughlin, and Jennifer M. Sequeira. "Discrimination, Harassment and the Glass Ceiling: Women Executives as Change Agents." Journal of Business Ethics 37, no. 1 (2002): 65-76. Accessed January 12, 2015. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1014730102063#.


Gruber, James E. "The Impact of Male Work Environments and Organizational Policies on Women's Experiences of Sexual Harassment." Gender & Society 12, no. 3 (2014). Accessed July 13, 2015.



Lonsway, Kimberly A., Rebecca Paynich, and Jennifer N. Hall. "Sexual Harassment in Law Enforcement." Police Quarterly 16, no. 2 (2013): 117-210. Accessed July 13, 2015. http://pqx.sagepub.com/content/16/2/177.abstract.


Marino, J. (2006, September 26). Female FBI Agent Discusses Sexual Harassment at the Bureau and Suicide of Her Husband---Did the FBI Drive Him to it? Retrieved February 17, 2015, from http://9-11themotherofallblackoperations.blogspot.com/2006/09/female-fbi-agent-discusses-sexual.html


Rabe-Hemp, C. (2009). POLICEwomen or PoliceWOMEN?Doing Gender and Police Work. Feminist Criminology, 4(2), 114-129. doi:10.1177/1557085108327659


Texeira, M. (2002). “Who Protects and Serves Me?” :A case study of sexual harassment of African American Women in one U.S. law enforcement agency. Gender and Society, 16(4), 524-545. Retrieved March 4, 2015, from http://gas.sagepub.com/content/16/4/524.abstract


Lucy Marshman has a BA in Criminology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She has a drive to join law enforcement and to help others.

{jcomments on} 


c.sumner@ucc.ie (Lucy Marshman) In brief Mon, 06 Jul 2015 22:22:32 +0000
Permanently on the run? The fate of high-profile offenders http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=956:permanently-on-the-run&catid=926&Itemid=275 http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=956:permanently-on-the-run&catid=926&Itemid=275

The concept of status degradation ceremonies has been central to the sociological understanding of the criminal justice process. The path from suspect to accused to defendant to convicted prisoner is marked by significant ceremonies or rituals that indicate and dramatize the change in status, whether this be detention for questioning, appearing in court in handcuffs or having to run the media gauntlet on the way to a prison van. The recent case of Eamon Lillis in Ireland would suggest that we should extend the process of status degradation ceremonies to include the release from custody. What happens here is central to understanding how the criminal identity is difficult if not impossible to escape and that what happens to certain offenders on release may be described as a series of “status reminder” ceremonies. The mass media, in particular the tabloid press, are the ringmasters at these ceremonies.


Eamonn Lillis

Eamon Lillis killed his wife, Celine Crowley, at their home in Howth in 2008. He hit her with a brick and while that did not kill her he failed to get the medical help that would have saved her life. He was less that forthcoming in telling the police what happened, blaming the incident on a mysterious intruder. It was only after an intensive investigation that he admitted to the row. He had been having an extra marital affair but denied that this had anything to do with the killing. The jury failed to agree on a murder verdict and found him guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison. After 25% remission for good behaviour he was due for release on Friday 10th April 2015 but because of  the large media presence outside the jail he postponed his release until the next day, a Saturday, thus wittingly or unwittingly providing the Sunday papers with a lead story.


An essential element of status degradation ceremonies is the loss of control over one's own biography such that it gets rewritten to create a sense of inevitability in the outcome, to create a sense that particular events in an individual's life meant that it would inevitably end this way. Thus studies of juvenile offenders show how events in their lives on which they did not place a particular meaning, like being children of a single welfare dependent parent, are reinterpreted in the criminal justice process and become renamed as “symptoms” that led to criminal behavior. Once labeled as an offender, you lose control over the interpretation of your life and behaviour, and that becomes the prerogative of other institutions. For the prisoner being released, this power and this right passes to the media. They were not reticent to play their part.


The media had begun assembling outside the prison on Friday 11th April. Lillis left the prison on 12th April. Despite being pursued by reporters from the prison to the airport and, it would appear, on to Southampton, his only comment to them was that he “had served his time”. But this did not stop the media claiming privileged insight into his behavior. Indeed it probably gave them carte blanche to do so.


Media outside prison

Their interpretations were highly judgmental, the tabloids being particularly straightforward, branding him “an arrogant wife killer” (Irish Mirror, 13th April 2015), “the coward refused to leave Wheatfield Prison”… “The thug was handed temporary release yesterday but to the fury of prison bosses he refused to sign the order that would have given him his first taste of freedom in years”…It is understood the 57-year-old killer did not have the courage to face the waiting media presence at the gates of the Clondalkin jail”. Citing an unnamed and unidentified source, the Mirror described him as the “posh killer”, a description that encapsulates a lot of prejudices about who exactly kills. The Sunday Independent said that “having cowered behind prison walls from the media mob”, “he finally emerged”.


Some of the others were more subtle in their judgments. The RTE News (11th April), for example, reported that “he made no effort to conceal his face”, a statement that carries the assumption that like a leper he should. They also said that “he sat upright in the back seat” of his taxi. It is not clear how else they thought he would sit. He “appeared to have lost weight during his time behind bars – appeared angry and defiant”. He also committed the ultimate sin of “keeping the media guessing”. According to the Irish Independent (13th April, 2015), he “fled to his sisters house” though it had been clear for a long time that that was where he was going anyway. They said that on his first day of freedom he “chose to remain behind closed doors”. They also told us that “may already be planning his first trip to the cinema since his release from prison today”.


But it is in a series of articles in the Sunday Independent (13th April) that we can see most clearly how, with released criminals, their biographies, their motives, and the interpretations of their behavior are in the media’s control. For example, Lillis was described as carrying the Oxford Book of American Short Stories, when he left prison. It was “held close to his chest”, and it was a book that the journalist said, contained a message for him. Under a headline “Macabre Reading for Lillis in his free time”, we are told that the message was in the story by Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell Tale Heart. This story, we were told, predicts his future, “[W]hile Lillis might be free from prison, the story reminds readers that he is not free from his own mind”. “Having shown no remorse to his daughter or Celine's family, Poe illustrates the human heart finds it hard to endure the burden of guilt forever, especially in the case of killing another human”. There was of course no evidence that he had read that particular story. In the airport the Sunday Independent told us “[H]e had done everything possible to get through the security gates to the safety of other side, where reporters could not follow him. He had bought his ticket while he was still in prison. He had checked in online and printed off his boarding pass”. (12th April, 2015) This is a normal way of boarding an aircraft now but in his case it is insinuated that it is somehow suspicious. The story goes on “[H]e then walked into the newsagents, where dozens of newspapers carrying his name and photo stared back up at him. In what looked like a very deliberate decision, Lillis ignored the newspapers and instead went for the paperbacks”. He picked up the latest book by John Connelly, a writer of suitably macabre and violent thrillers. He didn’t buy it. 

The article went on to draw further attention to his attempts to pass as normal. “Short in stature and neat in frame”, it told us, “for a newly-released institutionalised man he moved sleekly through the Loop Mall, like any regular passenger on the London 'red-eye' flights”. The Dublin to Southampton flight leaves at 8.40 in the morning. He even went to the duty free shop where “[H]e bought three boxes of ladies' cosmetics in a hasty purchase and made his way for the alcohol and chocolates”. However the vigilant reporter noted that “[T]he whiskeys caught his eye, but aware of lurking media, he refrained from purchasing any alcohol”. He “cut a lonely figure” while waiting for his flight. Once on board the plane he “settled into his window seat on the plane and, just as he was the model prisoner, he too was the model passenger. No celebratory tea, coffee or beer was ordered and not even a pack of pretzels was taken. As the flight took off from the east coast of Ireland, with Howth fading into the background, he didn't look back until the seatbelt sign had been switched off. There were four retrospective glances in total across his former landscape, but as the plane made its way into Southampton he put down his film magazine and gazed out the window, surveying his temporary new home. After landing, as the doors opened he gently rubbed his hands together”. The only word missing from that last sentence is “with glee”.

What this means is that as we live in an age where the digital memory is the source of media framings and knowledge of the past and indeed the source of the social memory, Lillis will never escape these kinds of understanding of his behavior and personality. The first part of his sentence was served in a state prison, the second part in the national media. The latter will last much longer than the former.

This example raises a number of questions for sociology and criminal justice policy. From a policy perspective it draws attention to the way in which prisoners are prepared for release. The former governor of Mountjoy Prison, John Lonergan, has suggested that they be prepared for the media frenzies that can surround their every movement. How likely this is to happen remains to be seen but with the seeming extensiveness of media sources within the prison service it is unlikely to be successful. Someone in the prison service will always have a whisper for the media.

From a sociological point of view it raises questions of why we focus on particular murders and murderers in this way and why they become iconic figures in the media memory. It is not simply about the crimes they commit.  They have all committed violent and brutal crimes but there are other wife killers in prison and their releases do not product these kinds of frenzies. It is not simply about the allegations in the media about the failure to express remorse either. The record would suggest that this issue is a bit more complex.  In the criminal trial Lillis expressed remorse but the presiding judge said that his “expression of remorse rings hollow to me and I consider it to be self-serving in light of the circumstances of the case." In a civil action he repeated his remorse, saying in an affidavit,  "I did not intend to kill my wife," … [H]e stated he was "filled with remorse" (Irish Independent , 17th November 2011). The fact that he benefited financially from the disposal of his wife’s estate may also be a factor. But it is hard to escape the aura of social class that permeates this issue.

If we consider the murderers who have become signal offenders and iconic figures in the media pantheon of villains - Joe O’Reilly, Graham Dwyer, Eamon Lillis to mention just three – they all are recognisably middle class. They are “people like us” and so when they behave in ways that we don’t they threaten the controlling bourgeois mind set and self-image and so they must be monstered for it. The fact that the name Ciprian Grozavu doesn’t immediately ring a bell with us is important here. He is also a convicted murderer but will never attain the level of vilification that these others have achieved. But then he lived in a squat in Bandon and had come to the attention of the Gardaí already for other offences. He had the kind of background from which we would prefer our murders to come.


Ciaran McCullagh was formerly a lecturer in sociology in University College Cork. He continues to write on crime and on the media.

{jcomments on}

c.sumner@ucc.ie (Ciaran McCullagh) In brief Mon, 04 May 2015 15:51:30 +0000
The true cost of construction site theft http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=952:safesite-facilities&catid=926&Itemid=275 http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=952:safesite-facilities&catid=926&Itemid=275

Construction site theftTheft from construction sites can be an expensive issue, whether it’s the gradual (but quickly mounting) costs of small-item theft and petty thieving from light-fingered opportunists passing your site or theft of larger items as a result of break-ins and robbery.

But when you also consider the costs of litigation and insurance if a member of the public is injured as a result of items stolen from your site (such as being crashed into by stolen plant vehicles or hit by an item rendered unsafe following a break-in) and it’s easy to see why the cost of appropriate security for your site can easily repay itself over time. So what are the facts and what preventative action can you take?

Fact 1: Theft is a real and relevant issue in the construction industry

A recent survey conducted for the Chartered Institute of Building identified that 92% of their respondents in the construction industry are affected regularly by theft, with 21% of these revealing that theft takes place on a weekly basis from their sites.

  • Complete stock-take and equipment audits regularly and as a standard on-site procedure, to help quickly identify patterns in theft or times of increased vulnerability.
  • Improve security to your site’s boundaries. See this guide on security fencing for construction sites from Safe Site Facilities.

Fact 2: Theft can result from health and safety neglect

Thefts don’t just occur from less-than-honest workers and opportunistic visitors during working hours; many thefts result from neglect in security when sites are closed. Whether it’s failing to have secure barriers in place to restrict entry or failure to lock away items such as vehicles when not in use, health and safety neglect is a key factor which contributes to regular theft.

  • Complete a health, safety and security check with immediate effect.
  • Identify vulnerabilities to your site’s security when open and closed and implement a plan to address those vulnerabilities, such as replacing compromised fencing or barriers with reinforced concrete barriers.

Fact 3: Safety of employees and the public are an important consideration

Forget fiscal costs for a moment and consider the cost of loss of life or permanent injury which could be caused, directly or indirectly as a result of theft from your construction site.

  • Re-visit health, safety and security audits and policies with your employees and the general public in mind. Highlight priorities for preventing theft and accidents relating to poor security.
  • Consider environmental factors such as employee access to the site, or any public rights-of-way such as pavements which are crossed by vehicles and machinery moving in and out of your site, whether as part of the working process or as a result of being stolen.
  • Choose security barriers which allow for supervised access points.

Fact 4: Organised crime is a real issue in the construction industry

It’s not just opportunistic thieves after a few tools to sell on who benefit from poor site security. With the prevailing prices of some metals such as copper, lead and aluminium, some organised criminal groups specifically target sites which are known to use these and other valuable materials, as well as to target building materials generally for re-sale or other use.

  • Consider site security in terms of processes as well as policies and placement of items. For example, you may regard standard barriers as “secure enough” against passing vandals and opportunists, but will they really withstand an organised attempt to breach your security, particularly if you have easy access during working hours?
  • Ask your managers if they really know who is coming onto the site on a daily basis and why, whether any casual contract workers are fully reference checked to identify if basic security processes are in place. If they are not, consider what needs to be done to address the issue, to ensure that people, as well as property, are fully secure on your site.

Fact 5: Security is about prevention and safety

Short-term cost cutting when it comes to site security can turn out extremely costly in the long run. An unsecured or poorly secured site is an open invitation to criminals so all measures should be taken to secure site boundaries and access with suitable, hardwearing and fit for purpose equipment, such as steel enforced concrete barriers. Installing flimsy alternatives which are not suitable to the working or geographical environment (such as high winds) will offer poor value for money and may pose additional hazards to employees, visitors and the public. Similarly, if you choose to use a security company, choose a fully insured, reputable company with fully referenced employees rather than a cheaper alternative which could possibly prove to be a rogue company.

  • Purchase site security barriers from reputable companies which offer guaranteed products, quick installation and a full back-up service.
  • Check credentials of security guard companies carefully. All UK security companies are required to register their personnel with the Security Industry Association and they should wear their distinctive SIA badges as part of their uniform. If in doubt, check with the SIA before taking out a contract with a security guard company.

The bottom economic line for construction site security isn’t about asking what security measures you can afford to implement, it’s about asking what you can afford to lose as, in the majority of cases, the cost of fit-for-purpose site security is quickly regained through reduction in thefts, insurance claims and premiums and in retaining good reputation for prioritising your employees’ and the public’s safety.

c.sumner@ucc.ie (SafeSite Facilities) In brief Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:50:58 +0000
The state, corporate crime and social harm: a state for the people? http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=942:the-state-corporate-crime-social-harm&catid=926&Itemid=275 http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=942:the-state-corporate-crime-social-harm&catid=926&Itemid=275

“A people permanently occupying a fixed territory bound together by common habits and custom into one body politic exercising, through the medium of an organized government, independent sovereignty and control over all persons and things within its boundaries, capable of making war and peace and of entering into international relations with other states” (West's Encyclopaedia of American Law cited in thefreedictionary.com).

The Prostitute State book coverThe above definition is the starting point in outlining how the term “the State” is understood within the context of this article. The only issue that may require clarification relates to the notion of “independent sovereignty and control”. While this phrase is largely true there are, possibly, certain exceptions. For instance European Union (EU) members are obliged to integrate certain directives into their national laws, for example the 2002 Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive (Sander, Schilling, Tojo, Rossem, Vernon & George, 2007). In terms of wider international laws, there is some debate as to whether these laws can be truly said to supersede those of a nation state. The issue usually relates to whether or not international laws must first be adopted into national legislation as set out by that nations constitution. However, a widely accepted and rapidly spreading stance on this is The Kelsian Theory, which purports that International law takes precedence, and even if a nation’s constitution prevents it from implementing international laws domestically, this failure will trigger the nation’s international responsibility and incur sanctions (Kelsen in Anon, 2013).

In 1979 Louis Henkin documented that: "almost all nations observe almost all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the time." ( in Koh, 1997).This statement has been deemed to be quite accurate and it has since been proposed to be largely due to either nations feeling that the international rules are fair and beneficial or due to the cohesive, functional dynamic of the treaty regimes in place and not because of any threatened sanctions (Koh, 1997). However recent events such as the expansion of settlements in the West Bank of Israel and atrocities carried out by the Assad regime in Syria may undermine this theory and show that there is ambiguity over modern states “complete” sovereignty.

The State as creator of legislation, therefore defining what is criminal and being the executive enforcer of crime control and the criminal justice system, leads to a very specific set of acts and behaviours being conceptualized as harmful crimes most in need of being controlled. Reiman (1979 in Sutherland, 2013) illustrated by use of his “carnival mirror” metaphor how the State not only exaggerates the harm of street-level crime but also distorts the perception of harmful corporate acts and fails to treat them as crimes.

As mentioned above, a State requires sustainability.  This involves creating and maintaining an economy to generate the capital necessary to function and progress. The state’s role in relation to economic activity can vary greatly. In many Western States there has been a shift toward neo-liberalism in which free trade, deregulation and privatisation are actively promoted. This involves a reduction in government control of the economy (Taylor & Jordan, 2009) but still leaves the state in the role of defining and regulating economic and corporate criminal activities.

The increasingly neo-liberal attitude of Western societies that drives the free market has led to an interesting dynamic developing. On the one hand, the State must act as the sole regulator to ensure businesses adhere to legal operations, on the other the repositioning of capital from the public to the private sector means intense regulation could reduce the benefits to the economy (Coleman, Sim, Tombs & Whyte, 2009). Mahon (1979 in Coleman et al, 2009) describes how regulatory bodies are created to resolve conflicts that develop between those with opposing interests (largely class-based conflicts) in order to maintain social order. Snider (2000 in Coleman et al, 2009) highlights that as the moral legitimacy of business organisations, or as he puts it ‘the social credibility of capital’, has increased, it diminishes the room to manoeuvre in calling for greater regulation and further tends to remove corporate crime from state agendas. This means that the simplistic notion of the ‘regulatory’ state versus corporations has become very imaginary and in actual fact the relationship between the two is a complex and symbiotic one.

This structure has led to a plethora of business conducts and activities that have been quite harmful to individual members of society being described as ‘breaches of regulation’ rather than being termed ‘criminal’, the latter being a label more true to their nature. An obvious example is the casino capitalism and investment gambling that led to the latest financial crisis and, for Ireland, an 85 billion euro bailout in which the burden of repayment was absorbed almost wholly by the state, thus ensuring it was paid at the expense of the taxpayer. 

The case study of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah, Kentucky in the USA (Bruce & Becker, 2007) is one of only a few pieces of research that focuses on State-Corporate crime, specifically on how the State can not only facilitate but also instigate crime. The study came about as a direct result of the media uncovering how the US Government and company officials were actively covering up serious health and environmental misconduct at nuclear facilities (Bruce & Becker, 2007). The plant was owned by the US Government but its operations were contracted out to a private company. The falsifying of health and safety reports at the plant led to workers being exposed to high levels of radioactive materials and they were consciously under-educated as to the harms associated with these substances (Office of Oversight, Environment, Safety and Health, 2000, in Bruce & Becker, 2007). Later reports highlight that workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant had annual exposure to radiation levels twenty times higher than what is now considered safe, and ten times as many cases of leukaemia than the average population (Warrick 1999, in Bruce & Becker, 2007). 

The US Governments’ motivation for actively subduing crimes related to Health, Safety and the Environment lay in their need to be seen as the leading nation in nuclear development during the Cold War period (Duffy 1997, in Bruce & Becker, 2007). 

Modern Western industrialised neo-liberal societies, particularly the US, Britain, and to a lesser extent Ireland, have been characterised by increasingly ‘tough on crime’ policies (Coleman, 2009). These policies have been incredibly targeted and only relate to a small proportion of all crimes committed, specifically ‘street’ level crimes. The stance that the State takes on crime undoubtedly affects the perception of criminality held by members within that society. The political necessity of being ‘tough on crime’ in the US, Britain and Ireland has been a factor in a hardline, retributive attitude in relation to punitive sanctions for criminals. This has been strengthened by the mostly symbiotic relationship between ‘tough on crime’ governments and a private media industry that has made an incredibly profitable business model off of the statistical over-reporting of sensationalist violent crime (O’Brien, 2007). By essentially demonising one category of offenders and relatively ignoring entire other cohorts of individuals engaging in crime, a State can increase the stigma associated with a type of crime so much that it leads to social exclusion. Many of these ‘street level’ crimes are highly linked to poverty and social disadvantage, being either drug related or petty theft and burglary, an industry that can at times be the only viable source of income for the extremely impoverished (Suede, 2011). 

Up to a point, the democratic state can only criminalise and, as importantly, publicly condone that which its members will allow it to. What becomes criminal and what is de-criminalised should ideally represent the general consensus of the public, a difficult balance to acheive. In an Irish context, a great example is the legality of contraceptives. Contraceptives, namely the diaphragm, condoms and spermicides had been made illegal by laws enacted in 1929 and 1935 (Anon, 2001). The influence of the Catholic Church and a conservative public allowed this to remain in place and largely unchallenged until the ‘contraception revolution’ of the 1960’s. By this time a popular movement was calling for the lessening of restrictions on birth control. However, there was still a highly conservative and influential sector of society that was concerned that any liberalisation of contraceptives would lead to a lessening of morals in society (Drennan, 2012). The State’s position only changed in 1979 when the new government decided it was politically viable to change the tone of the discussion from one of morality to that of health, family planning and regulation, stressing that new legislation would ensure they were only available through authorised channels (Drennan, 2012). 

The above helps to illustrate the changing nature of social norms and social censures, and the resulting evolution, in the true Darwinian sense of adaptation, of criminal laws over time. This forming and reforming of criminal law can take time to develop. Governments’ are constantly under pressure to respond to these changes in society, which will be stronger and occur faster among certain demographics than others. This can lead to important issues of criminal legislation being ‘shelved’ and subsequent governments failing to clarify or address certain issues, such as the ongoing debate surrounding abortion in Ireland.

The State’s role in relation to criminal law is not a singular one. A nation is itself a complex eco-system and while its criminal law serves a multitude of functions, which vary over time, the overarching aim should be to ensure a sense of security and stability. The criminal law of a State should allow its’ people to feel safe while still allowing enough liberties to enable the majority of citizens, who have varied beliefs and interests, to live productive lives relatively free from feelings of intrusion or persecution.


Anon (2001). The day we drove the condom train straight through de Valera's Ireland. Viewed 30/01/14: http://www.independent.ie/unsorted/features/the-day-we-drove-the-condom-train-straight-through-de-valeras-ireland-26248644.html 

Anon (2013). The Implementation of International Rules Within The National System. 30/01/14 Viewed : http://www.google.ie/urlsa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&ved=0CFQQFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fhome.aubg.bg%2Ffaculty%2Fnbentz%2FInternational%2520Law%2520and%2520Organization%2FClass%2520preparation%2520and%2520lecture%2520outline%2FThe%2520Implementation%2520of%2520International%2520Rules%2520Within%2520National%2520Systems.doc&ei=4rzfUsT1JIvA7Abkg4CADQ&usg=AFQjCNEx1Ni5aqRn2APDXFJlRTLR9xlluA&bvm=bv.59568121,d.ZGU 

Bruce, A & Becker, P. (2007) 'State-Corporate Crime and the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant', Western Criminology Journal, 8(2), pp. 29 - 43.

Coleman, R. (2009) 'Policing the working class in the city of renewal: the state and social surveillance', in Coleman, R., Sim, J. Tombs, S., Whyte, D. (ed.) State Power Crime. London: Sage Publication, pp. 62 - 75.

Drennan, J. (2012) Standing by the Republic, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.

Koh, H. (2007) Why Do Nations Obey International Law?. Viewed 30/01/14: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2897&context=fss_papers 

Sander, K., Schilling, S., Tojo, N., Rossem, C, V., Vernon, J., George, C. (2007) The Producer Responsibility Principle of the WEEE Directive. Sweden: Europa.

Suede, Michael. (2011). “Victimless Crime Constitutes 86% of The Federal Prison Population”. Libertarian News. Viewed 30/01/14: http://www.libertariannews.org/2011/09/29/victimless-crime-constitutes-86-of-the-american-prison-population/

Sutherland (2013). Crimes of the Powerful: Theories of White Collar Crime. Viewed 30/01/14: www.sagepub.com/upm-data/38171_11

Taylor, C., & Jordan, G. (2009). Neoliberalism: From New Liberal Philosophy to Anti-Liberal Slogan, Studies in Comparative International Development (SCID), Volume 44, Number 2, 137–161.http://people.bu.edu/tboas/neoliberalism.pdf

thefreedictionary.com (2013) State. Viewed 30/01/14:http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/state

Keith Shier........completing a Masters in Criminology, University College Cork.{jcomments on}

c.sumner@ucc.ie (Keith Shier) In brief Mon, 28 Jul 2014 04:09:25 +0000
Western Media/governments complicit in Zionist brutality http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=941:western-complicity-in-zionist-brutality&catid=926&Itemid=275 http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=941:western-complicity-in-zionist-brutality&catid=926&Itemid=275

The video in Richard Mellor's post on his Facts for Working People tugs at your heart strings, especially if you have worked in Israel, and brings home the full horror of what is happening there.{jcomments on}

c.sumner@ucc.ie (Richard Mellor) In brief Sun, 13 Jul 2014 16:01:05 +0000
The poor get punished, while the rich get privileges: a note on the Mayo pipeline http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=938:graham-cambridge&catid=926&Itemid=275 http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=938:graham-cambridge&catid=926&Itemid=275

Criminal and deviant behavior can be understood as political, because people with political power, like the ruling class, are in a position to exercise legal restraint and political control (Sumner, 1990). According to Christie (in Scraton 2007), crime does not exist but is created through a method in which certain acts are created as criminal. Deviant acts are seen as negative and a breach of established social rules.  However, crime and deviance are invested with meaning by the predominant culture and the political-economic regime which is imposed as the rule of law. 


Guards force digger through crowdAccording to Michalowski (1985), the economy shapes state law and decides what crime is and what is not and what constitutes acceptable behaviour for individuals.  An individual’s social class, education level, biology, mental and emotional development and race can determine their development and the likelihood of criminal behaviour. The power to criminalize these individuals takes the focus away from the reason why these individuals commit crime in the first place and places the focus on the crimes they commit. Even when no political motive is involved, the act of labelling a crime can divert the attention away from underlying forces. If society looks at black young people as muggers, there will be less acceptance of movements which say that young black men are being discriminated against (Gilroy, cited in Muncie et al 1996).


For someone to be labelled deviant, their actions must be seen as contravening social norms and others must agree that this is not acceptable. If a person is not powerful enough to make the deviant label stick we overlook it. Many people in society don’t take any notice that the corporate economy kills more people than are killed due to crime on our streets. The crimes of the poor are looked upon more negatively and seen as more worthy of our attention. Violence is entirely associated with the actions of the poor in disadvantaged areas (Liazos 1972).


People’s lives are violated every day in society due to the workings of institutions; the latter put an end to more lives than the murderers we read about in our newspapers. We do not recognize these events as violent as they are not immediately destructive. We tend to focus more on the deviant behavior of what society deems as deviant: the poor and powerless in society. We look at the violence committed as political rebellion in riots and focus on the actions of the rioters, but ignore the violence against the people who are rioting. Criminal law is used by the ruling class to promote its own interests, for example by making the behaviour of the working class look much more harmful than white-collar crime (Beirne and Messerschmidt 1991).


According to Chambliss, crime is a response to the life circumstances of a person’s social class. Crime distracts the attention of people in disadvantaged areas from their exploitation, focussing it towards other members of their community and preventing them from looking at the capitalist class or the economic system (Chambliss, cited in Beirne and Messerschmidt 1991).

Studies of prisons and prisoners focus on prison subcultures and rehabilitation of the prisoner. Very little attention is paid to the political and economic conditions which keep people incarcerated. According to Liazos, the majority of prisoners would see themselves as political prisoners because their criminal act was due to the social conditions and inequality they face on a daily basis and not as prisoners who are troubled and psychopathic personalities (Liazos1972).

As Quinney put it, crimes of accommodation occur where people from the lower and working-class commit crime as a response to oppressive conditions of capitalism and domination by the ruling class. These crimes are committed as a way of survival within the capitalist system and also a political act of rebellion.  Some criminals and their crimes can be admirable figures in the whole class struggle (Quinney 1977). Look at what happened in Britain in theAugust 2011 riots: the protest over the police shooting of Mark Duggan in North London changed into criminal damage, violence and theft in many towns in the UK. One explanation for these riots was that they were partly due to the recent elite scandal over bankers and politicians (Birch and Allen 2012).

Young (August 2011) commented that these riots were political; the young people in the riots were looting not shoplifting. When people get together to break both law and social convention, they are acting politically. Poverty was a major factor for the people involved in the riots, as 64% of the rioters lived in the poorest areas and 42% depended on free school meals. People involved in the riots stated they did so for free stuff. People from poor areas have not got many ways to fight back against the inequalities that they experience. One rioter stated that he stole a television so he could throw it at the police due to the ill treatment he had received from the police throughout his life. Rioting is one of the few options marginalized people have to make people listen to them (Young, December 2011). “Rich people don't riot because they have other forms of influence. Riots are a class act" (ibid). As Quinney argued, crimes of domination appear to be the real source of societal harms, but are not criminalized because they benefit the ruling class.

Protest in Mayo

Ruling class theory states that the law is defined by the ruling class in a way which benefits them. This ruling class (capitalist class) dominates and exploits the state as a way to maintain capital growth and the protection of its economic power. The state is seen as a way for the ruling class to impose and guarantee the stability of the class structure and is informed with the ideology of the ruling class. (Chambliss 1995). An example of the Irish state supporting the interest of the ruling class can be seen when Shell sought to build a gas pipeline from a field in Ballinaboy, County Mayo, 80 kilometers offshore. Planning permission was granted for a 400-acre site. Around this time the government introduced new compulsory acquisition orders (CAO) which allowed pipes to be laid in private land over the objections of the owners.  The amendment to the Gas Law gave these industries permission to enter the land under the new CAOs (Lynch, cited in Leonard 2006).

Shell pipeline in County Mayo

The development does not benefit the community with employment as the jobs are specialized jobs. Neither does the project offer much benefit to the national economy.  This is because of the deal the Irish government made with Shell whereby the Irish Revenue receives minimal royalties from the oil and gas and 100% of the operation’s cost can be signed off against tax for 25 years. This deal was made by then Finance Minister, Ray Burke, and Bertie Ahern: the former was jailed for corruption and forced to resign from office while under a tribunal investigation for political corruption (Keohane and Kuhling 2010). 


Five locals spent 94 days in prison for their campaign against the pipeline. These five men felt that the pipe which was planned to run beside the homes of families in the area could have health risks to the people in the community. A campaign called Shell to Sea started to stop the pipe being laid down in Mayo. Protesters blocked access to the entrance to the Shell site. On a number of occasions there was scuffling between Gardaí and protesters, and there is footage from protesters of Gardaí throwing several protesters off the road and down into ditches (Leonard 2006). It is assumed that the protesters were trying to block the road, but the manner in which they were treated looks disproportionate. Another incident was when the Gardai brought a HIMAC digger, jeep and cabin down the lane belonging to Mr Paddy McGrath who had not giving his consent to let them onto his property.  The Gardai forced their way onto Mr McGrath’s property while injuring some of the protesters (ibid).  


This campaign has been going on for the past seven years, costing the state over €16 million on policing the protest - not including the cost of paying wages to Gardai who are policing the area (The Journal.ie 16/11/13). Protesters have been harassed, intimidated and severely beaten by private and state security forces, arrested on spurious charges, tried, prosecuted and jailed indefinitely (Garavan et al, cited in Keohane and Kuhling 2010).


Overall, it seems clear that the ruling class are in a position to dominate the economy and use their power to determine which actions are ‘criminal’ and which are not. Powerful individuals who are in a position to control society ensure the focus is on the crimes of the poor and label them deviant while their own destructive activities can go without any attention.  




Beirne, P. & Messerschmidt, J. (1991) Criminology. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: USA.

Birch, S, & Allen, N (2012). 'There will be burning and a-looting tonight': The Social and Political Correlates of Law-breaking', Political Quarterly, 83, 1, pp. 33-43, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 January 2014.

Chambliss, W. J. (1998) Exploring Criminology Macmillan: New York

Keohane, K. & Kuhling, C. (2010) The darkness drops again: a recurrence of the Táin foretold in the 'Corrib Gas Giveaway'. Irish Journal of Sociology, Vol. 18(2), pp. 107-25.


Leonard, L. (2006) 'Moral Framing in a Resource Dispute: The "Shell to Sea" Campaign in North Mayo'.  Vol. 95, No. 380, pp. 375-86  Irish Province of the Society of Jesus 


Liazos, A. (1972) 'The Poverty of the Sociology of Deviance: Nuts, Sluts, and Preverts', Social Problems, Vol. 20 (1), pp. 103-20 University of California Press



Michalowski, R. J. (1985) Order, Law and Crime. Random House: New York. 

Muncie, J. & McLaughlin, E. (1996) The Problem of Crime. Sage Publications: London.

Quinney, R. (1977) Class, State and Crime. Longman: New York

Scraton, P. (2007). Power Conflict and Criminalisation. Routledge: London. 

Sumner, C. (ed.) (1990) Censure, Politics and Criminal Justice Open University Press: Milton Keynes.


Young, G. (5, December 2011) Indifferent elites, poverty and police brutality – all reasons to riot in the UKAvailable from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/dec/05/reasons-riot-uk-protest-study  Assessed on 23/01/14. 


Young, G. (14, August 2011) These riots were political. They were looting, not shoplifting. Available from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/aug/14/young-british-rioters-political-actions Assessed on 23/01/14.


Graham Cambridge is a youth and community worker in Cork city currently on the MA in Criminology at UCC

 {jcomments on} 

c.sumner@ucc.ie (Graham Cambridge) In brief Sat, 12 Jul 2014 23:35:05 +0000
The silent sex: men and violence http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=934:the-silent-sex-men-and-violence&catid=926&Itemid=275 http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=934:the-silent-sex-men-and-violence&catid=926&Itemid=275
Yet again an American killing spree sparks a brief surge in debate. On May 23, two women and four men were killed in yet another act of gun violence. It has become so formulaic that what should stand as an incitement to change and reflective action, is instead normalised. It begins with a collective moment of astonishment, followed by reflection on its causes and possible remedies, followed by attacks on those who deny those theories and answers, then followed by a waning of interest on the subject. A week later we forget what happened, and recalibrate our attention onto the day to day issues. 
This time however, the circumstances surrounding Elliot Rodger’s crimes are not being left off the feminist hook. His open hatred of women has asserted his place as the poster boy for feminist grievances and an epitome of what has been claimed as our ‘misogynistic’ culture. But cries of misogyny and a twitter war between #yesallwomen and #notallmen have neglected the ecological bath which breeds the very masculinity embedded in Roger’s sense of self. It is now clear that men’s issues need to be raised from the bottom of feminist discourses. 
There can be no doubt that feminism has played a heroic part in realising human freedom. The feminist movement must be given credit for its revolutionary part in igniting debate on the naturalised act that is human violence. After two centuries of action, feminism’s oscillating tidal wave is reaching its fourth peak. College campuses and social media are witnessing a burgeoning resurgence of feminist voices that is complemented by the welcoming phenomenon of men joining feminism's ranks as deeply concerned supporters, speaking up in dismay at the floundering aspects of civilisation which impede the pursuit of gender equality.
But amidst the joyful dreams of envisaging an egalitarian utopia, feminism's push towards a pure and perfect world of equality between the sexes is stumped by its major oversight of men, in which even academe has fallen victim. Unless men's issues are catered for, until boys and men no longer feel that their self-esteem, identity and acceptance among peers can only be attained by having sex, performing belligerent, imposingly assertive masculinities to assert status and maintain 'face', women will continue to fall victim to the 'lad' and ‘misogynist’ culture supposedly rampant across our society.
For over two centuries, the feminist crusade has been based on a mistaken assumption, that since men denied women material and political autonomy, men were mischievously hiding the key to living the good, prosperous and free life. Thus, since women saw men as having it all, prestige, fame, glory freedom and political glamour, the one sided thesis of 'female oppression' emerged. From this thesis, feminism has been criticised as projecting all of human history as male oppression and female victimage (Paglia, 2006). The answer to women's oppression according to the original feminist mantra, is that by attaining all of what men had acquired, labelled as the pursuit of 'equality', female emancipation and happiness would in theory, arise out of the residue of deprivation.
Men became the ideal, the model for human freedom, and benchmark for the 'good life'. But contrary to popular feminist discourse, the history of the genders should be seen as one in which both women and men have endured differing forms of subjugation. The idea that the female sex constitutes the oppressed sex is in my opinion sheer nonsense. To simplify matters, whilst women's subjugation lies within their experience as the silenced sex, men's subjugation lies within their still boxed in status as the silent sex. The radical face of feminism has ignored the very real and historical oppressions which men have faced. It is an oppression which has bred vile forms of manhood in which the application of violence seen as the default method of solving personal and collective problems. If society is to be rectified and violence subdued, then men's issues must have its own space for discussion and political action.
Of the many sexist proclamations which feminism has sought to destroy is the generalisation that women are pathological liars who mischievously exploit their sexual and emotional magic to keep men on a leash. But woman as the bearer and bringer of deceit is symptomatic of men's denial to reflect on their own selves. When women mustered the courage to shout in explosive defiance during the 1960’s second wave, the nature of female affliction was disclosed, discussed and projected into a framework for political action. 
But men, whose issues are only now being considered seriously by media commentators and academe (it is only in recent years that 'men's studies' programmes are being developed), continue to be chained to a fiercely constrictive, repressive masculinity, an internalised panopticon which strongly orientates men's actions, gestures and spoken word. As a result, women continue to endure the symptom of male distress - the fist.
Through their silence, their individual and collective fear of denouncing violence and of voicing issues of mental ills, it is men who are the pathological liars, not women. Men are the silent sex, whose historical cynical portrayal has us assuming that men’s natural behavioural state is that of a loud, chest thumping bunch of monkeys, making noise, stirring hostility, and decimating mother nature wherever they go. Under their guise as fearless defenders and heroic saviours, men have literally fooled the world in their pretence of emotional hardness. Under this masquerade, fear, love and vulnerability are suppressed into a miserable mooping shame and slapped with identity shattering labels. 
Radical feminists have been rightly enraged by men's historical perpetration of structural and physical violence, but their subjection to the idea that women’s history is of nothing but victimage by male privilege has blinded them to the forces which impeded on men's ability to cry with tears rather than fists. When we realise the potential for men to express deep love and compassion, we can conclude that macho forms of masculinity have repressed men's potential as loving, caring beings. Unless ideals of masculinity are re-constructed, unless men's place and importance in society undergoes a transformation of metaphysical proportions, boys and men will continue to remain trapped in a state of liminality - going somewhere but ending nowhere. 
Masculinity needs a new firm foundation articulated and cultivated by dialogue between all spheres of society. Like Elliot Rodger, as long as sex is seen by some men as the only means by which to become a man, to feel a sense that one belongs, that one’s place and importance in the world is confirmed, acts like those committed by Rodger will happen again whether we like it or not. It is up to men, alongside women to re-construct a 21st century masculine image which serves to promote the ideals of freedom and respect feminism tries so desperately to establish between the genders.
Gender roles may be socially constructed, but social construction is a natural part of the human form. Humans have always moulded and adapted their behaviours for the survival of the collective. When a society needs men to fight, it's not going to teach men how to care, but how to supress fear. Spartan society once took boys from their homes at age seven for combat training. But this was a natural response to the plagues which forced the military to defend what little food was available at the time (Farrell, 1994). We adapt in accordance with the environment we seek to create. Rather than the result of a male conspiracy, gender roles were required for the functioning and maintenance of agrarian societies.
But our modern visions of a peaceful, equal and free world which incentivises the abolition of gender roles cannot be fulfilled with the current state of men's issues today. Encouraging men to take male violence and toxic forms of masculinity seriously will require far more investment in the consciousness raising of men's issues than is currently promoted.
The truth hidden by men is typified by their tragically high suicide rates which continues to remain too much of a quiet social problem. While suicide's stigma comes in part from a "suicide is selfish" attitude, the reality according to men's activist Warren Farrell (1994), is that suicide is sort of like a perverse act of love. The hammering burden too many men feel they weigh upon their families convinces them that their loved ones would be better off without them. Unless the silent sex comes out and reveals its true self, as human, vulnerable and capable of deep love without being slapped with crude, ungenerous, identity shattering labels like "pussy", "gay" or "coward", the pursuit of a society based on cooperation and love for others cannot be realized.
Rather than a history of being privileged egomaniacs, too many men literally regard themselves as inferior and unworthy of love. Rather than obsessing over sex, too many men obsess over whether their family and friends would be better off without them. Rather than hopelessly, irreversibly destined to commit violent acts, men are inclined to adapt to whatever masculinities a culture cultivates and values. In our quest for freedom from violence, a non-violent masculine identity is possible, but we must deconstruct the emotional subordination of males and induce within our culture, an acceptance of male emotional flexibility. A "boys don't cry attitude" has its place in a society needy of tough and emotionally stupefied soldiers. We continue to teach this to young males. But we are not at war.
Farrell, W. (1994) The Myth of Male Power. London: Fourth Estate

Paglia, C. (2006) Salon Interview: Camille Paglia. Salon.

Robert Bolton is currently graduating in social science at University College Cork.

c.sumner@ucc.ie (Robert Bolton) In brief Thu, 12 Jun 2014 23:00:14 +0000
Hip-hop and gangland crime in Limerick http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=928:hiphop&catid=926&Itemid=275 http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=928:hiphop&catid=926&Itemid=275

For many years music has played an interesting role in crime, with particular interest being paid to the possibility that music could socialize people to behave criminally. In the immediate aftermath of the 1999 Columbine massacre, media outlets highlighted the perpetrators’ fondness for Marilyn Mansons gothic music as an explanation for the deed (Rolling Stone, 1999). More recently the FBI went as far as to label followers of the rap duo Insane Clown Pose as gang members, giving the followers’ distinct dress sense as reason (CNN, 2014). Conversely however, this article will suggest that through the reconstruction of how we view the genre of rap music, it may be possible to socialize positively those at risk of falling prey to seriously deviant behaviours.

In August 2013 John Dundon, a key figure in Limericks criminal gangland, was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the murder of Shane Geoghegan. Geoghegan, a 28-year-old aircraft fitter and rugby player, was shot and killed in a case of mistaken identity on 9 November 2008 by Barry Boyle, a member or Dundons criminal gang, who was working on Dundons orders. The intended target was a member of a rival gang, who bore a physical resemblance to Geoghegan. While Geoghegans murder had been the latest in a long line of gangland killings in Limerick city, the case drew significantly more media attention due to the victims status as an innocent bystander. The admittedly tragic story provided the basis for a host of media musings on the callous character of Limericks gangland criminals.

One surprising aspect of the story was the focus on Dundon's musical preferences. During the sentencing, it was reported that Dundon listened to ‘gangster rapon his headphones, as if oblivious to the severity of his crime, and his sentence.

Americas hip-hop subculture emerged in the 1950s and 1960’s in socio-economically disadvantaged areas of America. Sources point to the Bronx, New York as the point of origin. The 1950’s and 1960’s saw the Bronx transform. A highway was built directly through the neighbourhood, stimulating a ‘white flightthat effectively removed the middle class. What was left were poor African-American and Hispanic families. These families suffered greatly in the socio-economic conditions of the time; gangs, violence and crime all became prevalent. 

The hip-hop subculture originally arose as an antidote to societal problems (Rhodes, 2013). Early hip-hop music, including songs such as ‘The Messageby Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, documented ‘ghetto’ life through a form of street poetry that captured in gritty detail the struggles of poor communities dealing with local problems, including the prevalence of drug use, and the impact of Government neglect. Groups like Public Enemy took this to a new level of political consciousness by highlighting institutional racism in America. However, as the popularity of hip-hop music spread it also became more diverse. It wasn't long before the hip-hop culture, especially rap music evolved out of its socially conscious origins, into something else.

Through the crackdown on facets of the culture, such as graffiti, the hip-hop culture began to be labelled as deviant, and was often linked, in the media, to gang crime (Cohen, 1973). By the 1990s rap music had spread to the West Coast of the US. In LA, groups such as NWA developed a genre known as ‘gangster rap. This form of rap music was explicitly confrontational. Glorifying the ‘outlawfigure of the gangster, this music became about expressing macho messages of drugs, violence, and revenge. Evidence of this can be seen in the lyrics of the rap music of the time, for example gangster rapper Tupac Shakur, in his 1994 song 'Hit 'em up', raps 'who shot me, but you punks didn't finish, now you 'bout to feel the wrath of a menace, so hit 'em up...'

The aggressive nature of rap music gave it credence in a society where the currency of violence was essential to survival. Gangs such as the Bloods and the Crips were common place in the rap culture that emerged. ‘Beefs’ or fights between rappers would often spring up on the basis of gang allegiance, the infamous east coast/ west coast war of the 1990s, with rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur, as sort of figure heads for each gang became national news. How then does this information translate into the Irish context?

Just as many aspects of hip-hop culture travelled around the world by offering “a way for young people on the margins to tell their stories –in all their hybridity, pain, and humour –in societies where there was no language or medium for these stories to be told” (Fernandez, 2011), the ‘gangster rap ‘variety has also travelled. Here I will take the McCarthy-Dundon gang of Limerick city as an example. Many tropes of the Gangster rap’ culture have become an essential feature of the 'good' gang member.

The McCarthy-Dundon gang caused outrage in 2008 when photographs emerged on the internet, which showed gang members whose upper bodies were covered in tattoos of guns and (importantly to this article) slogans such as 'Thug Life', the latter an expression made famous by rapper Tupac Shakur (The Guardian 2008). Akin to this, in 2009 members of the gang released a video on YouTube, in which they threaten rivals through the medium of rap (Politics.ie, 2009). It is not however of relevance to this to ponder the repercussions of the gang’s actions, but instead to deconstruct them.

One theory that can be linked with the ‘gangster is to be found in Harold Finestones 1957 article entitled ‘Cats, kicks and color. Finestone, while studying opiate use among the impoverished African–American population, theorized that his subjects, unable to attain upward mobility within normative society, created the character of the ‘cat’ in an attempt to fulfil a human need of recognition of status from a peer group. The ‘cat, in line with the ‘gangster, came with its own street cred, musical preferences, dress sense, and social structure.

The McCarthy-Dundons, coming from socio-economically disadvantaged areas of Limerick city, can be linked to the conditions of Finestone's subjects. But instead of the creation of the 'cat', the Dundon-McCarthys created the 'gangster'. The ‘cat, akin to the ‘gangster, was seen as an outlaw, not conforming to the rules of society, instead creating a subcultural set of rules and norms by which to live.

However, Finestone's 'cats', although partaking in deviant behaviour, rarely  found economic success through the creation of an imaginative, subcultural social structure, instead merely enjoying the status, among peers of the same group, attributed to the cat. (Finestone, 1957) The ‘gangster, conversely, has an economic dimension. In response to poverty and exclusion, the ‘gangster’ creates his own wealth through criminality.

Ireland's gangsters managed for a time to make a successful business from crime. Drugs and racketeering were two avenues the gangs used to make money. One explanation for this could be taken from Robert Merton's 1938 theory of anomie. For Merton, anti-social behaviour is caused by a dislocation between cultural conventions and the class structure. His theory attributes criminal activity to a lack of norms within the socialisation of a person, ending in a type of moral disillusion, sometimes leading to criminal activity. According to Merton, Finestone's subjects were economically disadvantaged, coupled with lack of traditions (most subjects came from single-parent households), leading to retreatism, meaning the creation of the cat and also high levels of opiate use. 

Similarly the McCarthy-Dundons lacked means, but in contrast, came mostly from traditional Irish traveller backgrounds, rich in traditions and norms that, in accordance with Merton, created innovation and deviation, and the creation of a crime empire. But with the norms of traveller society often being different to that of Irish society as a whole, the creation of the 'gangster' could thus be explained as an attempt to reconcile the two, through the creation of the gangster subculture.

Thus if this assessment of Irish gangland culture can be supported, it would be prudent for society to construct new ways to use the ‘gangster; positive ways. Given the large socio-economically disadvantaged populations in areas such as inner-city Limerick, the recruitment ground for gangsters is large. With the death or imprisonment of every gang member, a new one can be found, with young males at the most vulnerable. 

From looking at previous example of the hip-hop culture, and its role in gangland Ireland, by taking the idea of hip-hop, and specifically rap we can construct new projects that would allow the participants to engage with the hip-hop culture in a positive way. For example, Cork rapper GMC has been running a Rap and Beats workshop, working in socio-economically disadvantaged areas, with the intention of giving the youth a voice through the medium of rap music (GMCBeats.com, 2013). 

Similarly, as demonstrated in Claire Dixs new documentary about Dublin rappers Costello, GI, and soul singer Willa Lee, the language of hip-hop can be used to encourage positive rather than destructive constructions of identity for young people in poor neighbourhoods.

Through projects like this it may be possible to remove the ‘playaspect of the gangster. In removing this, violence and other aspects of the subculture become part of the real world with real outcomes and repercussions for the actors. Coupled with the voice given to the youths through rap music, a place in society is given, thus making it harder for gangland criminals to recruit from the ranks of youths feeling neglected by society. Projects such as these could also become part of the rehabilitation programme within prisons, giving offenders an alternative means of status other than gangster. 

Thus, as a society, we can remove the negative connotations of the hip-hop culture and reframe it, in order to make progressive changes within communities most vulnerable to gangland activity. It can then be assumed that it is society’s attribution to a musical genre, not the music in itself, that creates the negative imaginaries utilised by the gangster as tools of recruitment, and through the reconstruction of these imaginaries it is possible to reframe how the ‘wanna begangsters view themselves, reducing the chance of criminal activity.

Orla O’Callaghan, a social science undergraduate, University College Cork.




Cohen, S (1972). Folk Devils and Moral Panics. New York: Paladin. .


Dix, C. (2013). Broken Song. Available: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=CLAIRE+DIX+DOCUMENTARY&docid=607995231205786118&mid=0D326556143CDCC431DD0D326556143CDCC431DD&view=detail&FORM=VIRE2#view=detail&mid=0D326556143CDCC431DD0D326556143C. Last accessed 20/02/2014.


Duke, A. (2014). Insane Clown Posse sues FBI for labelling 'Juggalo' fans a gang. Available: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/08/showbiz/juggalo-gang-lawsuit/index.html. Last accessed 20/02/2014.


Finestone, H. (1957). Cats, Kicks, and Color. Social Problems. 5 (1), p3-13.


Fernandez, S (2011). Close to the Edge. London: Verso. p1-147.


GMC. (2014). GMC Beats - Youth Project. Available: http://gmcbeats.com/. Last accessed 20/02/2014


Manson, M. (1999). Columbine: Whose Fault is it? Available: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/columbine-whose-fault-is-it-19990624. Last accessed 20/02/2014.


Merton, R. (1938). Social Structure and Anomie. American Sociological Review. 3 (5), p672-682.


McDonald, H. (2008). Blindsided in Gangland. Available: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/nov/30/ireland. Last accessed 23/02/2014.


Phelan, A. (2013). John Dundon guilty of the murder of innocent rugby player Shane Geoghegan. Available: http://www.irishtimes.com/premium/loginpage?destination=http://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/grin-from-dundon-as-he-is-led-off-to-begin-life-sentence-1.1493431. Last accessed 20/02/2014.


Politics.ie. (2009). Gangster McCarthy/Dundon Back in the Hood. Available: http://www.politics.ie/forum/justice/78766-gangster-mccarthy-dundon-back-hood.html. Last accessed 23/02/2014.


Rhodes, H., A. (2013). The Evolution of Hip-Hop. Yale New-Haven Teachers Institute. 1 (1), p1-3.


Woulfe, J. (2013). Bishop of Limerick: Dundon verdict ‘signals change in Limerick and hope for future’. Available: http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/bishop-of-limerick-dundon-verdict-signals-change-in-limerick-and-hope-for-future-240310.html. Last accessed 23/02/2014.

{jcomments on}

c.sumner@ucc.ie (Orla O'Callaghan) In brief Wed, 09 Apr 2014 22:17:30 +0000
Transgression: the essence of order? http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=923:transgression-the-essence-of-order&catid=926&Itemid=275 http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=923:transgression-the-essence-of-order&catid=926&Itemid=275


We do not talk about transgression enough. We do not ask enough questions, and we certainly do not have all the answers…

(When) is it a “crime”?

Transgression is at the limits of the discussions on normativity. We think of transgression as the limit of the norms. For example, our attitudes to transgression are embodied in the rejection of the degenerate criminal monster. There is no similarity between us and the “transgressor” - the monster. We push the crime outside of our normative system, and devalue the one who crossed the line. In other words, we become aware of the norm once it has been violated, and we are quick to punish that transgression.

We are then “worried” and question both the norm and the transgression, and by criminalizing the transgressor we often reinforce the norm.  At the same time, when the transgression led to some positive outcomes, thinking and acting outside the box is not criminalized… So, norms can be transgressed when it comes to scientific invention and valuable reform, and sometimes even entrenched beliefs and norms are overturned.  “I protest not serve” has different meanings dependent on the context and particularly the outcome of the transgression.

The “good”, the “bad” or the “ugly uncertainty”?

But how can we differentiate between a positive and a negative outcome of a transgression? Normativity is often taken to be permanent, norms are not. Some say that “good and right never falters”. For most of us, our own normative horizon is the “normal”, the “taken for granted”, the “good” that does not and should not be swayed. In order to keep things as we know them, transgressions of the norms are crucial. For the consolidation of the norms, we need transgressors to make explicit what is otherwise implicit.

In everyday life, we engage in continual rule testing, in a monitoring of potential transgressive acts precisely to find the reassurance that our moral horizon is safe and protected. What is good about a transgression is the reassurance it brings that our previous norms should prevail. What is potentially bad is when transgressions bring to light inherent problems in the normative system, leading to a destabilizing threat and need of a “revolution”… 

In some situations, some groups are constantly placed outside of the normative order, precisely as reminders of what we cherish in the in-group that the particular out-group does not share. Specific characteristics are imputed to marginal groups to help “us” define ourselves as “normal”. For example, defining the Roma or Travellers as “dirty” makes “us” feel “cleaner”. Attributing immorality and inability to lower status groups establishes the moral order, in which the dominant group norms are promoted as superior. What is “good” belongs to us, the “bad” belongs to the others. 

In other situations, the instinctive unsophisticated and emotional reactions to transgressions are themselves the denominators of “good” or “bad”. On one hand, we have little to doubt: driving a plane into the World Trade Centre is wrong, advocating political change with ballot paper in one hand and gun in the other is wrong. On the other hand, political revolution may feel good in the moment: in Tahrir square, there was a sense of suspension of order, where the future outcome was unknown and the potentialities open.  The reactions in the moment are loaded with positive emotions that typically emerge in collective action, and with the power of numbers. But, after a while, these moments of crisis/revolution are followed by reflection and judgement on what norms changed or what should not change. In the moment when the transgression is taking place, we react to it without reflexive understanding. And yet, it is the memory and interpretation of the transgressive event that becomes key to the establishment of the new order, and to the final labelling of that transgression as “good” or “bad”.


So we need transgressions to reinforce our moral superiority. We often achieve this in a particular intergroup setting by scapegoating particular groups, or by criminalizing the transgressor and pushing him out of our own ordered worlds. The “good” and the “bad” of transgressions is situated and negotiated in specific group or individual interactions. There is also a time and timing dimension to those interactions: the uncertainty of the nature of a transgression is replaced by either a positive or a negative appraisal of the event, based on the interpretation and consequences of the transgression. What is clear, above the “good” and the “bad” or the “uncertain”, is that transgression is most likely a permanent condition of our world, as permanent as normativity is often taken to be.

If transgression is “certain” why do we unequivocally condemn it as taboo? 

How does transgression work? Do we need new norms to deal with transgression in the moment, and after the moment? While normativity allows for interpretation and permits ambiguity within the safety of stable norms, transgression banishes ambiguity, does it not? It seems critical and extreme, black and white. Or is it? Maybe its own very existence is also impermanent, for many reasons – and not just because today’s radicals sometimes might be tomorrow’s conservatives – such is the uncertainty inherent in many rules.

Reflecting on the impact of the transgression opens up the space for ambiguity to be renegotiated. Transgressions create cognitive ambiguity and a space of disagreement, an “in between” the previous order of things and the potentiality of a new order.  

Critique opens up a space for another critique: by reflecting on the act of transgression, we generate new interpretations for the transgression. Do we accept the change, or do we protect the previous order of things? When a new normative order is established, it is now permissible to discuss the past transgression. But the act of transgression in itself is forgotten, and transgression is just condemned as taboo and wrong. Even terrorism in a just cause loses its lustre when the so-called terrorists become the new rulers and find themselves under threat from yesterday’s ‘conservatives’.

Focusing on transgression opens up possibilities, and keeps the “system” fluid. But, a conservative normative paradigm dominates our thinking: the hero and the perpetrator consolidate each other’s identities. The winner makes the rules: the debate on whether a movement is a “revolution” or not,is defined by the rules of the current normative order. Yet, we don’t talk enough about the positive role of transgressions, and we don’t question the criminalization of transgressors or how it actually benefits the social system.

It’s an antique gem, framed by Durkheim amongst others, but when today do we talk about the social progressiveness of breaking taboos or challenging the law?  What happened to the sixties and seventies? How often do our present media celebrate the creativity of the deviant?

Transcending into making transgressions normative?

Transgression as a process, and crucially as a thinking paradigm, makes categories open to challenge. Undermining taboos allows the discussion of the positive role of transgression, and provides an escape or relief for those who are otherwise condemned to be thrown and actively kept in the dungeon of marginality. Making transgression a “normative” practice allows us to include it in the “normal” state of affairs. But is it too dangerous to have transgression included in the normative order? Does transgressive thinking necessarily lead to a loss of social or even individual cohesion and security? If transgression becomes a norm, will it lose its function of protecting our normative horizon?

At TAPSS, we did not have the answers, so we applied the well-known dictum of Claude Lévi-Strauss: “The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he's one who asks the right questions.” This way we can retain the innocence of the intellectual’s need for continuous mental transgression.

This piece is a product of an experimental collective writing session on 31 May 2013 as part of the week-long Theory and Philosophy Summer School (TAPSS) hosted by University College Cork at Blackwater Castle, County Cork. The session was steered by, and the product edited by, Colin Sumner, sociology professor at UCC and editor of CrimeTalk.


Anca MinescuDepartment of Psychology and Centre for Social Issues Research, University of Limerick, Ireland.

Lorcan Byrne is finishing his doctorate and is a part-time lecturer in the Department of Sociology at UCC.

Tristan Laing is based in the Philosophy department at York University, Ontario, Canada, and is a philosopher, musician, political
organizer, and traveller.

Tony O’Connor now retired, formerly a Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy, University College Cork.

Lukasz Dabkowski is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology, University College Cork.



is currently a research student at Boğazici University’s Philosophy Ph.D. Program in Istanbul, Turkey.

William Brady, Planning and Sustainable Development, Centre for Planning Education, UCC.

c.sumner@ucc.ie (Anca Minescu, Lorcan Byrne, Tristan Laing, Tony O’Connor, Lukasz Dabkowski, Onur Bakir and William Brady) In brief Fri, 26 Jul 2013 20:15:35 +0000
Crimeing people http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=922:crimeing-people&catid=926&Itemid=275 http://crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=922:crimeing-people&catid=926&Itemid=275

“Crime” is a verb, as well as a noun, some say. It’s what people -- usually police officers -- do when they make immediate, informal, judgments on the front line. Most of us believe that crime is just a noun, defined by legislation and interpreted by judges in court.  Crime, we might think, is an action which constitutes an offence and is punishable by law; and criminalization is the word for applying the criminal law to a specific action or offender. So what is the difference between informal “crimeing” and formal criminalization? Why does it occur? Is it acceptable?

Take an example: a police officer is called to the scene of some teenagers loudly congregating on a street corner. She arrives to find no obvious major transgressions of the law. Maybe there’s some littering or low-level anti-social behaviour, but no drug-use, violence or criminal damage. In that moment, she must make a decision: should she “turn a blind eye” (i.e., let the incident pass with noaction), “cuff it” (i.e., send the kids on their way with a good old fashioned cuff round the ear or, more likely in today’s age of child protection, children’s rights, political correctness and teenage violence, an informal caution), or “crime it” (i.e., decide, taking into account all the circumstances, to pursue the matter further with full recourse to the law)?

Crimeing then depends on an active, personal, immediate “snap” judgment, and later collective reflection on the matter in ‘the nick’ [police station]. It has formal components of course but depends on many informal assumptions, organizational imperatives and good old ‘street wisdom’. The main thing is that this is ‘action’, not a passive, automatic, application of the law. But can she and her colleagues really make that judgment in a responsible way? Why are such judgments needed? And are “crimeing” and its consequences acceptable?

In its practical application, the law is not straightforward and transgressions must be interpreted by a whole system of courts, judges, lawyers and juries. Crimeing reflects the fact that the act of judgment -- whther on guilt versus innocence, or simply whether  there is a case to be pursued -- is  often a front line question. But whereas the formal legal apparatus is (at least in principle) overseen in such a way as to ensure due process, crimeing depends on a personal judgment so that accountability is much less obvious. There are no norms or rules for crimeing; the act of crimeing sets its own norm, yet  simultaneously judges that the norm has been transgressed. Thus, it presents a situation where it is much harder to ask -- and answer transparently -- important questions concerning whose interests are being served and why.

Why is crimeing necessary? There are at least three reasons that immediately spring to mind. First, police officers have to make front-line snap judgments, as a form of triage. There is risk: it may be safer for an officer’s career if she does nothing rather than risk pursuing a potentially unfruitful case, or worse, a case that results in a wrongful arrest.  Further, the current obsession with widely published crime figures and statistics means that a police officer must judge whether crimeing is likely to have a positive impact on the spreadsheet. Will we get a conviction? Will we hit our targets? Will we spend scarce time and human resources in pursuing a case that may not ultimately “deliver”?

Second, and related, given the current mantra of austerity being chanted around the world, police forces are faced with the twin problems of increased workload and decreased budgets. Not crimeing a particular situation has the effect of pre-emptively abandoning uncertain or borderline cases, thereby saving scarce financial resources for where a result is (judged to be) more likely.

Thirdly, crimeing contributes to a more widespread (but suppressed) function of the criminal justice system. The system is in place to create the sense that the state is doing something to deal with society’s problems. Since the state -- and the police force as an instrument of the state -- is incapable of dealing with the deeper problems (like poverty, alienation and oppression) that are the causes of crime, it simply deals with the effects; we can all sleep safely at night because the state seems to be on the case. Crimeing perpetuates the myth of state effectiveness, since it provides a mechanism where we can quickly identify and catch the bad guys without too much fuss.

It is obvious to us that too great a reliance on “crimeing” is unacceptable. Crimeing judgments, and the intuition, experience, discretion and organizational pressures behind them, are not transparent and cannot be held accountable precisely because they are informal and subjective. A police force -- and thereby a state -- that employs such strategies has taken a dangerously authoritarian turn, in our view. We imply that all authority is potentially corruptible and that no criminalization is possible without informal assumptions and interpretations; not that there should be legal control by automaton. In short, informal practices need to be more transparent, public and accountable.

Perhaps -- at least in theory -- there could be something like “responsible crimeing” which is governed by its own code of conduct to ensure some kind of accountability. But such a thing would, in effect, be a formalisation of what is, by definition, an informal practice; rules to regulate crimeing would undermine its usefulness as a quick and practical approach to making immediate judgments.

More importantly, trying to fix up crimeing to render it acceptable is too much like wallpapering over the cracks in the wall; instead we should be trying to change the things -- poverty, austerity policies, and the nature of state authority -- that simultaneously fail to deal with society’s real problems and make “crimeing” necessary.

This piece is a product of an experimental collective writing session on 31 May 2013 as part of the week-long Theory and Philosophy Summer School (TAPSS) hosted by University College Cork at Blackwater Castle, County Cork. The session was steered by, and the product edited by, Colin Sumner, sociology professor at UCC and editor of CrimeTalk.


Muzaffar Ali, grad student, Centre for Philosophy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Shuo Liu, LLB (Beijing Technology & Business University), LLM (UCD). Reading for a PhD at UCD on the evolution of refugee law and protection in the PRC.

Irena Loveikaite, doing a PhD in Applied Arts, Waterford Institute of Technology

Amin Sharifi, doctoral student in Sociology at UCC working on democracy and Islam in Persia [Iran].

Mark Timoney, postgrad researcher, Social Sciences, Sligo IT.

Aisling Tuite, AIB Centre for Finance and Business Research, Waterford Institute of Technology.

Joel Walmsley, Lecturer, Dept. of Philosophy, University College Cork.

c.sumner@ucc.ie (Muzaffar Ali, Shuo Liu, Irena Loveikaite, Amin Sharifi, Mark Timoney, Aisling Tuite and Joel Walmsley) In brief Mon, 10 Jun 2013 16:27:38 +0000