Realsociology

Posts about Buddhism and Sociology

Archive for the 'Crime and Deviance' Category

Social Class Inequality Visualisations

Posted by Realsociology on 1st October 2013

I had my classes exploring one of my ‘favourite’ topics today – The extent of and explanations for inequalities in life chances by social class, gender and ethnicity – Here a few visual updates and links which highlight the extent of class inequality in the UK today…

1. In Education… 3 year olds from the richest fifth of households are twice as likely to be ‘school ready’ than 3 year olds from the poorest fifth of households

education

2, by health – This is a nice, if dated article which reminds us that Based on 2007-2009 mortality rates, a man aged 65 could expect to live another 17.6 years and a woman aged 65 another 20.2 years. This graphic demonstrates that men and women from routine manual backgrounds are twice as likely to die before the age of 64 than those from professional backgrounds(my title is clearer than that in the picture!)

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3. The chances of being a victim of violent crime (available from the ONS and the Home Office Annual crime stats reports)

bh

4. Births outside of wedlock (not that I think the decline in marriage is a bad thing!, unlike the author of the post where I got the info!

The chart below shows the proportion of kids who are born outside marriage by social class in Britain. Its quite a short period of time, but you get the general idea. At the top, things haven’t changed much. At the bottom, having children inside marriage is not the norm, and increasingly rare.

121109-coming-apart

 

More Sources to follow…

 

Posted in Crime and Deviance, Education, Infographics, social class, Wealth and Income Inequality | No Comments »

Why do young people binge drink?

Posted by Realsociology on 21st January 2013

This is a useful podcast from Thinking Allowed which explores the role and meaning of both alcohol and drugs in human life with three academics – Professors James Mills, Fiona Measham and Chris Hackley.

This post just focusses on one aspect of the research (there are many more covered!) - The topic of why young people drink excessively, with some interesting findings based on semi-structured interviews with 18-25 year olds (roughly 5 mins in)

What this method yielded were the respondents own stories about their binging and events relayed included such things as falling asleep at the table in a pub, blacking out, vomiting, and getting into fights.

One thing that surprised the researchers was the enthusiasm and energy with which the respondents conveyed stories even though they weren’t necessarily pleasurable, and sometimes even dangerous.

Interepretation by the researchers was that the ‘binge drinking ritual’ had the following functions – Most of which are not actually necessarily about enjoying yourself.

  • Firstly, drinking to excess transported the group of friends to a fantasy land of shared interest taking them away from the mundane tedium of daily life, providing an opportunity in which ordinary social norms could be transgressed more easily because of being drunk.
  • Secondly, the drinking enabled individuals to forget themselves for a while. The researchers argued this is implicit in the way binge drinking is talked about in which phrases such as ‘getting wasted’ or ‘getting annihilated’ are commonly used.
  • Thirdly there was quite often an element of risk present which necessitated looking out for eachother, which tested boundaries of friendship and facilitated group bonding .

This research also demonstrates the usefulness of the unstructured interview method to this particular topic – which is the only method that allows the researcher to observe things such as enthusiasm as the respondents tell their own stories. This wouldn’t be possible with more structured interviews or questionnaires, or even observations of the events.  What you get with this method is the sense that the respondents are very happy to reflect on these drinking events. They have a long memory, long after the drinking has taken place.

All in all this is a useful counterweight to moral panic reporting about increases in binge drinking amongst youth today, which suggests that rather than being an end in itself, much binge drinking today is merely part of youth culture with broader and temporary life-stage specific functions.

Posted in Crime and Deviance | No Comments »

Shard Hacking – Challenging Surveillance Society?

Posted by Realsociology on 10th April 2012

You may have noticed that three thrill seekers recently slipped past (quite literally!) security scaled The Shard , posting pictures of themselves on the Place Hacking Blog – run by Bradley L. Garret. The three are members of the “London Consolidation Crew”, comprising of mainly middle class professionals, who have gained access to more than 300 locations in 7 countries over the last years.

Garret, from Los Angeles  has recently complete a PhD on ‘Urban Exploration’ (urban exploration being the process of researching, exploring and discovering temporary, obsolete and abandoned spaces in the built environment)  in which he charts the rise of an ‘urban exploration crew’ between the years 2008 -11. He took an active part in the group during this time, so this is a great example of a local researcher (presently living in Clapham) doing a form of participant observation.

Garret defends trespass in this video by pointing out that the actions are benign, but also alludes to the fact that there is a more political motive to the acts – which is clearer if you read his thesis (OK – I only skim read bits of it -Time!) in which he posits that

‘group are one of many who react to increasing surveillance and control over urban space by undertaking embodied interventions that undermine clean spatio/ temporal narratives. ‘

(In other words, the group dislike surveillance and so, in response to this, engage in a kind of subversive political action by ‘breaking into’ places they are not supposed to go into at odd times of the day (or night). )

As he says in the video – There are increasing amounts of public space where you just can’t go into, and increasing amounts of public spaces where its not clear if you can go there or not, or where its unclear what you are allowed to do. The actions of physical trespass push those boundaries and possibly challenge notions of what ‘freedom’ in the context of urban living means.

Garret also says the group are engaging with ‘history in the making’ in a creative way by trespassing and effectively hurting no one, while challenging our ideas of the boundaries of public and private, which is much better than what most people do – which is passively accept the status quo. These people are, after all, more active than the average citizen.

Finally – they also remind us that it’s impossible to secure large sites – as security guards aren’t machines - because they are fallible – suggesting, maybe, that the ‘man’ can be resisted.

Personally, however, and I think Garret and the others might well agree (I’m sure the question is up for debate) – I’m not sure how much this has really got to do with politics and challenging notions of citizenship – it is also about identity – and ‘the rush’ – and a great example of edgework – breaking the law to gain an emotional thrill and status (and possibly expressing your masculinity?) in a post-modern age – (would this have happened before social networking allowed the posting of pictures?).

As a final note, whether its about identity or politics or both, this is a pretty cool hobby, and if I were 20 years younger I’d be on the next train to London Bridge!

Some (minor bits) of this blog was cut and past from the links above 

Posted in But what can I do?, Crime and Deviance, Things I like | No Comments »

Coffee really is bad for your health (and safety)

Posted by Realsociology on 10th March 2012

Two nice articles illustrating the madness of health and safety… both concerning coffee….

In Bournemouth, a bus driver ordered passengers off a bus after a woman spilled some coffee. One woman spilt a third of her cup of coffee while getting on the bus, and then a further ten people were told they couldn’t get on because specialist cleaners were needed to clear up the ‘dangerous liquid’. The bus was pulled to one side and a replacement vehicle ordered, leaving the ten passengers to wait in the rain.

Secondly, according to and item I found in The Week, “health and safety officials in Warwickshire have banned hot drinks at a mothers’ coffee morning. ‘Coffee and play’ sessions at the Children’s Centre in Stratford-upon-Avon have been renamed ’baby play’ and parents now catch up over a (plastic) cup of squash or water. The council said its ‘hot drinks policy’ was to minimise the risk of scalding children. ”

These two cases together are a wonderful illustration of the far reaching effects of  ’individualisation’ and ‘litigation culture’ working together to result in collective lunacy – Both cases involve local councils who are no doubt very aware of the potential of being sued for any ‘preventable accidents’ on their property – a situation which can only happen when the populace at large are highly individualised – feeling little sense of obligation to wider society, while feeling they have the right (in this goaded by claims lawyers) to cream as much out of society as they can when the opportunity arises.

Going a little deeper – I’d blame neoliberalism for this – a political economy that allows individuals the freedom to exploit and enrich themselves at the expense of others – this is the kind of logic that has lead to the emergence of ‘Fortress Cities’ – in which the rich defend themselves in gated communities and SUVs against the increasing numbers of urban poor.

I think its appropriate to view the above two cases as local councils adopting a ‘fortress city’ mentality – setting up rules that protect themselves against any selfish individual who might try to make money out of them by holding them responsible and suing them for those unfortunate accidents (slipping/ scalding) that are, in reality, just an unfortunate and it has to be said extremely rare part of modern life.

Although, the optimist in me sees an opportunity for collective action in this – On reflection I’m wondering if the first case isn’t part of a surreptitious ’work to rule’ campaign on the part of a unionised bus driver, whose just had a pay freeze? – Maybe this raises the possibility of using health and safety as part of a campaign against public sector cuts….

So in the interests of health and safety I think all unionised teachers should cease doing all of the following – Any curricular activities involving physical activities, especially school trips; any teaching that involves teaching to tests, in fact we should drop all testing and examinations altogether, this causes way to much stress to our delicate children; and all marking and preparation outside of class – associated with numerous health problems such as RSI, eye strain, back pain and stress in general.

In fact, perhaps we could go further, in the interests of health and safety, maybe we should just stop doing anything, and just….. sit there, over coffee of course.

Posted in Childhood, Crime and Deviance, Sociological Theory | No Comments »

The Police may stop more black people – but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re racist

Posted by Realsociology on 7th January 2012

And some sensible questions about police racism…

Given the recent conviction of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the murder of Stephen Lawrence it seems a fitting moment to reflect on whether the police are any less racist now than they were in 1993 when they failed to prosecute the above two murderers, despite there being sufficient evidence for them to at least mount the prosecution at that time.

I’m in the middle of updating stuff – but I thought this worthy of posting on its own – the latest stop and search stats by ethnicity – taken from the statistics on the Race and Criminal Justice System 2010

Now I’d like to jump in at this point and start banging on about the fact that this seems to suggest that the police are biased against black people in particular and this bias is getting worse (and isn’t it rather worrying that the Home Office continues to use the broadest race categories, and even the word ‘race’ actually!) – but this isn’t the only possible interpretation -

When you look at the  statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2010 the targetting of of black people can be justified - (NB I’m not saying does justify it!)  - these states reveal that -

  • Of the 2,007 homicides recorded between 2007/08 and 2009/10, a greater proportion of Black victims (53%) were killed by a sharp instrument than other groups (White 34%, Asian 43% and Other 37%).
  • The proportion of Black homicide victims who were killed by shooting (25%) compared with other ethnic groups (White 4%, Asian 7% and Other 10%).
  • A higher percentage of White homicide victims were killed by hitting or kicking (26%) compared with other ethnic groups (Black 7%, Asian 13%, and Other 19%).
  • These patterns are similar to those recorded in previous three-year periods.

OK these aren’t trends over time – but there’s enough evidence here to suggest that black people are much more likely to be the victims of deadly stabbings and shootings than other ethnic groups – so on the surface at least it could be used as justification of stopping and searching more black people – assuming that this is being done on the grounds of carrying a concealed weapon. Then again, this evidence could be used as a smokescreen – to justify racial profiling of your stop and search targets!

Posted in Crime and Deviance | No Comments »

Sandwich boards – In Vogue!

Posted by Realsociology on 8th December 2011

So I was just doing some surfing – looking up prices of Sandwich boards - (Honestly,  I’m organising a golf sale) and I came across this picture – from a few years back when a judge ordered this shoplifter to wear this sign

Anyway, I got to wondering what might be an appropriate slogan for the reverse?

1. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things because Walmart’s yearly revenue is nearly half a trillion dollars

2.  Because 30 years of neoliberal rule has made me poor and desperate

3. This is nothing compared to the social harms meted out on society by Walmart

I’d welcome further suggestions…

Posted in But what can I do?, Crime and Deviance | No Comments »

‘Honour’ Killings and ‘Honour’ crime on the increase

Posted by Realsociology on 7th December 2011

Reflecting on these may make you a bit less sympathetic to to the moral relitivism of Postmodernism – and a bit more sympathetic with the idea that Feminism might just still be relevant in today’s society after all.

Honour killings typically involve a family killing daughters who ‘dishonour’ the family name – namely through having boyfriends they don’t approve or, or through failing to marry (typically arranged) a partner the family approves of.

In a recent high profile quadruple honour killing in Canada - in which Mohammad Shafia, his second wife and their 20-year-old son are being tried for  four murders – of Mohammad’s first wife and three daughters.

Following a wiretap, Mohammed was was recorded voicing his disgust with his “treacherous” daughters and saying he would kill them again even if they came back to life a hundred times…… “Even if they hoist us onto the gallows … we have not done anything bad,” he says in the recordings, calling his daughters “whores” for having boyfriends.

But it’s not just Honour killings that are the problem – For obvious reasons, families may not be prepared to kill dishonourable daughters – instead they just beat and imprison them and subject them to emotional abuse (which I guess happens automatically if you’re being beaten and abused?!) – as the following case study indicates -

Maya’s story

When I was 16 my mum came into my room one day and said I had to get married to my cousin in Pakistan. I was horrified: I wanted to go to college and get a job, and I didn’t even know him, how could I marry him? But when I said no, my mum slapped me across the face. After that I wasn’t allowed out. My family treated me with disgust, as if I had shamed them. My father, mother, even my young brother, beat me on a daily basis. My body was covered in bruises. I wasn’t given any food for days on end, and I tried to take an overdose on several occasions. I just used to sit on my bed from morning to night. Prison would have been a better place.

 Honour crimes are much more widespread in the UK than you might think -

Thanks to an FOI request from The Iranian and Kurdish women’s rights Organisation (IKWRO) – we now know that there were almost 3000 honour crimes in the UK last year – recorded by the police – but the data only comes from 39 out of 52 police forces, the other 13 either failing to collect or provide data on honour crimes.

Such cases include such things as threats, abduction, acid attacks, beatings, forced marriage, mutilation and murder. To add to these shocking findings – based on the 12 police force areas for which comparable data was available, reports went up by 47% in just a year.

IKWRO makes the case that the increase is due to the fact that more women are resisting the demands made on them by their families -

This example illustrates a lot of Sociological themes -

It’s a good example of the relevance of Feminism – without this Feminist organisation we wouldn’t have this information available too us – obviously the media pick up on honour killings, but much less so with honour crimes.

Secondly, a good e.g. of a crime that, even with police recorded crime, remains hidden – IKWRO estimate that the actual number of honour crimes may be 4 times higher.

There is also a global dimension to this – many of these honour crimes are done when girls resist demands to go abroad to marry cousins or family aquaintences, and of course there is the obvious culture clash between the patriarchal states of Iran, Kurdistan, and also Pakistan (also strongly associated with honour killings) – in that in these states this kid of daughter abuse is not illegal.

A final dimension is that the increase in honour crimes may be an indiciation of increasing liberation of Asian and Middle Eastern women – at least those living in diaspora communities – as the increase in recorded crime occurs not only because they are prepared to resist their parents unreasonable wishes but also because they feel more confident in coming forwards…

So I guess that’s a positive note to end on, oddly?

Posted in Crime and Deviance, Ethnicity, Gender | No Comments »

Berlusconi on Trial

Posted by Realsociology on 3rd December 2011

The end of Berlusconi’s political career is a huge loss to the Sociology of Crime and Deviance – he was probably the best living example of an elite criminal in Western Europe (obviously outdone by several premieres in Eastern Europe and Africa!) – and a terrific example of how elites can dodge prosecution for their (ok – alleged) criminal activity.

According to Wikipedia, (I know, lame, sorry!) during his time in office, Silvio Berlusconi picked up an extensive record of criminal allegations, including

  • Mafia collusion,
  • False accounting
  • tax fraud
  • Corruption and
  • Bribery of police officers and judges.
  • He also stands accused of paying a minor for sex at one of his ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties

Berlusconi has been tried in Italian courts in several cases. In three of these cases accusations were dropped by the judiciary because of laws passed by Berlusconi’s parliamentary majority shortening the time limit for prosecution of various offences and making false accounting illegal only if there is a specific damaged party reporting the fact to the authorities.

A few stats give an example on his colorful career

  • 789 prosecutors and magistrates took an interest in the politician Berlusconi from 1994 to 2006
  • He has had 577 visits by police and 2,500 court hearings
  • 174 million euros in lawyers’ bills – paid by him!

According to the Week, Berlusconi now faces back to back hearings until Christmas – as he now no longer enjoys the right to avoid trials as he did as PM It will be interesting to see in coming months if Berlusconi’s long overdue fall from political grace affects his ability to dodge prosecution into the New Year.

You might like these clips – Although I’m sure any allussions to Berlusconi are entirely coincidental….

 

 

 

 

humour aside, you also might like to think about the following – in the grand scheme of things what’s worse – The sum total of Berlusconi’s Crimes (one man committing crime) or what some might call the organised state crime of politicians voting in the Goldman Sach’s advisor (now stepped down, but I’m sure the ties remain) Mario Monti without the democratic consent of the Italian people

Posted in Crime and Deviance | No Comments »

Sonny’s Lettah – Linton Kwesi Johnson

Posted by Realsociology on 18th October 2011

Listened to this with my class yesterday – a great way of illustrating the extent of police racism in the 1980s as manifested most obviously under the sus laws – Sonny’s Lettah is taken almost verbatim from a letter written by a black youth (according to this blog) to his mother in Jamaica explaning why he’s in jail – basically he killed a cop in the process of defending his brother from an unprovoked incident of racist police brutality.

 

 

 

I include selected lyrics below, the full lyrics, and translation, can be found here

it was de miggle a di rush hour
hevrybody jus a hustle and a bustle
to go home fi dem evenin shower
mi an Jim stan up waitin pon a bus
not causin no fuss

when all of a sudden a police van pull up
out jump tree policemen
de whole a dem carryin baton
dem walk straight up to me and Jim
one a dem hold on to Jim
seh dem tekin him in
Jim tell him fi leggo a him
for him nah do nutt’n
and ‘im nah t’ief, not even a but’n
Jim start to wriggle
de police start to giggle

mama, mek I tell you wa dem do to Jim?
mek I tell you wa dem do to ‘im?

Dem thump him him in him belly and it turn to jelly
Dem lick ‘im pon ‘im back and ‘im rib get pop
Dem thump him pon him head but it tough like lead
Dem kick ‘im in ‘im seed and it started to bleed

The whole album – Forces of Victory – is stacked full of songs relevant to teaching about police racism in the 1980s -

Posted in Crime and Deviance, Crime Control, Ethnicity, Sociology Songs | No Comments »

How BP and other oil companies get away with murder….

Posted by Realsociology on 28th September 2011

Tar Sands in Alberta

Do you know where the USA gets most of its oil from – It’s not Saudi Arabia, it’s not South America, not Nigeria – no, its Alberta, Canada, and Dirty Oil is a thoroughly depressing documentary that looks at the devastating environmental and social impacts of tar sands extraction from a region the size of the state of Florida.

Probably the most depressing scene focusses on Fort Chipewyn, a native community who have lived for thousands of years on the Athabasca river, which, according community Elders, had never experienced cancer deaths until, that is, the arrival of tar sands extraction companies such as BP into the vincinity. The community doctor noted a 30% higher incidence in Cancer rates in this community compared to similar communities.

As any scientifically minded person would do, this Doctor started asking questions about why there was such a sudden and dramatic increase in the Cancer rate, and, without even mentioning oil, the provincial government warned him off publisicing the cancer deaths because he risked causing a ‘panic’ over public health, and he was also threatened with having his medical license revoked, so he backed off.

Suspecting the cancer deaths were linked to pollution due to Tar sands extraction, the community then paid for an independent consultant to measure pollution in the river, and he verified that levels were consistent with an increase cancer risk.

The oil companies response was, in addition to the obvious strategy of criticising his researhc methodology, to point out that because the pollution levels in the river had never been measured before Tar sands extraction took place, it was actually not possible to prove that extraction pollution had caused increases in cancer levels - it could just be natural seepage.

The problem with this arguement is, of course, that the Elders testimony that there were no cancer deaths before tar sands extraction, strongly suggests (unless there was some massive environmental shift in the last ten years) that the oil extraction industry is causing pollution that is literally killing people in Fort Chip.  

So here we have a nice example of how a company is legally allowed to murder people – basically all you have to do is to not make it a requirement for a company to do environmental measurements on an area before they pollute it – that way they can get away with murder.

So at the end of the day this is a depressing example of how oil companies can manipulate the political agenda and how crime is socially constructed by the elite – not only does oil money (the local government is set to receive $40 billion in coming years in taxes) shape environmental law (the company doesn’t have to monitor pollution effectively) it also at the end of the day enables companies to kill people in the process of maximising their profit.

Posted in Crime and Deviance, Environment, TNCs | No Comments »