Wednesday, May 22, 2013

BBC News interview on criminal justice

. . . can be found here. The position argued for is developed in my book, Punishment. Many risk factors are identified with reoffending. These include drug and alcohol problems, housing insecurity, financial insecurity and others. Most offenders have various combinations of these high risk factors present. This has led most to tackle these factors one by one in order to reduce reoffending: the less we find risk factors, then less reoffending should follow.

It is obvious though that the link is imperfect. Why is it that some, but not all, persons with one or more risk factors engage in crime? What is the specific link between these factors and crime?

My book argues that these risk factors can be manifestations of a deeper problem concerning recognition. Individuals must see themselves as having a stake in society. The less they do, then this is at the heart of why crime may be more likely.

This idea about stakeholding develops an idea first found in Hegel about a different problem. In his Philosophy of Right, Hegel argues that the problem of modernity is the problem of "the rabble." The rabble are persons who are at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder in most cases, but also at the very top. It doesn't discriminate between rich and poor although poverty may be linked more strongly with the creation of a rabble (and, hence, this is often referred to as Hegel's "the problem of poverty").

The problem of the rabble is their mind-set: they view society as an other, as something that excludes them and which (in my reinterpretation) they fail to see themselves as having a stake. For Hegel, it is crucial that every one sees himself or herself as being reconciled, that we see the world as a social home. Of course, this requires that our world is worth making a home in the first place. But Hegel gets right that stakeholding is essential for political stability - and relevant for tackling problems of criminal justice.

Offenders require a sense of belonging, that they matter and have a stake in society - and so they have motivation to work within society rather than against it through crime. I was delighted to see the central figure in the BBC News story accept this point.

So check out the story that includes my interview - and see this for more on my work on punishment more generally.

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