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Crime, Punishment and Inequality . Dr Carlie Goldsmith . Aims of the workshop . Introduce you to academic debates on social inequality. Examine rates of income and wealth inequality in Britain and comparatively.

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Crime punishment and inequality

Crime, Punishment and Inequality

Dr Carlie Goldsmith

Aims of the workshop

Aims of the workshop

  • Introduce you to academic debates on social inequality.

  • Examine rates of income and wealth inequality in Britain and comparatively.

  • Examine evidence that shows how the size of the gaps in income affects social life, and in particular the prevalence of social problems.

  • Explore why this issue is of interest to people who write and research on issues of crime and justice.

What is inequality

What is inequality?

‘disparities between individuals, groups and nations in access to resources, opportunities, assets and income’ (Ridge and Wright 2008 p4)

Income is only one form of inequality….there are many others…….

National equality panel 2010

National Equality Panel 2010

  • 96% of all employees earn less than 46,500 PA.

  • Gap between bottom and top earners is very large – e.g care worker £12,500 PA, CEO of bank upwards of £1.2 million PA (exc. Bonuses and other payments in kind e.g shares)

  • Wealth inequality larger than income inequality: richest 10% own 100x more wealth than poorest 10%

  • Median wealth for routine occupations £72,000, higher managerial £450,000

Crime punishment and inequality

  • Inequality...

    • How much richer are the richest 20% in each country than the poorest 20%?

Income gaps

How many times richer are the richest fifth than the poorest fifth?

Wilkinson & Pickett, The Spirit Level

Who cares

Who cares?

  • New developments in inequality

  • The implications of those for the future

  • The impact of inequality on society and

    quality of social relations

  • Are we happy to let income and wealth gaps

    grow bigger? What are the future consequences

    of this?

  • Concentration of power and influecne.

T he spirit level

The Spirit Level

Professor Richard Wilkinson, Epidemiologist

and Professor Kate Pickett, Epidemiologist, University of York

  • Interest in public health and the wider social determinants of health in rich societies.

  • Extensive record of academic publication on the impact of inequality on health and health outcomes.

The methodology

The Methodology

  • Secondary analysis of existing quantitative data sets.

  • Such as? United Nations Human Development Report, World Bank data, World Health Organisation, Organisation for Economic Co-Operation etc. etc.

  • Statistical analysis of the prevalence of factors that impact on health.

  • Statistical analysis of the prevalence of a range of other social problems/harms.

  • Combined with levels of income inequality within a society. Measurement used: 20.20 ratio

  • 50 States of the United States and 23 industrialised nations

Health and social problems are worse in more unequal countries

Health and social problems are worse in more unequal countries

  • Index of:

  • Life expectancy

  • Math & Literacy

  • Infant mortality

  • Homicides

  • Imprisonment

  • Teenage births

  • Trust

  • Obesity

  • Mental illness – incl. drug & alcohol addiction

  • Social mobility

Index of health and social problems

Wilkinson & Pickett, The Spirit Level

Crime punishment and inequality

People in more unequal countries trust each other less

Wilkinson & Pickett, The Spirit Level

Crime punishment and inequality

Social Harms

Crime punishment and inequality

Greater income inequality

Increased social distances between income

groups, less sense of common identity

More ‘them’ and ‘us’

More dominance and subordination, superiority and

inferiority, snobbery and downward discrimination,

hierarchical and authoritarian values.

Increased status competition, shift into more anti-social

values, emphasis on self interest and material success,

carelessness of others welfare, aggressive exploitation of society

for individual gain.

Others as rivals: poorer quality of social relations

Crime punishment and inequality

1. Functionalist model: SI is essential part of society as long as recruitment is based on merit and rewards are fairly distributed. Meritocracy.

CONSERVATIVE CORPRATIST STATES e.g. Germany, France, Italy, Spain.

2. Libertarian model: social change a product of individual hard work, effort and motivation. Idleness is bad for society. Rewards are not based on notions of desert but freedom.

NEOLIBERAL STATES e.g. USA, UK, Australia, NZ, South Africa.

3. Egalitarian model: SIs not a reflection of effort but accumulated disadvantages. Equality should be goal of society and political efforts directed at achieving this.

SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC STATES e.g. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland.

See Cavadino and Dignan (2006)



Why might criminologists be interested in this?

The new punitiveness and the rise in inequality

The new punitiveness and the rise in inequality

  • Change in popular attitudes and understandings of crime and the criminal justice system.

  • Individuals have become more punitive and more likely to support ‘harsh’ criminal justice policies – particularly in countries where inequality has risen significantly.

  • Crime a political issue.

  • Politicians and policy makers more likely to respond to popular opinion about crime issues and seek to gain electoral advantage by ‘being tough’.

  • This is distinctly different from the consensus on crime that existed between 1945-1979 (Loader, 2001)

Exclusion and stigmatisation

Exclusion and Stigmatisation

  • Social distance and territorial stigmatisation (Wacquant, 1999)

  • Hyper mobility, immobility and territoriality (Kintrea, 2009)

  • Respect, disrespect and hierarchy

  • Social control of excluded populations. Not excluded from cultural norms of contemporary society, but opportunity to gain these. Consumption

Purpose and scope of the cjs

Purpose and Scope of the CJS

What is the purpose of punishment?

Deter, rehabilitate, restore, punish, incapacitate (Ashworth, 2005)

What does this have to do with inequality?

Us incarceration rates 1925 2006 per 100 000

US Incarceration Rates 1925-2006(per 100,000)

Mass imprisonment

Mass imprisonment

Garland (2001 p1) defines mass imprisonment:

‘...a rate of imprisonment...that is markedly above the historical or comparative norm for societies of this type.....[imprisonment] ceases to be the incarceration of individual offenders and becomes the systematic imprisonment of whole groups of the population’.

Prison used as a mechanism to control economically redundant populations

Prison used as a mechanism to control economically redundant populations

  • Incapacitation and not punishment or rehabilitation.

  • Characteristics of the prison population: education, employment, mental health issues.

  • Prison regime: architecture of the penal estate, availability of rehabilitation programmes, use of segregation, engagement between the staff and prisoners.

  • Who owns punishment? Public bodies or private companies?

Scope of the cjs

Scope of the CJS

  • Not just interested in detecting and punishing criminal acts.

  • Pre-crime and anti-social behaviour management

  • Intolerance

  • New Labour Crime and Disorder Act 1998

  • Developed a range of enforcement tools and tactics to manage….

  • Problem youth, problem parents, problem families, ‘broken society’?

    But if it is broke, who broke it?

Treatment of offenders and former offenders

Treatment of offenders and former offenders

  • Othering

  • Rehabilitation

  • Reintegration


  • Exclusion

  • Control

  • Ongoing punishment

Crime punishment and inequality

Source: Home Office. 2009. Crimes in England and Wales 2008-2009. London: HO

Crime punishment and inequality

‘When people are made to feel worthless then there are more fights, more brawls, more scuffles, more bottles smashed and more knives brandished and more young men die. The lives of young men have polarised and this inequality has curtailed opportunities; hopelessness appears to have bred fear, violence and murder’ (Dorling et al,2005)

Follow up

Follow Up

  • Thomas Piketty slides and lecture on Youtube

  • LoicWacquant website

  • The new penology Feeley and Simon (1992) article

  • Downes and Hansen – the welfare state and punishment: a comparative perspective

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