Social justice and criminal justice

Edited by Rebecca Roberts and Will McMahon
Monday, 26 November 2007

Despite more than a decade in power, New Labour has failed to tackle deep-rooted social injustices, according to a collection of essays from more than 20 researchers and academics.

Historically high levels of inequality, endemic violence against women and the increasing reliance on criminal justice measures to manage social problems are just some of the themes explored in Social justice and criminal justice, published by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

In the opening section, entitled `Neoliberalism and New Labour', Professor Robert Reiner of the London School of Economics argues in his essay that punitive and authoritarian crime control policies are a product of Labour's economic and social policies. Given the extensive evidence of the relationship between income inequality and violent victimisation, he suggests that the more far reaching social policies that would address inequality are necessary for genuine progress.

The second section, `Violence against women' explores issues of male violence and attitudes to prostitution. For her essay in this section, Maddy Coy of London Metropolitan University interviewed men who had paid for sex with women. Many of those interviewed, while showing certain ambivalence, justified their actions on the basis that the women in question had not been `forced'. Coy argues that broad-based strategies that seek to challenge dangerous male attitudes and actions towards women need to complement standard criminal justice responses.

The third section of the publication contains essays from key thinkers who have championed the `social harm' perspective as a preferable alternative to traditional notions of `crime'. Section four examines questions of policing communities while the essays in section five considers the ways in which the actions of young people are currently regulated.

Rebecca Roberts at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and co-editor of the collection said,

`The value of these essays is that they highlight the problems with contemporary approaches to criminal justice, which emphasise toughness at the cost of dealing with insecurity and inequality. By focusing discussion on criminal justice, politicians and commentators divert attention from long term sustainable solutions.'

Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies says, `This important collection indicates the gains of thinking beyond the criminal justice straightjacket when considering the problems of crime and social harm. So much crime, harmful activity and victimisation is rooted in broader social processes.'