Tuesday, 10 December 2013

NEW ARTICLE - ‘Victims’ Versus ‘Offenders’ in British Political Discourse: The Construction of a False Dichotomy

BY Andrew Henley, PhD student and Graduate Teaching Assistant in Criminology

In this new article I collaborate with Dr Deborah Drake from the Open University (joint-winner of this year’s British Society of Criminology book prize for Prisons, Punishment and the Pursuit of Security).  We use the article to discuss the ways in which British politicians speak of those convicted of criminal offences and those who experience victimization.  We pay particular attention to the way that ‘rights’ are spoken of and conveyed to the public in parliamentary debates and in the media. 

Our analysis suggests that the rights of ‘victims’ are sometimes advocated for at the expense of those constructed as ‘offenders’ – a classic example of a ‘zero-sum game’.    We argue that this approach has the effect of preventing more meaningful consideration of proper support for victims of crime (by not considering their needs beyond the scope of the criminal justice system), worsens opportunities for the successful reintegration of ex-prisoners (by further stigmatizing them as ‘other’) and constructs a false dichotomy between two ‘groups’ of citizens who do not fall into mutually-exclusive categories.  Indeed, there is often overlap between those members of the population who are statistically more likely to be at risk of crime victimisation and those who may be at risk of involvement in criminal activity.

The article is available to read online in the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice (log-in required).

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