Does Mass Incarceration Really Work?

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There are currently 118 prison facilities operating within England and Wales (World Prison Brief, 2018), which, as of the 22nd of June 2018, are presently housing 82,989 prisoners (Ministry of Justice, 2018); the largest prison population of any European nation (Travis, 2017). Four days ago (26th of June 2018) Rory Stewart, the Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, announced that the British treasury has granted his department permission to proceed with the construction of a further two prisons, to be located in Glen Parva and Wellingborough, with an additional four prisons to be constructed over the coming years (Stewart, 2018). The construction of these prisons is undoubtedly necessary, so as to meet the needs of a prison population that is expected to increase to roughly 93,000 by 2022 (Grierson, 2018). Despite a slight dip in recent months (BBC, 2018), the total prison population of England and Wales has already risen by approximately 82% since 1986 (Prison Reform Trust, 2017, 2).

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Redefining Crime: Implementing a Social-Harm Perspective.

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Just as globalisation has affected many aspects of contemporary life, so too has it also begun to transform the ways in which the international community responds to crime perpetration. Amidst growing trans-national support for an international regime of global criminal governance (Levine, 2003, 145), the traditional distinctions between law enforcement and national security are becoming increasingly ambiguous (Galeotti, 2004, 2). Jakobi notes that this new regime has the capacity to redefine the ‘licit’ and ‘illicit’, and construct a new international standard through which theories of crime prevention and punishment are comprehended (2013, 8). With this in mind, it is perhaps worth exploring the ways in which the notion of ‘crime’ is understood within modern societies and the benefits that might be derived by reinterpreting the concept so as to better reflect societal and democratic interests.

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Why I Stopped Eating Meat.

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As of writing this post, it has been seven months since I last ate meat. There are many reasons why a person might choose to consume an exclusively plant-based diet – from concerns regarding animal welfare (Hosie, 2017), to the purported health benefits of meat-free consumption (Taylor et al, 2007; Stehfest et al, 2009, 84). My own motivation arose out of a deep concern both of the environmental impact of the animal agriculture industry and of untenable, unsustainable nature of intensive animal farming. I recognise that by articulating my own support for sustainable living that I am fulfilling many of the stereotypes associated with vegetarians and vegans, but given that recent research has demonstrated a limited understanding amongst the general public of the close association between meat consumption and climate change, as a proponent of informed consumerism I feel that it is important that I do my part in raising awareness of such an association.

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Sexism and the Treatment of Gender in Contemporary Gaming Communities.

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In 2017 the global video game market achieved an overall revenue of over 109 billion dollars (USD) (Warman, 2017), an increase of approximately 61 percent over the past four years (Fox and Tang, 2014, 314), and is estimated to now reach 128.5 billion dollars by 2020 (Takahashi, 2017). A recent study has found that 90 percent of American adolescents, irrespective of gender, regularly use and discuss technology including video games (Terlecki et al, 2011, 22). 1.2 billion people are now regularly playing video games worldwide (Diele, 2013, 4), of which 41 percent identify as being female. Women aged 18 and over have been consistently found to represent one of the largest video game user-demographics, with 31 percent of the overall gaming population categorised as such. By contrast, boys aged 18 and under, often considered to be gaming’s core user-base, were found to represent just 18 percent of the overall gaming population in 2017 (ESA, 4). The gaming industry has found a firm position at the centre of the contemporary media/entertainment paradigm, with women having evidently placed themselves at the forefront as consumers.

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Exploring Incarceration: An Intersectional Perspective.

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Over the past two months I have sought to demonstrate that, through the implementation of a number of deprivations that go far beyond the five core ‘pains of imprisonment’ identified by Sykes (1958), both the foreign national and female inmate’s experience of incarceration is highly gratuitous when compared with that of Britain’s homogeneous/male prison population. For foreign national inmates, where prisons fail to provide adequate translation services (Cooney, 2013, 48) or where the period of their incarceration is indefinitely extended as a result of complex deportation procedures (Hardwick, 2016),  the experience of imprisonment can be one that is both incredibly isolating and highly detrimental to their mental well-being (Fekete and Webber, 2010, 14). Female inmates experience a number of additional pains and oppressions that develop as a direct result of their placement within a prison system that is both ill-suited to their carceral needs (see Coates, 2016, 50; Hollin and Palmer, 2006) and evidently incapable of providing adequate post-release support (Lowthian, 2011, 175). Yet for those within the British prison system who can be identified as both female and non-native, their experience of incarceration, whilst much harder to accurately diagnose, is likely significantly aggravated when compared with those of singularly marginalised identity.

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Exploring Incarceration: Post-Sentence Detention, Deportation, and the Foreign National Offender.

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In much the same way that the female inmate’s experiences of imprisonment is often considered inordinately punitive when compared with that of their incarcerated male counterparts (Carlen, 1983; Walker and Worrall, 2006), the carceral experience of foreign national inmates is evidently superfluous to that of the average white-British offender. In his seminal analysis of contemporary practices of punishment and confinement, Sykes identified five core ‘pains of imprisonment’ (loss of security; liberty; autonomy; goods and services; and social/heterosexual relationships) that he established as inherently characteristic of the average offender’s experience of incarceration (1958). Arising specifically as a result of the threat of deportation (Warr, 2016, 302), Britain’s imprisoned foreign national population faces a number of exclusive ‘pains of imprisonment’ that go beyond these five core deprivations. These pains manifest as a lack of certitude, legitimacy, and hope within both the offenders carceral and post-carceral life, that consolidate and exacerbate those harms typically experienced by prisoners with British citizenship.

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Exploring Incarceration: Women and the ‘Pains of Imprisonment’.

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According to Sykes, imprisonment is characterised by a number of concurrent, and mutually reinforcing ‘deprivations’ or ‘pains of imprisonment’, that he establishes as a loss of security; liberty; autonomy; goods and services; and social/heterosexual relationships (1958).  However,  as a consequence of their incarceration within a prison environment that has been specifically developed for the punishment of male offenders, women constitute a unique carceral population that faces a number of exclusive ‘pains of imprisonment’ that go beyond these five core deprivations (Carlen, 1983; Walker and Worrall, 2006). As of 2015, approximately 3,885 women are currently incarcerated within the British prison system (Allen and Dempsey, 2016, 5). Yet, as female offenders currently represent less than 4% of Britain’s overall prison population and occupy just eleven of a total 150 penal establishments (Genders and Player, 1987, 162), British prisons have, perhaps understandably, been predominantly designed for the incarceration and treatment of male offenders (Shaw, 2002, 283). Given this inherent constitutional imbalance, the gender-specific difficulties faced by incarcerated women are often overlooked within penal discourse (Nacro, 1991, 3). Here it shall be argued that the mutually constitutive oppressions imposed upon incarcerated female inmates (Joseph, 2006, 143) compound and exacerbate their carceral experiences, through the imposition of additional deprivations that go far beyond those normally placed upon Britain’s male penal population.

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The Forgotten Cause of Rohingya Women.

Content Warning – The following post contains information regarding issues related to sexual violence which may be triggering to survivors.

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Having featured prominently across the collective consciousness of Western news media over the summer of 2017, the plight of the displaced and stateless Rohingya has reached a crescendo of global support in recent months. A relatively small ethno-religious group that emerged mid-way through the 9th century out of an area now known as Rakhine State in Northwest Myanmar (Safdar, 2015), the Rohingya have been victim to a documented campaign of state-perpetrated abuse and discrimination since the fall of British colonialism (Wade, 2017, 19). Whilst the recent rise in awareness of this historical misconduct is no doubt a positive development for a people who have experienced numerous atrocities at the hands of a contriving and vicious military junta since it’s rapid rise to power in 1962, such advancement may ring hollow amongst these survivors, given that Myanmar’s freshly instated democratic government seems to have inherited a disdain and antipathy for the Rohingya as was once demonstrated by their autocratic predecessors. Indeed, it is estimated that, as a result of recent persecution, more than a million Rohingya are currently living outside of Myanmar as migrants or refugees (Equal Rights Trust, 2014, 13), with roughly 400,000 having been forced into displacement in the last four months alone (Al Jazeera, 2017).

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