Not Another Medical Model: Using Metaphor and Analogy to Explore Crime and Criminal Justice

Published 17/03/2010
Type Article
Author(s) Rob Canton
Corresponding Authors Rob Canton, Professor of Community and Criminal Justice, De Montfort University, Leicester

This paper considers the place of metaphor and analogy in criminal justice discourse. Thinking (and speaking) metaphorically is an unavoidable aspect of the framing of social problems. Some examples are offered of the ways in which these figures of speech and thought may influence how we think about these matters, variously generating new ideas or perhaps constraining other possibilities. Metaphors may also be emotionally evocative, influencing feelings as well as thoughts. It is argued that the (often concealed and embedded) assumptions that metaphors import or sustain need to be exposed and sometimes challenged, if liberal criminology is to make its due contribution in debate about criminal justice policy. We need new ways of thinking and talking about the relationship between crime and criminal justice. In the second part of the paper, a specific analogy is drawn – between, on the one hand, crime and criminal justice and, on the other hand, health and medicine. Several points of correspondence are identified and some ideas that are perhaps more familiar in the sociology of medicine are used to illuminate criminal justice. This analogy exposes some of the assumptions in criminal justice debate and offers another way of thinking and talking about policy.