Book Reviews (12.3)

Published 17/12/2014
Type Review
Author(s) Jake Phillips, Anne Robinson
Corresponding Authors

Adam Calverley (2013) Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 230pp. Pbk £26.99. ISBN 978-0415623483

Adam Calverley’s book is a long-due addition to the criminological literature on desistance. In the last two decades, research on desistance has extensively dissected the elements of this process of change, identifying how both structural and personal factors come into play and influence the outcomes of this life-changing process. Despite these wide investigations, the factors associated with ethnicity have been left mostly unexplored, especially in relation to UK based research. Calverley’s research represents a breakthrough in this direction and it is remarkably important as it poses the basis for reflection and further research on the cultural factors which affect desistance. This book would suit anybody interested in desistance, ethnicities, resettlement, and practitioners working with ethnic minorities.

This book explores the efforts to desist of a group of Indian, Bangladeshi, and Black and dual heritage males from the London boroughs of Hounslow, Tower Hamlets, and Lambeth respectively. The choice of limiting the sample to London and those ethnic groups is related to the pool of eligible participants in these boroughs. This choice reduces the possible comparisons which can be drawn across different minorities. Also, the choice of these London boroughs (as recognised by Calverley) might have affected the dynamics of desistance identified in the study, which might be affected by this social context more than ethnicity. In addition, while this research is about ethic minorities’ experience of desistance, its findings are not simply restricted to those communities or naively generalised to each single ethnic minority. Calverley recognises the limitations of this research and brilliantly uses its findings for a wider reflection on the wider issues related to desistance research and the policies which must develop from it.

The research steps from Calverley’s PhD thesis and, with this in mind, it is hard to fault this book. Surely the research would have benefited from a wider range of nationalities, a ‘control group’ of white Londoners, or of persisters from the same minority groups, or even a short longitudinal design. However, it must be recognised that it would have been demanding to add anything more to the already ambitious design of this research. Thirty-three in-depth semi-structured interviews with ex-offenders have been conducted, together with ten interviews with professionals working with minorities. This design has given the opportunity to start exploring desistance, and contrast them between different ethnic groups and in relation to literature.

The book is a gem in relation to the theoretical coverage of the issues related to desistance and ethnicity. Calverley has succeeded in the effort to condense an extensive amount of literature in the space of a book. The book is a detailed exploration of the literature and a very thorough examination of the socio-economic, historical and sociological background of each single minority. The way Calverley writes and the structure of the chapters is very helpful in fully understanding the historical background from which these communities come from.

The same detailed approach is maintained throughout the book. Findings are presented separately for each minority and are articulated in a manner that shows the wealth of knowledge and analytical thinking which has gone in writing this book. The analytical strategy adopted in chapters 4, 5, and 6 draws from the historical structural-personal dichotomy usually found in literature, discussing the main social and personal factors involved in desistance. The author goes a step further in the following chapter 7. Embracing the latest developments in desistance research (promoting a more holistic approach in the analysis of the factors related to desistance), this chapter is organised in three sections looking at the macro, meso and micro factors involved in desistance. With socio-historical, economic, and social policy attitudes included in the macro-level; community and neighbourhood, and religion at the meso-level; and agency, identity, family, and hooks for change at the micro-level. This analytical approach is what makes this book outstanding in comparison to previous desistance literature. This overview remarkably focusses on a neglected portion of population, and, also, the contemporary attention to these three levels of analysis represents a useful analytical and narrative device for two interconnected reasons: first, it reminds the reader (and especially researchers interested in personal change) that even the most individual or psychological event is closely interdependent and interconnected to the social background in which it takes place; second, that to fully understand the process of desistance, one has to keep track and analyse both at the individual and the social (or structural) level. This need becomes evident when trying to translate research findings in policies aimed at promoting desistance. For example, as highlighted in this research in the case of black and dual heritage desisters, the indications for practitioners to support the (re)establishment of family ties must be accompanied with enhancing personal development and the support in entering in the job market: the desisters from this minority background highlighted how family support for the necessary process of embracing a new non-criminal identity is conditional to obtaining recognition from the social context, for example, by finding a job. This was the cause of much distress for Calverley’s interviewees as, because of factors at the meso and macro level, the ‘hooks for change’ needed were almost absent. Also, widely recognised factors supportive of desistance, such as the ‘knifing off’ from the criminal peers did not reach the desired effects showed in previous desistance research; rather, moving away from London was associated to increased racism and negative effect on their prosocial identity.

In summary, this research satisfactorily sheds some light on the processes of desistance of three main ethnical minorities. It shows how social and cultural factors, such as family, religion, or the neighbourhood, can have a significant effect on desistance. It also shows how the desisters’ specific situation impacts upon the effects of structural and personal factors, which have long been associated to success in the process of desistance and should not be taken for granted. This book, besides being a must have, is an eye opener, and a cornerstone for future research in desistance.

Fabio Tartarini, PhD candidate, Cambridge University

Kerry Clamp (2014) London and New York: Routledge. pp163. Hbk $145.00. ISBN 978-0-415-52371-4

This is a book that takes on a challenging and important academic debate about ‘Justice’ and the ‘power over Justice’ and it draws our attention to the application of Restorative Justice in both local interpersonal settings (micro) and transnational contexts (macro) – concerned with the abuse of human rights, political crime and regime change. The book examines the corresponding problems and limitations of Restorative Justice and Transitional Justice, and asserts the need to move beyond the constraints of democratic and transitional literature to understand Transitional Justice as a response to issues of systemic conflict and oppression.

Clamp hopes to clarify how Restorative Justice can contribute to the transformation of conflict in transitional settings and suggests a ‘more ambitious transitional agenda’ (Clamp, 2014:8) centred on the values of engagement, empowerment, reintegration and transformation. However, the combined study of Criminal Justice, Restorative Justice, and Transitional Justice is problematic. Clamp’s work is very ambitious, and remains inconclusive about the role of Restorative Justice as a mechanism to tackle the complexities of larger inter/national conflict, state crime, and institutionalised peacebuilding.

Clamp’s work is well researched, easy to read, and supported by a variety of useful examples from the fields of RJ and TJ that include accounts of Truth and Reconciliation commissions, trials, financial compensation, amnesties, and indigenous practice. She argues vigorously for an understanding of ‘Justice’ that is concerned with the relationships between individuals and the state; and critically reflects on the dynamics of political power and the appropriateness of state intervention. Each chapter encourages us to understand the interpersonal and wider relations of contested transitional settings in order to consider ‘the structures that influence and constrain us […] as well as the systemic injustices that need to be addressed’ (Clamp 2014:16).

The first two chapters provide a coherent outline of the issues and dilemmas present in RJ, in particular when it is approached as part of transitional settings. Clamp captures the shift in conventional thinking about CJ and highlights the emerging theory and practice that has accompanied the growth of alternative or restorative strategies for CJ with regard to victimization, offending, and reparation.

In chapter three, Clamp starts to outline a theoretical framework for RJ in TJ expressed as four key values – Engagement, Empowerment, Reintegration and Transformation. We are encouraged to think of these as potential values for action ‘that should be central to any response to international crime, and […] contribute to peace-building and democratisation’ (Clamp, 2014:32). Such values can help to articulate a process orientated towards self-determined reconciliation/resolution, inclusive dialogue, mutual rights and responsibilities, and sustained reintegration. Nevertheless, Clamp’s work is weakened by the use of terms such as ‘values’, ‘steps’ and ‘stages’ as they are not clearly defined and seem interchangeable.

The remaining chapters are primarily concerned with what is achievable through the application of RJ in transitional settings, and the potential of what Clamp describes as the ‘restorative community’ in transitional settings. What follows is a robust examination of the role of RJ and TJ in moving individuals, communities, and governments, towards the ‘promise of ‘justice and democratic rule’ (Clamp, 2014:51). TJ is explored within local settings and transnational contexts concerned with the abuse of human rights, political crime, regime change, peacebuilding, and democratization. Clamp scrutinizes the competing agendas of RJ within transitional settings, and explores the ways in which stakeholders take action in accordance with differentiated perspectives, participation, power, interests and needs. Her discussions are very informative and reiterate a need to deconstruct prevalent Eurocentric ideological codes of legitimacy, legalism and law.

The author’s voice becomes clear during the concluding chapter, as Clamp argues for RJ to be appreciated as a theory of ‘Justice’ that challenges the ‘hegemony over justice practices’ (Clamp, 2014:118) and the ‘Western architecture of ‘Justice’ (Clamp, 2014:120). Clamp reiterates the transformative value of RJ and stresses the need for theorists and practitioners to critically examine the existing ideological premise of TJ and RJ to prevent it translating in ways that disenfranchise conflicted communities and leave state crime uncontested. As part of her on-going discussion, Clamp clearly hopes that CJ and RJ will evolve to challenge and redress the systemic injustices resulting from the structural causes of conflict and crime.

Unfortunately, Clamp does not provide a methodological argument for how these ideas might be developed. There is some suggestion that top down TJ mechanisms are useful to deal with past conflict and formally legitimise institutional justice; whereas bottom up community-based approaches can facilitate a greater individual sense of reparation and justice. Similarly, the United Nations is referred to as a useful source of codes of practice that may be translated into local culture as part of community projects (such as the Zwelethemba model) to ‘harness local knowledge and facilitate local actors to develop, engage with and pursue outcomes that are both relevant and sustainable’ (Clamp, 2014:123).

Clamp’s work offers a theoretical analysis of the ideas and methods applied to RJ and TJ. Hopefully, it will help to generate a discourse that brings us closer to a practical awareness of how RJ can be applied to influence the systemic injustices inherent in the complexities of larger inter/national conflict, state crime, and institutionalised peace-building. Overall, Clamp’s work is a timely critique of the current understanding of Restorative Justice and makes a useful contribution to the analysis and theorisation of Restorative Justice and Transitional Justice. It will be valuable for students, academics, practitioners, and anyone -interested in the wider issues of criminology, peacebuilding and human rights.

Michael Ogunnusi, Part-Time Lecturer in Youth and Community, and Education, De Montfort University

Michael Salter (2013) Routledge. pp. 208. Pbk £26.99. ISBN 978-1-138-78915-9

Salter’s first book, Organised Sexual Abuse, is an ambitious attempt to provide a comprehensive account of paedophile networks, their means of operating, and their effects on victims. Whilst Salter ensures that a range of academic perspectives are included throughout the book, its most notable feature is the presence of extensive, firsthand accounts from victims; often graphic, and always harrowing, it is the inclusion of these first-person narratives which makes Organised Sexual Abuse both compelling and disturbing. Salter provides a unique insight into some of the most extreme forms of group sexual exploitation, and through eliciting responses from those subjected to this abuse, he ensures that his book is an authentic account of a sensitive area of study.

Organised Sexual Abuse is divided into ten principal chapters, with each chapter containing various sub-divisions. Whilst this guides the reader through the subject matter, the headings and sub-headings of the chapters themselves are not in English. Although this is most probably a typographical error, it leads to difficultly when navigating oneself through the book, especially since the Contents and text of the book are both in English. With the exception of this oversight, Salter provides a comprehensive account of several forms of group paedophilia: ranging from incestuous abuse, to institutionalize paedophile groups, satanic child-abuse gangs and child-murder. Although Salter includes some data on the group sexual abuse of adults, the book’s main focus is on child-victims.

The first four chapters provide the reader with a detailed theoretical background to the subject; Chapters One and Two present a review of the existing literature, and contextualize the current findings through including the opinions of practitioners. Chapter Three goes on to provide an historical account of the origins of sadism, child abuse and abuse more generally. The information provided is detailed, and is representative of the more sociological approach which Salter adopts throughout the book. Although much of the existing work on child sex-abuse is more psychological/quantitative in its nature, Salter’s qualitative methodology provides this topic with a ‘human’ context, revealing abuse through the eyes of survivors and victims. It is from Chapter Five that these accounts begin in earnest, starting with a harrowing case-study of the author’s friend ‘Sarah’, and her prolonged exposure to organised abuse as a child and as an adult. What makes this chapter particularly compelling is that the author himself was friends with ‘Sarah’ during a period of this abuse. He was, therefore, a witness to the aftermath of her abuse and the stalking she was subjected to. This level of proximity between author and victim of crime is unusual in an academic text, yet it only serves to increase the vividness of the chapter.

The following chapters contain the testimonies of several abuse victims, often including detailed recollections of the horrifying abuse they were subjected to. Readers who have not studied this area previously ought to be warned that some of participants’ accounts are particularly graphic, although this is an inevitably when studying this topic; it is also something which Salter acknowledges towards the end of the book (p.175). However, one criticism of Salter’s work is the absence of any perspectives other than those of abuse victims. Indeed, Salter concedes that “some readers may find it a curious or even unscientific endeavour to craft a criminological model of organised abuse based on the testimony of survivors” (p.4). This criticism, however, is not because such accounts cannot be believed, but rather, because including the perspectives of practitioners and other experts might have added another dimension to the text. Taking into account the tone and overall aim of the book, it clearly would not have been appropriate to interview abusers themselves. However, data from some individuals other than the abused would have been a desirable feature. One further criticism is the lack of methodological detail. Although Salter includes a four page ‘Research Methodology’ in the Appendix of the book (p.177-181) this feels like more of a methodological note. It would have been interesting had Salter explained, in more detail, how he gained the trust of participants and developed rapport, especially as this is such a sensitive area where victims often feel shame to discuss their abuse. It should be noted, however, that such a discussion is undertaken in Chapter 5, the case-study of Salter’s female friend: in many ways the standout chapter of this book.

These criticisms notwithstanding, there are many positive aspects of the book. In particular, the issue of how victims often face scepticism for official bodies is a theme that runs throughout the text; Salter documents the ‘rise of the “false memory” movement’ (Ch.4), and how this led to endemic problems around victims of abuse not being believed. A further notable strength of the book is the strong theoretical framework which runs through it, but does not compromise the primacy given to victims’ accounts. Although such data may prove shocking, the overall tone of the book never appears to be sensationalist. Rather, the topics are dealt with sensitively and methodically. Salter also describes, in detail, the roles played by gender and power in the sexual abuse of minors.

Overall, Organised Sexual Abuse provides a valuable insight into the abuse of minors by paedophile groups. It is accessible to both academic and non-academic audiences, includes a range of theoretical perspectives, and describes various types of group sexual abuse. Any weaknesses in the text are eclipsed by the rigour with which the subject is scrutinized, and it is clear that Salter feels strongly about this emotive topic.

Dev R. Maitra, PhD Candidate in Criminology, University of Cambridge

Lizzie Seal (2014) Abingdon: Routledge pp 188 Hbk £85.00. ISBN 0978-0-415-62244-8

In ‘Capital Punishment in Twentieth-Century Britain’ Lizzie Seal has produced a fascinating, well researched and wide ranging book which examines the complexity of public perceptions of and responses to the perpetrators of crimes which did or once would have attracted the death penalty. This is a book about the everyday meanings and cultural life of capital punishment in twentieth-century Britain.

The disappearance of the gallows from public view is the start point for this book. The end of execution as public spectacle in 1868 meant that the event itself whilst directly experienced behind prison walls by very few continued to be experienced by the wider population largely through imagination and representation. Lizzie Seal is interested in how people’s experiences of execution by the state have been transformed over the decades since its withdrawal from public view.

In chapters one and two, having offered an overview of capital punishment since 1868 and an examination of how in the twentieth century, executions were accessed primarily through the reading of newspapers, the author addresses the continuing role of capital punishment as entertainment and the anxieties this raised primarily around ‘taste’. Chapters four and five explore protest against the death penalty and public responses to capital punishment as expressed in letters to the Home Office about specific cases. In particular she focuses on the symbol of justice as crucial for articulating anxieties about capital punishment in mid-twentieth century Britain.

In Chapter six Lizzie Seal examines the political, legal and cultural significance of the Timothy Evans and Edith Thompson cases. Seal contends that in the years following their executions the cases of Evans and Thompson became ’emblematic of the failures and horrors of the death penalty’ (p.122), Here Seal draws on Avery Gordon’s concept of haunting to analyse how the ‘seething presence’ of Evans and Thompson returned following their deaths and continues to cast a ghostly shadow. Seal acknowledges that Evans and Thompson were not the only examples of ‘haunting’. Other high profile cases such as those of Ruth Ellis, Derek Bentley and James Hanratty could be viewed through the same lens but as she contends, focussing on Evans and Thompson allows her to analyse themes of gender, horror, justice and error.

In chapter seven the author explores capital punishment’s continuing place in British culture, examining competing perceptions and understandings and addresses the continuing support for capital punishment particularly in relation to terrorism. As Seal contends the bombings in England in the 1970s and in particularly the bombings in Guildford and Birmingham stirred pro death penalty sentiment with capital punishment being discussed in the House of Commons and some MPs claiming that the bombings had led them to revise their abolitionist views. There are clear echoes here of public, media and political responses to the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in 2013.

Lizzie Seal notes that if the bombings of the mid 1970s were a key impetus to retributive sentiment and debate about restoration of the death penalty, the imprisonment of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady in 1966 ‘provided an enduring symbol for unslaked retributivism’ (p.150). In the year after abolition the maximum sentence for Hindley and Brady could be no more than life imprisonment. Seal examines the response to that sentence particularly in relation to Hindley, the eventual imposition of a whole life term and the striving for some sort of equivalence in retributive justice terms.

Seal then explores the legacy of unease that miscarriages of justice have left us with. Gerry Conlon died in June 2014 but as Seal points out he would have been killed by The State forty years ago. Seal examines the significance of early 1990s films such as ‘Let Him Have It’ and ‘In The Name Of The Father’ in highlighting miscarriages of justice and the eventual quashing of convictions of people who would had been executed or would have been executed if they had been convicted prior to abolition. Seal concludes this splendid chapter with an examination of perceptions on this side of the Atlantic of the death penalty in the United States and the significance of film portrayals such as ‘Dead Man Walking’ and ‘The Green Mile’.

The final chapter offers an examination of cultural memories of capital punishment using oral history interviews from the Millennium Memory Bank and from interviews conducted for the BBC radio series ‘A Century Speaks’. Here a deep public ambivalence is revealed, very much reflecting chapter seven with competing themes around the need for capital punishment and concern about miscarriages of justice.

This widely sourced, thoughtful and resonant work should appeal to historians, psychologists, as well as legal and criminal justice academics, students and practitioners. In truth Lizzie Seal’s book would be a very fine read for anybody with an interest in the subject matter and that must surely include us all?

Chris Cody, Social Work Practice Learning Tutor, Bradford University

Edited by George Mair and Judith Rumgay (2014) London: Routledge pp.542 pbk: £46.99 ISBN 978-0-415-67149-1; hbk: £125.00 ISBN 978-0-415-67148-4

Probation occupies a crucial central role in the criminal and community justice system in England and Wales. For much of the 20th century, the probation service has operated as a relatively benevolent justice agency which was primarily focused on changing, rather than containing, its service users. As probation moved beyond its centenary, however, the agency was metamorphosing into a different institution to that fashioned by the early community rehabilitation pioneers. An agency which had embraced advising, assisting and befriending its service users was undergoing a perceptible shift towards a culture which privileged compliance, enforcement and actuarial risk assessment. To illuminate and enhance our understanding of the range of factors which have influenced this process, George Mair and Judith Rumgay have compiled and edited an essential collection of ‘key readings’ and seminal texts on probation.

In terms of structure, the material is presented in six sections, each of which is prefaced with an incisive, reflective and analytical introduction by the editors. The first section portrays what is, in essence, the official account of probation’s development since its inception, with readings meticulously selected in order to illuminate key policy shifts throughout the century. They range from the groundbreaking Probation of Offenders Act (1907) to the Ministry of Justice’s Capacity and Competition Policy for Prison and Probation (2009), via the strategic framework document A New Choreography (National Probation Service, 2001). The Choreography reflected the new model probation service, replete with ‘strategic imperatives’ and ‘stretch objectives’, and pinpointed the goal of developing a new organisation ‘designed and reconstructed in every way… We want the image of the Service to be that of a ‘hawk-like professional’, sharp and keen-eyed…’ (National Probation Service, 2001:8). The implication appeared to be that probation was previously insufficiently professional, inadequately focused on risk due to its perceived preoccupation with rehabilitation, and ultimately lacking in ‘hawk-like’ vigilance. The era of managerialism and risk assessment had arrived.

Having explored the official account, Section two reflects a range of alternative perspectives on the history and development of probation and other community sentences. These accounts are always instructive and sometimes fascinating. They include Young’s sociological account, which argues that probation developed in 19th century England as a consequence of class relationships. The third section of the book considers a range of theoretical perspectives, not least of which is ‘Tailgunner’ Parkinson’s disarmingly frank account of his practice with service users: ‘I give them money.’ Parkinson’s confession, originally published in 1970, led to his suspension (though following an unprecedented outbreak of common sense he was reinstated). The confident juxtaposition of Parkinson’s pragmatic frontline perspective with, for example, the Home Office’s Statement of National Objectives and Priorities for Probation (1984) is one of the real strengths of this book, and demonstrates the editors’ absolute command of their material. Rather than a dry official account, the reader is left with a strong sense of the editors’ vital engagement with the debate about what probation actually does.

Section four’s focus is on the nuts and bolts of intervention. It delineates a range of approaches to the coal face of practice, including groupwork, drug treatment programmes, day centre work, intensive supervision projects, and all manner of innovative community engagement. This section features Millard, whose elegiac observations on the primacy of reintegrative work in the 1970s offer an authentic flavour of probation’s crucial social importance and the nature of frontline practice predating the era of compliance. He notes that the service users who attended

‘…most frequently and most enthusiastically were the poorest, least able, and least articulate people, frequently lost and bereft, with no sense of community and no real sense of aspiration for the future… They did not come as a consequence of ‘conditions’, but because of what was offered, and sometimes they began to discover the possibility of a voice and a quality of life… which they had not known before.’ (p.341)

The fifth section explores the theme of diversity. The editors point to the dearth of detailed accounts focused on diversity from frontline probation practice. Two absorbing contributions from Lawson and Carlen point to the problems which may arise when potentially sensitive areas of frontline practice (race and gender respectively) are opened up to the outside observer.

Finally, section six explores the arguments around ‘effectiveness’. The contemporary probation service has witnessed the establishment of a thoroughly marketised environment, preoccupied with the exhibition of effectiveness, in which key performance indicators and a culture of targets have been predominant. However, for the first half of probation’s existence, the effectiveness of intervention was virtually unquestioned; it was simply taken for granted. The book includes the first serious assessment of probation’s effectiveness, which was undertaken in 1958 by the Cambridge Department of Criminal Science in collaboration with the Home Office. This enables the reader to view the advent of What Works in the early 1990s as part of a continuum. The inclusion of the seminal 1974 article by Martinson, so often identified as the high priest of Nothing Works (not least because he is so often cited, but perhaps less frequently actually read), is also refreshing. The book also features incisive contributions from Mair, Raynor and Stanley, which summarise the debate around effectiveness.

While this capacious volume is both sweeping in scale and ambitious in scope, the authors note that they intended the book to ‘ground and contextualise’ developments in probation, rather than add to the plethora of existing commentaries on those developments. This exhaustive volume never fails to achieve this aim. It is a timely publication that has particular resonance today, with the government poised to jettison much of probation’s hard-won public sector rehabilitative experience. Critics have argued that outsourcing probation work privileges profit and ideology at the expense of public safety, and this reader, at least, would have welcomed a little more political contextualisation and discussion of the linkage of the erosion of probation’s original reintegrative ethos with neoliberal policies. However, it seems churlish to point this out. The sheer scale of the editors’ enterprise means that some difficult, albeit necessary, choices have been made in order to compress over a century of rehabilitative endeavour into just 542 pages.

Mair and Rumgay deserve our thanks for providing this definitive set of key readings, which combine to illuminate and deepen our understanding of the invaluable social contribution rendered by probation. When probation is thriving, communities benefit, offenders are rehabilitated and the creation of future victims is prevented. This superb volume offers a comprehensive, instructive and authoritative depiction of the evolution of probation policy and practice, and provides ample evidence of the tenacious survival of probation’s deep-rooted rehabilitative culture. As such, it is essential reading for academics, students, practitioners, and anyone who cares about the reintegrative ethos underpinning probation. Should a copy happen to find its way onto the Justice Secretary’s desk, Chris Grayling will also find much to ponder in this admirable book.

Michael Teague, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, University of Derby

National Probation Service. 2001. “A New Choreography: an integrated strategy for the National Probation Service for England and Wales.” London: NPS.