New article on the ethics of research narratives

Keele Criminologists past and present produce new article for the Research Ethics journal

Keele Criminologist Dr Tony Kearon, in conjunction with his former PhD student and Keele Criminology alumnus Dr Ian Mahoney (now a Lecturer at Liverpool Hope University), have a new publication in the journal Research Ethics which is now available online. The case study, entitled ‘(De)Constructing Ethical Narratives in Criminological Research’, reflects upon their experiences as a doctoral research student (Mahoney) and supervisor (Kearon) and the manner in which we as criminological researchers construct ethical narratives around the research that we do (research that routinely involves individuals that have committed criminal offences and/or are coming to terms with experiences of criminal victimisation).

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Dr Ian Mahoney

The authors focus on the tensions which arise between the ethical review board (ERB) guidelines, procedures and practices that criminological researchers are routinely held to by their institutions and the practical realities of conducting empirical fieldwork that is crime related. They argue that strict adherence to ERB guidelines can be sometimes be problematic and risks causing more harms than it seeks to mitigate.

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Dr Tony Kearon

The authors use their experiences of conducting fieldwork to show that researchers should consider the potential harm caused to particularly vulnerable participants and draw attention to the need to refocus away from simply responding to specific disclosures of behaviours by participants towards their wider biographical narratives and future trajectories. In doing so, they argue that we should move away from research ethics based on a narrow, bureaucratic framework and towards moral concerns so as to avoid causing undue harm. This publication marks the first in of a series of intended discussions in which they seek to problematise the relationships between ethics, bureaucratic governance frameworks, the demands of research commissioners, and the challenges that arise while conducting empirical criminological research.

New publication from Keele criminologist in leading journal

The new article from Dr Clare Griffiths explores trust and confidence in the police amongst established residents and Polish migrants

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Dr Clare Griffiths

Keele Criminology’s Dr Clare Griffiths has a new publication in the European Journal of Criminology that is now available online. The article, entitled ‘The Disjuncture between Confidence and Cooperation: Police Contact amongst Polish Migrants and Established Residents’, is based on Clare’s PhD research that explored Polish migration and its impacts on social order in a small working class town in the North West of England. The article itself considers the trust and confidence in the local police amongst both the more established residents of the area as well as the incoming Polish migrants, and how this affects actual contact and cooperation with the police. Despite claims that immigrant and minority groups are more often alienated from local institutions and are less likely to express positive evaluations of the police, Clare’s research found that Polish migrants in fact have greater confidence in the local police than do local residents. In an attempt to explain such findings, Dr Griffiths suggests a ‘habitus’ model whereby past histories of police corruption could be entrenched in the minds of Polish migrants helping to shape the more positive perceptions and interactions with the police in their new social setting. A further explanation for such positive attitudes was provided in the form of a general lack of ‘social distance’ between Polish migrants and the local community in the area. One of the key findings from the PhD was such a lack of social distance in the form of ‘civilised relationships’ between Polish migrants and local residents and could therefore extend to perceptions of local institutions such as the police.

Confidence in the police is argued to be a necessary precursor to cooperation. However, the findings in the article suggest that confidence does not necessarily have a direct role to play in police-community cooperation. Although new migrants have confidence in the local police, they remain reluctant to contact them and they report crime incidents less as compared to the local group who have less confidence in the police. This seems mostly due to language difficulties and fear of reprisals from within their own group. Local residents on the other hand have less confidence in the police but are more likely to contact them when needed. Therefore, inhabitants of contemporary diverse neighbourhoods can be simultaneously ‘disenchanted and engaged’ or ‘satisfied and disengaged’. This suggests more complex and nuanced processes exist in diverse and changing neighbourhoods than that previously proposed in a predominantly American context and has important implications for learning about the unique and complex relationships that diverse communities have with the police.

An outstanding week of success for Keele Criminology

It has been an excellent week for the Keele Criminology team.  On Tuesday, we learnt that our Criminology programme was ranked 10th in the UK in the Guardian university league tables for 2018.  This ranking was calculated using factors such as final year students’ satisfaction with their course content, the teaching provided and the quality of feedback offered.  It also considered other important factors such as how students’ individual degree results compare with their entry qualifications, to demonstrate how effective the teaching is, and the percentage of graduates who find graduate-level jobs, or are studying further, within six months of graduation.  This excellent result is a testament to the hard work of academic and administrative staff in the team.

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On Wednesday, Tony Kearon, Helen Wells & Leanne Savigar were invited to the College of Policing to talk about research conducted as part of the Police Knowledge Fund award and other projects involving Keele criminologists and Police partners. The event was part of the High Potential Development Scheme training, and the Criminology team discussed projects including the prevention of child sexual exploitation, neighbourhood policing, roads policing and mental health.

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Tony Kearon addresses a delegate at the College of Policing event

On Thursday, Andy Henley and Helen Wells attended the Staffordshire Youth Commission’s ‘Big Conversation’ event where young people, including five of our undergraduate Criminology students, presented the findings of their survey into young people’s policing and crime priorities. The audience included the Police and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire and several senior officers.

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Nicola Collett and other members of the Staffordshire Youth Commission address the audience at the ‘Big Conversation’ event

The Commission is co-ordinated by Criminology and Criminal Justice MA student Nicola Collett who has recently been awarded a Faculty of Humanities and Social Science studentship at Keele.  This is to conduct doctoral research into the long-term impact of criminal records acquired in childhood.  Her project will be supervised by Mary Corcoran and Andy Henley.

And finally… we also learnt yesterday afternoon that Samantha Weston’s article, ‘Using the “recovery” and “rehabilitation” paradigms to support desistance of substance-involved offenders’, has been selected by the editorial team of the Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice as the Outstanding Paper in the 2017 Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence.  Many congratulations to Sam and her co-authors!

Keele Criminology welcomes Dr Diana Miranda to the team

Dr Diana Miranda has recently joined the Keele Criminology team as a teaching fellow. In this blog post she provides an overview her PhD thesis which, in December, she successfully defended at the University of Minho in Portugal.

My doctoral research explored the meanings attributed to criminal identification technologies and their uses. This study drew on a set of different viewpoints and knowledge of actors involved in the diverse practices of criminal identification. On one hand, the individual who is classified as criminal and the usual target of these practices, and on the other, the professionals that identify and classify him as such in criminal investigation and prison contexts. Following the experiences of these different actors, the thesis studied the way criminal identification technologies are used in practice and explored their impacts in the co-construction of the criminal body and identity.

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Diana defending her PhD thesis at the University of Minho, Portugal in December.

The thesis concluded that the diverse social, technological, human and non-human elements and the interactions established between them are situated in a complex socio-technical network that highlights the multiplicity of perspectives around technologies and the heterogeneity of its effects. Considering the agency of identification technologies and the influence they have on the way social actors interact, the figure of the hybrid comes as a solution. The research posed the concept of a ‘double game’ (I/other) played by ‘double agents’ (humans and non-humans) to explore the process of co-construction of the criminal and his body.

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The reflection around this process led to development of a conceptual analysis of the dynamics of dominance, submission and resistance. These dynamics endure in a strategic game played by the different actors in the course of identification rituals that are assumed as a product of specific power configurations. Finally, the thesis explored new strategies for the exercise of power emerging from the ‘biologization’ of criminality and the (re)configuration of suspicion, as a rationale for the constant targeting of the criminal as a suspect.

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Grant success for Criminology project on student employability

Dr Mary Corcoran (Keele) and Dr Sarah Kingston (Lancaster) have been awarded £50,000 under the HEFCE ‘Catalyst Bid’ scheme, to research how students on academic Criminology degree programmes can translate their knowledge and skills into work-based settings.

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Dr  Mary Corcoran, Senior Lecturer in Criminology

The project, called ‘Bridging connections: Improving the links between academic and work-related learning by Criminology students’ will involve 100 Criminology students across both Universities during the academic year 2017/18. Although many universities are developing strategies for enhancing student ‘employability’ , far less attention has been paid to the possible bridges that can be made between academic knowledge and work-related learning.

The research will capture and use learner analytics to develop innovative pedagogical tools that support students to recognize, reflect on, articulate and apply criminological knowledge to their experiences in work-related modules. This will be captured through an Internet based survey, focus groups and interviews with current and former students, workplace experience providers and university staff.

Dr Corcoran said, ‘Keele and Lancaster run pioneering modules in their Criminology programmes that support students to obtain work experience, volunteering and career preparatory skills. These are not vocational modules, but provide springboards for students to integrate career-facing activities as embedded aspects of their experience of academic learning. Our aim is to determine “what works” in improving critical learning outcomes and to develop tools that will support best practice in this area’.

A fascinating insight into Probation work during World War Two.

Anne Worrall, Professor Emerita of Criminology, has edited and published, as an ebook, a novel written by her mother in the early 1950s, based on her experiences as a probation officer in London in the Second World War.

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Professor Emerita Anne Worrall

Miss Hall’s Girls is a semi-autobiographical novel, written in the early 1950s, by Julia Steel. It tells a touching story of hope, fear and resilience, offering a unique historical perspective on the lives of ordinary families in extraordinary circumstances – often struggling to survive bombs, evacuation and rations.

In particular, it focuses on the lives of women and girls, from the perspective of the local probation officer. However, for many, ‘survival’ sometimes means resorting to crime.

For the teenage girls described in the novel, the only excitement is meeting American soldiers in the local dance hall. Worried parents call the probation officer, Mary Hall, who valiantly tries to keep the girls ‘out of trouble’. But trouble takes many forms and, while the war may come to an end, its consequences don’t.

The ebook is available to download from either Amazon or the publishers, YPD Bookshop.

Postgraduate Keele Criminologist to Co-ordinate Youth Commission on Police and Crime

Keele Criminology postgraduate student Nicola Collett discusses her new role as Project Coordinator for the Staffordshire Youth Commission on Police and Crime.

I graduated from Keele University this summer with a first in Geography with Criminology, and decided to stay on at Keele to study for an MA in Criminology and Criminal Justice.  As a Keele Criminology undergraduate one of the key things you are taught is never to take things at face value and to think critically about news, reports and statistics concerning ‘crime’.  Therefore, when a job opportunity as a project coordinator was advertised through Leaders Unlock for the Staffordshire Youth Commission on Police and Crime I felt it was a great opportunity to continue challenging taken-for-granted assumptions and find out what young people really think about crime and policing in their local area.

The Youth Commission was established by Matthew Ellis, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire, as part of a pilot project to engage with young people. During 2016 and 2017 a group of twenty seven young people aged 14–25 will canvass the views of other young people as part of the project. My role involves coordinating stands and workshops in schools, colleges and other institutions in order to help the Commission members to collect the views of 1,500 young people, particularly on what they think the police should be doing. This information will then be fed back to the Commissioner at a conference in April.  The aim is to find ways that young people can help to shape the future of policing in Staffordshire and support the development and delivery of the Safer, Fairer, United Communities strategy.

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Nicola pictured at her graduation ceremony earlier this year

At its first meeting, members of the Commission collectively decided that a number of key issues needed further consideration.  I was pleased to see that issues such as hate crime, Islamophobia, the relationship between police and youths, and the challenges facing people attempting to desist from offending were all selected as topics of interest. These are all issues which I have become interested in as part of my studies. It was also exciting to see so many other Keele students becoming part of the Commission and taking an active involvement in local issues.

The block taught nature of my MA course and the support I am receiving from lecturers between blocks has really helped me to balance my studies with my work.  However, as well as enhancing my studies, I also see the Commission as a great chance for young people – who often do not normally have the power to bring about changes – to get their voices heard.  This is something which studying Criminology at Keele has shown to me to be particularly important.