The Oxford handbook of criminology

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The Oxford handbook of criminology


Liebling, A., Maruna, S., & McAra, L. (Eds.). (2023). The Oxford handbook of criminology (7th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Chapter Summary

Introduction: The Renewed Vision
The introduction by the editors outlines significant changes in criminology since the last edition, highlighting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions, and movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. The editors discuss the increased relevance of criminology in understanding and addressing these shifts, emphasizing the discipline’s role in promoting just social orders.

Chapter 1: Sociological Theories of Crime
Paul Rock details the historical development of criminology, focusing on how sociological theories emerged to address social order, social control, and representations of rule-breaking. He discusses the influence of early theorists like Jeremy Bentham and John Howard and the evolution of criminology as an academic discipline.

Chapter 2: Psychological Theories of Crime
This chapter examines psychological approaches to understanding crime, including theories related to personality, cognitive development, and behavior. Key models such as the psychodynamic theory, cognitive-behavioral theory, and developmental psychology are explored.

Chapter 3: Biological Theories of Crime
The authors delve into biological explanations for criminal behavior, discussing genetic, neurophysiological, and evolutionary perspectives. The chapter covers the role of genetics in criminality, brain structure and function, and the implications of these findings for the criminal justice system.

Chapter 4: Theoretical Criminology and Public Policy
This chapter focuses on how criminological theories influence public policy and crime prevention strategies. It examines the relationship between theoretical developments and practical applications, highlighting the role of evidence-based policy-making.

Chapter 5: Developmental and Life-Course Criminology
Darrick Jolliffe and Katherine Auty discuss the life-course perspective in criminology, which examines how individual behavior develops over time. The chapter covers key concepts such as criminal careers, risk factors, and desistance, drawing on longitudinal studies to illustrate these processes.

Chapter 6: Victimology in the Age of #MeToo
Adrian Grounds, Maria Ttofi, and Lidia Puigvert explore the impact of the #MeToo movement on the field of victimology. They discuss the evolving understanding of victimization, the importance of giving voice to victims, and the implications for criminal justice policies.

Chapter 7: Cybercrime
Ben Collier and Alice Hutchings provide an overview of the rapidly growing field of cybercrime. The chapter examines different types of cyber offenses, the challenges of investigating and prosecuting cybercrimes, and the role of technology in both facilitating and combating these crimes.

Chapter 8: Hate Crime
Neil Chakraborti and Amy Clarke analyze the social, political, and economic factors that sustain hate crimes. They discuss the nature and impact of hate crimes, the dynamics of power and prejudice, and effective responses to these offenses.

Chapter 9: Green Criminology
This chapter, written by Avi Brisman and Nigel South, investigates the relationship between environmental harm and crime. It explores the concept of green criminology, addressing issues such as climate change, environmental justice, and the role of state and corporate actors in environmental crimes.

Chapter 10: Convict Criminology
Rod Earle and colleagues discuss the emerging field of convict criminology, which centers on research conducted by those with lived experience of the criminal justice system. The chapter highlights the importance of this perspective in understanding and reforming the criminal justice system.

Chapter 11: Penal Abolitionism
Joe Sim provides an in-depth analysis of the penal abolitionist movement, which advocates for the dismantling of the prison system. The chapter discusses the history, principles, and goals of abolitionism, as well as contemporary debates and challenges.

Chapter 12: Comparative Criminology
Manuel Eisner examines the differences and similarities in crime and criminal justice systems across various countries. The chapter discusses the methodological approaches to comparative criminology and the insights gained from cross-national research.

Chapter 13: Security and Place
Ian Loader and colleagues revisit their work on crime and social change in middle England, exploring the relationship between democratic politics and security. The chapter emphasizes the importance of co-production and deliberative methods in criminological research.

Chapter 14: Atrocity Crimes
Andy Aydın-Aitchison, Mirza Buljubašić, and Barbora Holá delve into the criminological study of atrocity crimes, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The chapter explores the challenges of defining, investigating, and prosecuting these crimes and the pursuit of justice for victims.

Chapter 15: Desistance from Crime
Beth Weaver, Hannah Graham, and Shadd Maruna discuss the process of desistance, or the cessation of criminal behavior. The chapter covers the factors that contribute to desistance, the role of personal and social change, and the implications for criminal justice policies and interventions.

This comprehensive guide provides an in-depth exploration of contemporary issues and developments in criminology, emphasizing the discipline’s evolving nature and its critical role in addressing social justice and crime in a rapidly changing world.

Key Concepts

1. Sociological Theories of Crime

  • Definition: Sociological theories focus on how social structures, institutions, and relationships influence criminal behavior. They include strain theory, social learning theory, and labeling theory.
  • Key Thinkers: Emile Durkheim (anomie theory), Robert K. Merton (strain theory), Howard Becker (labeling theory).

2. Psychological Theories of Crime

  • Definition: Psychological theories examine individual factors such as personality, cognition, and developmental stages that may contribute to criminal behavior. These include psychodynamic theory, cognitive-behavioral theory, and developmental psychology.
  • Key Thinkers: Sigmund Freud (psychodynamic theory), Albert Bandura (social learning theory).

3. Biological Theories of Crime

  • Definition: Biological theories attribute criminal behavior to genetic, neurophysiological, and evolutionary factors. These theories suggest that biological predispositions can influence an individual’s propensity for criminal activity.
  • Key Concepts: Genetic inheritance, brain structure abnormalities, hormonal imbalances.

4. Criminological Theories and Public Policy

  • Definition: This area examines how criminological theories inform and shape public policy and crime prevention strategies. It emphasizes the importance of evidence-based policymaking.
  • Application: The use of situational crime prevention, community policing, and rehabilitation programs based on theoretical insights.

5. Developmental and Life-Course Criminology

  • Definition: This perspective looks at how individual behavior develops over the life course, focusing on patterns of offending and desistance. It considers risk factors, protective factors, and the impact of life events.
  • Key Concepts: Criminal careers, age-crime curve, life-course transitions.

6. Victimology in the Age of #MeToo

  • Definition: Victimology studies the victims of crime and the psychological effects of their experiences. The #MeToo movement has brought attention to the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault, emphasizing the need for victim-centered approaches.
  • Key Issues: Victim rights, trauma-informed care, victim compensation.

7. Cybercrime

  • Definition: Cybercrime refers to criminal activities carried out using computers and the internet. This includes hacking, identity theft, online fraud, and cyberbullying.
  • Challenges: Jurisdictional issues, anonymity of perpetrators, rapid technological change.

8. Hate Crime

  • Definition: Hate crimes are criminal acts motivated by bias or prejudice against a particular group based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.
  • Key Issues: Power dynamics, impact on victims and communities, legal definitions and enforcement.

9. Green Criminology

  • Definition: Green criminology focuses on environmental crimes and harms, examining how human activities impact the environment and how laws and policies address these issues.
  • Key Concepts: Environmental justice, eco-crime, state-corporate crime.

10. Convict Criminology

  • Definition: Convict criminology involves research conducted by individuals with direct experience of the criminal justice system, providing unique insights into crime and justice.
  • Key Issues: Lived experience, insider perspectives, challenges of reintegration.

11. Penal Abolitionism

  • Definition: Penal abolitionism advocates for the dismantling of the prison system, arguing that incarceration is inherently harmful and counterproductive.
  • Key Thinkers: Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore.
  • Key Concepts: Decarceration, transformative justice, alternatives to imprisonment.

12. Comparative Criminology

  • Definition: Comparative criminology studies crime and criminal justice systems across different countries to understand variations and similarities.
  • Key Issues: Methodological challenges, cultural differences, impact of legal systems.

13. Security and Place

  • Definition: This theme explores the relationship between crime, social change, and security in different places. It considers how social and physical environments influence perceptions and experiences of security.
  • Key Concepts: Informational capitalism, smart cities, co-production in research.

14. Atrocity Crimes

  • Definition: Atrocity crimes include genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Criminology examines these crimes to understand their causes, mechanisms, and consequences.
  • Key Issues: Justice for victims, international law, prevention and intervention strategies.

15. Desistance from Crime

  • Definition: Desistance refers to the process by which individuals cease engaging in criminal behavior. It involves personal transformation, changes in social bonds, and supportive environments.
  • Key Concepts: Turning points, identity transformation, social support networks.

These key concepts from “The Oxford Handbook of Criminology” reflect the breadth and depth of contemporary criminological research, highlighting the discipline’s diverse theoretical foundations and practical implications for understanding and addressing crime and justice in society.

Critical Analysis

1. Interdisciplinary Approach in Criminology

  • Overview: The Oxford Handbook of Criminology emphasizes the importance of an interdisciplinary approach, integrating insights from sociology, psychology, biology, and law.
  • Strengths: This approach provides a comprehensive understanding of crime and criminal behavior, recognizing the multifaceted nature of these issues. It allows for more holistic crime prevention strategies and policies.
  • Weaknesses: While interdisciplinary integration is a strength, it can also lead to challenges in synthesizing diverse perspectives. There is sometimes a lack of coherence when combining theories and methodologies from different disciplines.

2. Impact of Social Movements on Criminology

  • Overview: The text highlights the influence of social movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter on the field of criminology.
  • Strengths: The inclusion of these movements underscores the dynamic nature of criminology and its responsiveness to contemporary societal issues. It promotes the study of previously under-researched areas such as sexual harassment and systemic racism.
  • Weaknesses: The rapid incorporation of social movement perspectives may sometimes lead to less rigorous theoretical development. There is a risk of politicizing criminological research, which could undermine objectivity.

3. Advances in Technology and Cybercrime

  • Overview: The handbook explores the rise of cybercrime and the challenges it poses for traditional criminological theories and practices.
  • Strengths: The focus on cybercrime reflects the current relevance and growing threat of digital crimes. It encourages the development of new investigative techniques and legal frameworks.
  • Weaknesses: The fast-paced evolution of technology can make it difficult for legal systems to keep up. There is also a need for more empirical research to understand the efficacy of proposed solutions in combating cybercrime.

4. Environmental Crimes and Green Criminology

  • Overview: Green criminology is given significant attention, highlighting environmental harm and the role of state and corporate actors.
  • Strengths: This focus broadens the scope of criminology to include environmental justice, an increasingly important issue. It challenges traditional boundaries of criminological study and promotes sustainability.
  • Weaknesses: The field is relatively new and still developing its theoretical and methodological frameworks. There may be difficulties in gaining traction within the broader criminological community.

5. Life-Course Criminology and Desistance

  • Overview: The handbook covers developmental and life-course criminology, emphasizing the importance of understanding criminal behavior over the lifespan.
  • Strengths: This perspective provides valuable insights into the processes of criminal behavior onset, persistence, and desistance. It supports the design of effective intervention programs tailored to different stages of life.
  • Weaknesses: Longitudinal studies, which are essential for life-course criminology, can be resource-intensive and time-consuming. There is also the challenge of accounting for the wide variability in individual life courses.

6. Victimology and the #MeToo Movement

  • Overview: The impact of the #MeToo movement on victimology is explored, focusing on the increased visibility of victims’ voices and experiences.
  • Strengths: This highlights the importance of victim-centered approaches in criminology and the criminal justice system. It promotes greater awareness and support for victims of crime.
  • Weaknesses: There can be a tendency to generalize experiences of victimization, which may overlook the diversity of victim experiences. Ensuring rigorous empirical research to support claims made by the movement is essential.

7. Penal Abolitionism

  • Overview: The text discusses penal abolitionism, advocating for the dismantling of the prison system.
  • Strengths: This perspective encourages critical thinking about the efficacy and morality of incarceration. It promotes the exploration of alternative approaches to punishment and rehabilitation.
  • Weaknesses: Penal abolitionism can be controversial and may face significant opposition. There is a need for more empirical evidence to support the feasibility and effectiveness of alternative systems.

8. Comparative Criminology

  • Overview: Comparative criminology examines crime and criminal justice systems across different countries.
  • Strengths: This approach provides a broader understanding of how different social, cultural, and legal contexts influence crime and responses to it. It fosters the exchange of best practices and innovations.
  • Weaknesses: Comparative research can be challenging due to differences in legal definitions, data collection methods, and cultural contexts. Ensuring comparability and reliability of data across countries is a major hurdle.

9. Security, Place, and Informational Capitalism

  • Overview: The handbook explores the relationship between security, place, and the concept of informational capitalism, especially in the context of smart cities.
  • Strengths: This focus addresses contemporary issues of urbanization, technology, and surveillance. It highlights how new forms of social control and security are emerging in the digital age.
  • Weaknesses: There is a risk of overemphasizing technological solutions to social problems, potentially neglecting the underlying social and economic issues that contribute to crime and insecurity.

10. Convict Criminology

  • Overview: Convict criminology centers on the perspectives of those with lived experience of the criminal justice system.
  • Strengths: This approach provides valuable insider insights that can challenge and enrich traditional criminological theories. It promotes a more inclusive and diverse understanding of crime and justice.
  • Weaknesses: The integration of convict perspectives into academic research can be challenging due to potential biases and issues of credibility. Ensuring rigorous methodological standards while valuing lived experience is crucial.

The Oxford Handbook of Criminology offers a comprehensive and nuanced exploration of contemporary criminological issues. Its interdisciplinary approach, responsiveness to social movements, and focus on emerging fields like cybercrime and green criminology reflect the evolving nature of the discipline. While there are challenges in integrating diverse perspectives and methodologies, the handbook provides a critical foundation for understanding and addressing the complexities of crime and justice in the modern world.

Real-World Applications and Examples

1. Sociological Theories of Crime

Example: Strain Theory in Urban Crime

  • Application: Strain theory, which posits that societal pressures can lead to crime, is often applied to understand urban crime. In cities with high inequality, residents may experience strain due to the disparity between their goals and the means available to achieve them, leading to higher crime rates.
  • Case Study: Research on crime in urban neighborhoods in the United States has shown that areas with higher economic inequality and limited access to legitimate opportunities often have higher rates of property and violent crimes.

2. Psychological Theories of Crime

Example: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Offenders

  • Application: CBT is used in rehabilitation programs for offenders to address cognitive distortions and behaviors that contribute to criminal activity. This therapy helps individuals recognize and change harmful thought patterns.
  • Case Study: The use of CBT in correctional facilities has been shown to reduce recidivism rates among participants by helping them develop healthier coping mechanisms and decision-making skills.

3. Biological Theories of Crime

Example: Genetic Research in Criminal Behavior

  • Application: Studies on the genetic basis of criminal behavior have investigated the role of specific genes, such as the MAOA gene, in predisposing individuals to aggressive behavior.
  • Case Study: Research on individuals with a variant of the MAOA gene, often referred to as the “warrior gene,” has found a higher propensity for violent behavior, particularly when combined with adverse environmental factors.

4. Criminological Theories and Public Policy

Example: Evidence-Based Policing

  • Application: Policymakers use criminological theories to design and implement evidence-based policing strategies that focus on crime hotspots and predictive policing.
  • Case Study: The Kansas City Patrol Experiment demonstrated that increasing police presence in high-crime areas can reduce crime rates. This study has influenced the development of hotspot policing strategies used in many cities today.

5. Developmental and Life-Course Criminology

Example: Early Intervention Programs

  • Application: Developmental and life-course criminology informs early intervention programs aimed at at-risk youth to prevent the onset of criminal behavior.
  • Case Study: The Perry Preschool Project provided high-quality preschool education to disadvantaged children, resulting in long-term reductions in criminal behavior and improved social outcomes.

6. Victimology in the Age of #MeToo

Example: Victim Support Services

  • Application: The #MeToo movement has led to increased funding and development of victim support services, including hotlines, counseling, and legal assistance for survivors of sexual harassment and assault.
  • Case Study: Organizations like RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) have seen significant increases in calls to their hotlines, reflecting greater awareness and willingness among victims to seek help.

7. Cybercrime

Example: Cybersecurity Measures

  • Application: Companies and governments implement cybersecurity measures to protect against hacking, data breaches, and other forms of cybercrime.
  • Case Study: The Equifax data breach in 2017 exposed the personal information of millions of individuals, leading to increased efforts by organizations to enhance their cybersecurity protocols and protect sensitive data.

8. Hate Crime

Example: Hate Crime Legislation

  • Application: Governments have enacted hate crime legislation to enhance penalties for crimes motivated by bias and to provide better protection for vulnerable groups.
  • Case Study: The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the United States expanded federal hate crime laws to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

9. Green Criminology

Example: Environmental Protection Policies

  • Application: Green criminology informs policies and practices aimed at reducing environmental crimes, such as illegal dumping, wildlife trafficking, and pollution.
  • Case Study: The enforcement of the Lacey Act in the United States, which combats trafficking in illegal wildlife, fish, and plants, demonstrates the application of green criminology principles in protecting biodiversity and ecosystems.

10. Convict Criminology

Example: Participatory Research in Prisons

  • Application: Convict criminology involves participatory research where incarcerated individuals contribute to criminological studies, providing unique insights and data.
  • Case Study: Research projects involving inmate researchers have led to valuable findings on prison conditions, inmate behavior, and the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs, helping to inform prison reform initiatives.

11. Penal Abolitionism

Example: Restorative Justice Programs

  • Application: Penal abolitionism advocates for alternatives to incarceration, such as restorative justice programs that focus on repairing harm and reconciliation between offenders and victims.
  • Case Study: The implementation of restorative justice programs in New Zealand, particularly in the juvenile justice system, has shown positive outcomes in reducing reoffending and increasing victim satisfaction.

12. Comparative Criminology

Example: Cross-National Crime Statistics

  • Application: Comparative criminology uses cross-national crime statistics to understand differences in crime rates and justice system responses across countries.
  • Case Study: The International Crime Victims Survey (ICVS) collects data from multiple countries, allowing researchers to compare victimization rates and public perceptions of crime and justice internationally.

13. Security and Place

Example: Urban Design and Crime Prevention

  • Application: Urban design principles, such as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), are used to enhance security and reduce crime in public spaces.
  • Case Study: The redesign of public housing projects in New York City using CPTED principles, such as improved lighting, natural surveillance, and secure access points, has led to reductions in crime and increased feelings of safety among residents.

14. Atrocity Crimes

Example: International Criminal Tribunals

  • Application: Atrocity crimes are addressed through international criminal tribunals that prosecute individuals responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
  • Case Study: The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) successfully prosecuted numerous individuals for crimes committed during the Yugoslav Wars, contributing to international justice and historical accountability.

15. Desistance from Crime

Example: Reentry Programs for Ex-Offenders

  • Application: Reentry programs designed to support ex-offenders in their transition back to society are informed by desistance research, which emphasizes the importance of social support and opportunities for personal growth.
  • Case Study: Programs like the Safer Foundation in Chicago provide comprehensive services, including job training, housing assistance, and counseling, to help ex-offenders reintegrate and reduce recidivism.

These real-world applications and examples demonstrate how criminological theories and research can be practically applied to address various aspects of crime and justice. They highlight the importance of evidence-based approaches and the impact of criminological insights on policy and practice.

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