The field of criminology appears to be growing all the time. As more researchers join the field, the diversity of subjects that criminologists want to research is also increasing. As a result, there are now criminological topics being studied that were not prominent a few decades ago. Green Criminology (the analysis of environmental harms from a criminological perspective) and Queer Criminology (criminological research on LGBTQ people and their interactions with the criminal justice system) are just two of these fields.
A third new field that I want to focus on is Convict Criminology. It is a hard term define in a single sentence but it is essentially the study of crime, criminology and the criminal justice system from a convict’s perspective.
Here is a link to a blog post that got me interested in this topic:
The basic premise surrounding convict criminology is that before this field began, virtually the entire study of criminology was undertaken by academics and criminal justice practitioners with occasional input from victims of crime. However, there had previously been little input from offenders. Yet this is the group of people that criminology is focused on.
Criminology, defined as simply as possible, is the study of crime. In it’s simplest form, it seeks to understand why people commit crime, what causes people to stop committing crime and how the criminal justice system can best respond to crime so that reoffending is lowered and society is as safe as possible. Given the huge problem of reoffending which demonstrates how ineffective our criminal justice system arguably is, you might think that a considerable contribution to criminology would be made by offenders. Yet the opposite is true.
There are two reasons why researchers are reluctant to interview current offenders. Firstly is that offenders are not always honest. Secondly, it is very difficult and time-consuming to gain ethical approval and gain access to prisoners.
These issues do not apply to ex-prisoners. However many ex-prisoners are reluctant to take part in academic research because they are trying to rebuild their lives and do not want to discuss their previous offending or period of imprisonment.
The growth of convict criminology can hopefully overcome these issues and to ensure that offenders are given a bigger chance to contribute to criminology. The crux of the discipline is “to use our own experience to improve the academic literature.” That quote is from Richard, one of the convict criminologists featured in the blog post linked to earlier.
That seems to be an excellent way forward.