Practicum

Confinement, Surveillance, Control: Renewing Anthropology’s Relationship with Criminal Justice Systems

IMG_1341

Police Call Box 3, © Jennie Simpson, 2014

This month, Practicum would like to welcome Scott Catey, Ph.D., J.D. who will be a regular contributor to the section. Dr. Catey is a Senior Program Specialist at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) and the National PREA Resource Center (PRC). PREA is the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a federal statute designed to reduce the incidence and prevalence of sexual violence in confinement facilities at federal, state, and local levels. The statute was passed in 2003, and the national PREA standards were issued in 2012 to provide the detailed regulatory requirements for PREA implementation and compliance in confinement facilities. Prior to working at NCCD and PRC, Dr. Catey worked as the PREA Coordinator for the Montana Department of Corrections, and as adjunct professor at Georgia State University and Agnes Scott College.  

Continue reading

Standard
Announcements, Call for papers

CFP: Anthropologists at the Intersections of Applied Anthropology and Criminal Justice

In March 2015, the Society for Applied Anthropology will hold its annual meeting in Pittsburg, PA. The following Call for Proposals might be of interest to some of our Anthropoliteia readers. Please direct questions to the organizers at their email addresses below.

Seeking contributions to the panel “Anthropologists at the Intersections of Applied Anthropology and Criminal Justice” at the Society for the Applied Anthropology Meeting in Pittsburg (March 24-28, 2015)

Patricia San Antonio (CRS, Inc), Jennie M. Simpson (American Anthropological Association) and Scott Catey (National Council on Crime and Delinquency)

Anthropology has a long history of scholarship on crime, security, law, and justice, including significant work by major figures in the discipline, such as Malinowski, Nader, and the Comaroffs, among others. Yet, work by applied and practicing anthropologists in criminal justice settings and on criminal justice systems, including policing, courts, corrections, and policy, has been notably missing from discussions of crime, security, law and justice in academic scholarship. In this session, we seek to bring together practicing and applied anthropologists working in criminal justice fields to highlight the contributions made by these anthropologists to scholarship, policy, direct services and other areas of applied practice, as well as the potential of this work to inform theoretical practice. Proposals are welcome that highlight anthropological research, policy and/or direct service work in criminal justice. Topical and geographic areas are open.

Please, send your abstracts to Patricia San Antonio (psananton1@gmail.com), Jennie Simpson (jenmsimpson@gmail.com) and Scott Catey (catey.scott@gmail.com) by October 6th. Selected session participants will be notified by Friday, October 10hPlease note that session participants must register and pay for the conference before the abstract deadline on October 15th.

Standard
DragNet

DragNet September 8 – 21, 2014

...just wait 'til you see the T-Shirts that were on sale at this year's Urban Shield event.

…just wait ’til you see the T-Shirts that were on sale at this year’s Urban Shield event.

“The claim that outside agitators had been the riot’s ringleaders…reiterated that black people were incapable of acting as political subjects in the defense of their humanity and rights as citizens,” writes Steven Gregory, professor of Anthropology and African American studies at Columbia University. Although applicable to the more recent Ferguson protests, Gregory’s words reference a series of similar events that occurred in 1930s Harlem. His recollection of several white-black, citizen-police fatalities exposes the need for not only institutional -but cultural- change.

Speaking of which, hopefully some of you were able to attend UC Berkeley’s forum, Black lives matter: police violence, prisons and freedom visions” on September 19th. The event featured speakers such as CeCe McDonald, Julia Chinyere Oparah and Ashon Crawley.

What can anthropology contribute to discussions of race, state-condoned brutality and violence? Pem Davidson Buck reflects on this and other questions in her post for Anthropology News, The Violence of the Status Quo.

My award for most disturbing topic of the month goes to Shane Bauer’s coverage of the 2014 Urban Shield event that was held in Oakland, California. Every year members of police and SWAT teams attend the tradeshow, where the latest tactical gadgets (including things like armored vehicles, blindness inducing flashlights and canine mounted cameras) are unveiled. Wait ‘til you see pics of the T Shirts that were on sale at the event…

Coming in at a close second on the creepiness scale is Jaeah Lee’s post, “So Basically Everyone Killed by a Cop is a Criminal, According to the FBI” And yes, it truly is as bad as it sounds. The fact that the FBI –among other things- allows jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction variation in the definition of “felon” is among Lee’s most worrisome findings.

NPR’s Gregory Warner featured an opposing view of police brutality this month. A Kenyan officer charged with the fatal shooting of two men inspired a local protest…in his favor. Find out why this instance of police brutality was “warranted” in the minds of citizens in his jurisdiction.

Police brutality often brings images of Ferguson, militarization and white-black violence to mind. But what about the seldom-mentioned tactic of police seizure of funds from people not charged with a crime (and without a warrant)? An engaging three-part expose about the questionable search and seizure practice is featured in The Washington Post.

Phew, that was a lot of bad news. Now onto the good- the Anthropology of the Good to be precise. In the words of Professor Joel Robbins, “Consensus about what constitutes good and how we separate this from bad is hard to pin down.” Cheer yourself up by reading about Robbins’ research at the University of Cambridge as well as why an Anthropology of the Good is a necessary complement to the already prevalent Anthropology of Suffering.

Also bound to make you happy is AllegraLab’s call for editorial assistants! Find out if you qualify, then send an email to their team at stuff@allegralaboratory.net before September 30th.

 

Did I miss something? No worries- it does happen on occasion. If you have any suggestions for DragNet, or if you want to call attention to a specific blog or article, send an email to anthropoliteia@gmail.com with the words “DragNet” in the subject header and I’ll get on it!

Standard
DragNet

DragNet: September 1 – 7, 2014

Smile, you're on camera. Or you will be soon. Police badge cameras have already debuted in several jurisdictions across the US including those in Florida and (soon) Washington, DC.

Smile, you’re on camera!…or you will be soon. Police badge cameras have already debuted in several jurisdictions across the US including those in Florida and (soon) Washington, DC.

“The flow is not one way, (defense) institutions also return home transformed,” writes Stuart Schrader in his post Police Empire. Stuart helped us kick-off the month of September, picking up again with the theme of police militarization. Perhaps a surprise for many to learn, Stuart discusses how militarization and “blurred” policing boundaries are hardly novel developments. Though these topics reached an apex shortly after the death of Michael Brown, the tendency of police to apply foreign tactics in home territories has been happening for several decades.

Sasha Goldstein of the New York Daily News continued the militarization thread with the story of a Texas man who was shot by police recently at a Texas truck stop. Though some officers were armed with AR-15s, more attention was gained by the (now notorious) “fist bump” exchanged between two officers. The move was caught on video following the shooting. Despite being armed with a non-lethal BB gun, the man reportedly raised the replica and pointed it at officers before they open fired.

Between police militarization and never-ending streams about officer use of force, many are wondering what if anything is being done to ensure the effective monitoring of police in the field. If you are among those scratching their heads, be sure to catch NPR’s feature “Can Body Cameras Civilize Police Encounters?” Where the benefits of badge cameras are easily perceived by the public, the lesser-known “cons” (and implementation difficulties) are often overlooked. In addition to Ferguson, officers in several jurisdictions (including Florida and soon, Washington, DC) are already adopting the technology.

David Greene wins this week for favorite “off beat topic of September-so-far,” covering the mandate for NYPD officers to attend social media 101 training. In case you forgot, the reason behind the training stems back to the April 2014 twitter campaign disaster, #myNYPD.

And last but so-not-least, the folks at Anthropoliteia were pleased to offer not one but two new posts for your reading pleasure. The first, A new grammar of public security in Brazil, was featured September 1st in our Book Reviews section. Daniel Silva reviews Paulo Mesquita Neto’s “Essays on Civilian Security” (2011). We also welcomed back In the Journals, which offers a bi-monthly rundown of recent academic publications. Be sure to check out August’s highlights!

Did I miss something? No worries- it does happen on occasion. If you have any suggestions for DragNet, or if you want to call attention to a specific blog or article, send an email to anthropoliteia@gmail.com with the words “DragNet” in the subject header and I’ll get on it!

Standard
Book Reviews

A new grammar of public security in Brazil

Mesquita Neto, Paulo. 2011. Ensaios sobre segurança cidadã [Essays on Citizen Security]. São Paulo: Quartier Latin/Fapesp.

Review of: Mesquita Neto, Paulo. 2011. Ensaios sobre segurança cidadã [Essays on Citizen Security]. São Paulo: Quartier Latin/Fapesp.  By Daniel Silva

Why has Brazil’s 1988 democratic constitution advanced in promoting broad civil and economic rights while leaving (almost) unchanged the regulation of the police and armed forces? What’s the impact of Brazil’s Human Rights National Program in recent efforts of democratizing Brazilian society and building up an alternative to a minimal neoliberal state? Why have some types of public security policies been defined without much clarity, especially those that target the non-white-elites? These are some of the questions that Paulo de Mesquita Neto – a Brazilian scholar in political science who prematurely died in 2008 – asks in this collection of essays that he gathered under the rubric of Essays on citizen security. The book as a whole bears the imprint of an author striving to combine the vocabulary and syntax of democratic rule with a scrutiny of public security in Latin America – a grammar not too simple to practice in a continent that during the 1960s and 1970s surrendered to several authoritarian regimes whose marks are still noticeable, if not overly prominent, in current political culture and public debates.

The book as a whole bears the imprint of an author striving to combine the vocabulary and syntax of democratic rule with a scrutiny of public security in Latin America

One of the first aspects of Mesquita Neto’s effort on drawing from the grammar of democracy in discussing issues of violence, security and policing in Brazil and Latin America is his meticulous investigation of definitions of police forces in Brazil’s authoritarian constitution of 1967 (issued three years after the 1964 military coup that lasted until 1985) and in the democratic constitution of 1988. He argues that the federal constitution of 1988, also known as the “Citizen’s Constitution,” has made minor or no changes with regard to the role of the armed forces and the police in security. In spite of the elimination of articles related to “National Security,” the 1988 constitution maintained the status of the armed forces as main actors in the defense of the State and its institutions, thus keeping the main institution for ostensible policing – the Polícia Militar or Military Police – under the aegis of military rule. Instead of the military notions of “national” or “internal” security, the 1988 legal text adopted the concept of public security, but did so “in an ambiguous and imprecise way” (p.34). As Mesquita Neto aptly observes, it is not clear in the Citizen’s Constitution whether “public security primarily concerns the protection of the State, the government, or the citizens” (p.35). Legally as well as practically, it is like the democratic transition hasn’t been fully accomplished inasmuch as the textual ambiguity is instantiated in the police’s military approach and commitment to the citizen. Thus, in Latin America, the idea of “citizen security” (segurança cidadã) has emerged as the understanding of security in democratic rather than authoritarian terms. Mesquita Neto ties together the book’s 17 chapters by building on the Latin American notion of citizen security and connecting it to the United Nation’s definition of “human security” as that which protects human freedoms – “freedoms that are the essence of life” (UN Commission on Human Rights 2003: Chapter 1). In this sense, this book is at once an emic description and intervention on security and the (need for) police reform in Brazil and an etic incursion into the much neglected “human” of police regulations, public security discourses, and policing practices.

Many of the essays in the book deal with the ambiguities of a military control of the police inside a democratically ruled society.

Many of the essays in the book deal with the ambiguities of a military control of the police inside a democratically ruled society. Brazil is a federation of 27 States and has three main police forces. The Polícia Federal or Federal Police are a border-control and criminal investigation police, assigned to cooperate with Interpol and other international agencies and to prevent drug trafficking, money laundering, cyber-crime and terrorism. The Polícia Civil or Civil Police are a non-uniformed force responsible for local criminal investigations. The uniformed Military Police form the largest corporation and are in charge of preventing crime by means of ostensible policing. Created in 1970 during the authoritarian regime, the Military Police are considered an auxiliary force of the Army “and have a very centralized organization, similar to the Army’s organization” (p.249). Mesquita Neto argues that the military status of the police mirrors authoritarian practices widely held in the Army and in Brazilian society. Police officers have been trained according to strict military codes of hierarchy and rituals of humiliation, under the view that their practice aims at “internal security.” The rationale behind “internal security” is that “the armed forces and the police are organized to protect the State against political enemies and social movements, and to repress social and political conflicts rather than (…) maintaining the law and public order or protecting the citizens” (p.250). In pursuing the authoritarian principles of internal defense and protection of the State, the police have historically “resorted to the use or threat of violence, particularly against underprivileged citizens and groups of Afro-Brazilians or mestizos” (p. 253).

Mesquita Neto’s thorough insistence on marking Brazil’s transition into a democratic regime is… not trivial.

Mesquita Neto’s thorough insistence on marking Brazil’s transition into a democratic regime is therefore not trivial. He begins almost every chapter by describing Brazil’s embrace of democracy after a harsh military rule and by expounding the legal and political reforms that have been made in the fields of human, civil, economic and political rights. His spelling out of the grammar of democracy entails a theoretical understanding as well as a practical delineation of the contradictions, impasses and gradual advances toward a democratic control of the police and a demilitarization of the public sphere. Whereas conservative sectors have continuously supported the use of force by the police and understood that the police are the most important, if not the only, means for curbing violence, Mesquita Neto demonstrates that violence has grown since the re-democratization started in the 1980s, and that police violence stands as one of the main forms of crime that have spread ever since. For instance, in the 1990s the military and civil polices in São Paulo killed 6.218 civilians and injured 8.711 (from 1990 to 1998) – which amounts to a medium rate of 691 deaths per year. In the same period, 1.655 police officers died and 19.657 were injured – a medium of 184 police officers killed per year (p.56). Compare this to the rates in the US and you’ll notice that these numbers are “excessively high if compared to the records in democratic countries without civil war.” From 1990 to 1997, the police killed a medium rate of 29 civilians per year in New York, 20 in Los Angeles, 12 in Chicago and 10 in Washington, DC (p.57).

Mesquita Neto refuses to accept the easy equation according to which more policing and repression equals less crime (and indeed his reading of statistical data on opinion polls, crime, violent deaths, police personnel and the like add a quantitative punch to his critical analyses). To repeat an argument that is pervasive in the book: Brazil’s democratic transition has been accompanied by the growth of violence. According to data by the World’s Health Organization, in a list of 60 countries across different continents Brazil had in 2000 the 2nd highest rate of violent deaths (27 people per 100,000 inhabitants, p.189). From an economic perspective, violence costs 10.5% of Brazil’s GDP (p. 327). Opinion polls indicate that violence is one of the country’s worst problems (p.197). For Mesquita Neto, violence is always situated violence. Thus his narration gives expression to crucial indexes of violence such as race (racial discrimination is entangled with several cases of violent crime, p.233), gender and age (in Brazilian cities with the highest rates of homicide, violence “concentrates on the male young population,” p.190), and space (violence is more prevalent in “specific spaces”, p.193). The spatiality of violence is all the more crucial in Mesquita Neto’s explanation of the rise of crime in Brazil as the homicide rates may drastically vary in Brazilian cities, betraying not only the country’s notorious inequalities but also how inequality itself is an obstacle in the pursuit of a less disjunctive rule of law and a democratic control of the police. In Rio de Janeiro, homicides may vary from 0.0 to 251.1/100,00 across neighborhoods (data from 1996, p.341). In São Paulo, data from 1999 indicate that the number of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants jumped from 4.11 in Moema (a central upper-middle class neighborhood) to 116.23 in Jardim Angela (a neighborhood in the south periphery, p.231).

From Mesquita Neto’s inquiries into citizen security to community policing, from human rights to Brazil’s and Latin America’s justice and political systems, from violence to demilitarization of the public and police reform, a map of criminality surfaces. Much beyond academia, this cartography circumscribed his political attempt to intervene in society as a scholar from the Núcleo de Estudos da Violência or Institute for the Study of Violence at the University of São Paulo, an institution that, together with other research institutes, human rights agencies and the federal Secretary of Human Rights, has influenced political debates and policy making across the recent democratic elected governments. His mapping indicates that “the highest homicide rates are located in the peripheries of large cities and metropolitan regions, where the problems of poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and lack of basic services such as healthcare, education, transport, communications, security and justice are particularly acute” (p.224). These locations are also those where serious violations of human rights have been reported – “including summary executions, torture and arbitrary arrests by the police and by private security and organized crime groups.”

The oeuvre’s democratic grammar therefore conjugates the language of democracy with spatiotemporal maps of criminality and (alleged) political viability in Brazilian cities

The oeuvre’s democratic grammar therefore conjugates the language of democracy with spatiotemporal maps of criminality and (alleged) political viability in Brazilian cities. Human rights are for him the only possible common ground for a democratic police (no longer the ambiguous “internal” policing aimed at the state and its institutions) and for non-violent democratic forms of inhabiting the social space. But the way to be paved is a long one. In drawing from scholarship on the anthropology of crime and policing such as Caldeira’s City of Walls, he elaborates on the lack of credibility of human rights in public discourses on violence. During the dictatorship, the notion of ‘human rights’ occupied most discourses demanding the release of political prisoners and claiming for civil forms of liberty such as freedom of expression and freedom of press. However, after the political transition, human rights more and more came to be referred to as “privilege for bandits.” When the scope of human rights was no longer the upper and middle classes who were persecuted during the dictatorship but common prisoners coming from “the major poor, miserable, non-white Brazilian population” (p.276), Brazil witnessed a racialization of discussions of crime, insecurity and human rights. Violent crime became a trope deployed by conservative groups, segments of the media and religious fundamentalists to proclaim human rights as malefic to public security.

Mesquita Neto contradicts the perception of human rights as “privilege for bandits” by arguing that constant violations of these fundamental rights have instead been a factor in the increase of violence in Brazilian cities.

Mesquita Neto contradicts the perception of human rights as “privilege for bandits” by arguing that constant violations of these fundamental rights have instead been a factor in the increase of violence in Brazilian cities. “Violations of human rights,” says he, “have the effect of triggering fear and distrust of the police in particular and of justice in general, thus hampering the integration between these institutions and the public” (p.132). In engaging with conceptions of human rights embraced by Brazil’s Human Rights National Program (started in Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s first government 1994-1998 and improved in Lula’s and Dilma’s mandates), he points that human rights are “not only civil and politic rights, but also economic, social, and cultural rights” (p.278). His pervasive attachment to human rights has to do with an understanding that, in Brazil, street violence is entangled with “structural violence”, that is, the violence of poverty, hunger, unemployment and precarious life conditions. Hence, crime and violence are not exactly “lucrative activities” but sometimes the last means left for impoverished groups. The author adds that, “in this scenario violations of human rights tend to lower the alternatives of actions for these peoples and groups, and may increase rather than curb their motivation for practicing crime and violence” (p.133).

One last aspect that I would like to highlight – and which is intertwined with this view of human rights – is Mesquita Neto’s effort on theorizing the democratization of the police in Brazil. Several attempts of police reform (including the demilitarization of the police and civil accountability of police agents) have been blocked by lobbies of the armed forces and the military police in the national congress. Yet, even though he deems “democratic policing [as] a distant reality in Brazil” (p.374), Mesquita Neto did not hesitate to time and again contribute to a perspective on democratic policing and on a democratic field of public security more generally. He is crystal clear in what he means with ‘democratic policing.’ First, the police are democratic when they prioritize the protection and wellbeing of citizens rather than safeguarding governments or governors. Second, democracy in the police means that the institution will be accountable to the law, not to the government. Third, a democratic police protect human rights. Fourth, the police are democratic when they are more transparent, “open to participation and control by the civil society” (p.398).

To bring this review to a close, I should recall that when Wittgenstein devised his conception of grammar, he meant that in addition to governing and regulating moves of items in a social usage of language, a grammar constitutes the very identities of these items [1]. Rules in a game such as chess do not only govern the movement of pieces but also determine their very identity. Therefore, Mesquita Neto’s resolute effort in making clear that he was not grappling with an old grammar of authoritarianism and militarization in public security but with a new grammar of democracy (and with all the difficulties, contradictions and disputes in between) is ultimately a tenacious attempt of defining the very conditions on the possibility (hence the identity) of the moves within the game of democratic policing in Brazil.

Daniel Silva teaches linguistic anthropology and pragmatic theory at the University of Rio de Janeiro (Unirio). He received his Doctorate in Linguistics from the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) in 2010. During 2007 and 2008, he did part of his doctorate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now completing an edited book on the relationships between language and violence.

[1] See, for instance, Foster, Michael, Wittgenstein on the Arbitrariness of Grammar. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.

Standard
In the Journals, Uncategorized, What's going on in Ukraine?

In the Journals – August 2014

8035396680_57ba34db9e_o

Welcome back to In the Journals, now a bi-monthly look at the recent academic publications that have come within anthropoliteia’s orbit. Summer is drawing to a close and many of us head are undoubtedly heading back to the slog of the academic year, but should you find yourself with a free moment here are some recent articles and reviews dealing critically with issues of law and order, policing, crime and the state.

Continue reading

Standard
DragNet

DragNet August 1 – 24, 2014

Whether you rely on Twitter, Facebook, Washington Post or Reddit for updates, chances are your August feed has been dominated by discussions surrounding the death of Michael Brown.

Whether you rely on Twitter, Facebook, Washington Post or Reddit for updates, chances are your August feed has been dominated by discussions surrounding the death of Michael Brown.

Whether you rely on Twitter, Facebook, Washington Post or Reddit for updates, chances are your August feed has been dominated by discussions surrounding the death of Michael Brown. Matt Thompson of Savage Minds touched upon the conflicting coverage of recent events in Ferguson (as well as the implications highlighted by news entities like The Washington Post and New York Times) in his entry, “What is a rioter?” Likewise, the short (and terrifyingly poignant) comic featured in Medium’s August 14th post expands upon the reality of modern police militarization. Among other problems, it emphasizes the role of basic training (or lack thereof) in the police use of military-issued equipment.

If militarization is of particular interest, be sure to check out Taylor Wofford’s piece in Newsweek. Although many associate the growing police use of military grade gear and weaponry with Ferguson protests, Wofford details how departments have been “silently preparing officers for battle” as far back as the early ‘90s.

The Economist’s post Cops or Soldiers? is also relevant to concerns about police militarization. More intriguing is the fact that the article was originally featured back in March (preceding the events in Ferguson). Although SWAT teams are implied as representing an important tool of departments, when and where such teams should be deployed remain key (unanswered) questions.

Of course, Anthropoliteia staff have not been silent bystanders to Ferguson discussions. Meg Stalcup offered insight about the series of events, providing the seldom-addressed topic of officer perceptions. Although the dynamic of officer-civilian relations remains mostly hostile, Stalcup posits that with officer’s “under threat perception, it’s not surprising, although unprofessional and deplorable, that officers menace the protestors they are supposed to protect.” Lastly, don’t miss Anthropoliteia’s second Ferguson post Blue on black violence and original crime: view from Oakland, California. Our developing forum featured Brad Erickson on August 21st. In his post, Erickson uses his own experiences researching the people and police of Oakland, CA to comment on the racial and militaristic implications of Michael Brown’s shooting.

Standard