The most recent (and ahead of print) issue of Crime and Justice features several articles of interest to our readers. One is an article by Michael Tonry entitled “Making American Sentencing Just, Humane, and Effective”. American sentencing laws are rigid, harsh, and often unjust. Mass incarceration is a tragedy and a national embarrassment. Laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s that mandated lengthy prison terms are the primary causes. Tonry notes that the biggest challenges are to undo mass incarceration, repeal or fundamentally overhaul the laws that caused it, and rebuild American sentencing systems. American legislators have not yet seriously addressed the subject. Hundreds of minor changes have recently been enacted, but they nibble at the edges—creating narrow exceptions to harsh laws for first offenders, narrowing criteria for probation and parole revocation, and establishing new treatment and “reentry” programs. These changes are important to individuals they affect but will not reverse mass incarceration or prevent individual injustices. In the article, Tonry argues that meaningful change will occur only when the mandatory minimum, three-strikes, life without parole, truth in sentencing, and comparable laws that required prison terms of historically unprecedented severity are repealed and new laws authorizing the release of large numbers of current prisoners are enacted and implemented. Whether these things happen will determine whether mass incarceration and wholesale injustices are much different in 2025 than they were in 2017.
The article “A brave new world: The problems and opportunities presented by new media technologies in prisons” by Yvonne Jewkes and Bianca C Reisdorf has been shared in the most recent issue of Criminology & Criminal Justice. The article discusses the digital inequalities experienced by prisoners and the potential opportunities that providing ‘new’ media in prisons offer for offender rehabilitation and resettlement. Currently denied access to online and social media that most of us take for granted, and unable to communicate in ways that have become ‘ordinary’ in the wider community, it is argued that prisoners experience profound social isolation and constitute one of the most impoverished groups in the digital age. In prisons which provide selected prisoners some access to information and communication technologies, their high socio-cultural status and consequent construction as a ‘privilege’ frequently results in them being used in the exercise of ‘soft’ power by prison officer gatekeepers. Moreover, when prisoners come to the end of their sentences, they not only are faced with prejudice and poor job prospects due to their criminal record, but their digital exclusion during a period of incarceration may have compound effects and lead to long-term and deep social exclusion.
The most recent issue of Law & Social Inquiry features the article “Beyond Punishment: The Penal State’s Interventionist, Covert, and Negligent Modalities of Control” by Nicole Kaufman, Joshua Kaiser, and Cesraéa Rumpf. This article investigates the involvement of the penal state in the lives of criminalized people as a controlling force that takes multiple forms. The authors offer the concept of modalities of penal control and identify three such modalities in addition to expressive punishment: interventionist penal control is accomplished in extralegal ways; covert penal control is hidden from public view; and negligent penal control is characterized by the absence of action by state actors. This article illustrates empirical cases of each modality, using data from three distinct projects based in Chicago, southern Wisconsin, and nationwide. The data include observations of post-prison groups and homes, interviews with criminalized people and nongovernmental organizational (NGO) staff, statutes, and regulations. This expanded understanding of penal state involvement extends beyond the understanding that characterizes discussions of mass incarceration and highlights the need for comprehensive reform.
John J Brent’s article “Placing the criminalization of school discipline in economic context” from the most recent issue of Punishment & Society explores the topic of school discipline and punishment. Much of this work explores the rise of exclusion-based policies, increasingly punitive practices, and a buildup of security in schools. Brent addresses that explanations for this often focus on large-scale incidents, the perpetuation of social inequalities, students’ perceived racial/ethnic threat, and shifts in modern governance. Little work, however, has considered the financial aspects influencing schools to adopt criminal justice-based disciplinary practices. This article expands the literature by offering a multilevel investigation that contextualizes a “criminalized school discipline” within economic conditions over the last 30 years. In particular, this article delineates how four economic trends have influenced this trend. These include changes within the postindustrial labor market, federal incentives and markets prioritizing greater school security, tightening financial resources amid budget cuts, and the criminalization of the youth consumer economy. Though prior explanations lend noteworthy explanations for the rise of a punitive disciplinary code in schools, they overlook important economic effects. Investigating these financials conditions will help unpack the complex nature of school discipline while uncovering noteworthy policy implications for how youth are reacted to and punished.
Finally, the most recent issue of Urban Studies features a fantastic article by Anja K Franck entitled “A(nother) geography of fear: Burmese labour migrants in George Town, Malaysia”. The article addresses that while scholarship around urban fear has brought forward important insights around the relationship between fear, mobility and social exclusion, questions relating to legal exclusion have largely been left outside the scope of inquiry. In cities around the world there are, however, a growing number of people who are not only de facto excluded from rights to/within the city (based on their gender, class, age etc.) – but de jure excluded based on their non-citizen or ‘illegal’ status in the host country. Drawing upon field work conducted in the Malaysian city George Town, Franck examines how both regular and irregular Burmese migrants perceive safety and danger in the city and how this, in turn, influences how they navigate urban space. The results of the study reveal how the migrants in George Town navigate the city as a ‘borderscape’ – producing a(nother) geography of fear which does not primarily reflect a fear of crime but rather a fear of state institutional practices, such as police controls, road blocks and raids. This shows, the paper argues, the need to pay attention towards both social and legal exclusions when examining how people in cities around the world are able to access and take possession of urban space.
Once again, here are a handful of book reviews that have been included in various journals that we feel are of greatest interest to our readers. The aforementioned November issue of Criminology & Criminal Justice features Harry Anison’s review of “Preventive Justice” by Andrew Ashworth and Lucia Zedner. This timely analysis of changes in correctional policy and practice argues that the recession opened a new politically feasible course away from costly levels of imprisonment. The most recent issue of Acta Sociologica features Leandro Aramburu’s review of “Experiencing European Integration: Transnational Lives and European Identity” by Theresa Kuhn. Finally, the aforementioned issue Urban Studies features a review by Alberto Rodríguez Barcón of Loretta Lees’s edited volume “Global Gentrifications: Uneven Development and Displacement”.As always, we welcome your feedback. If you have any suggestions for journals we should be keeping tabs on for this feature, or if you want to call our attention to a specific issue or article, send an email to email@example.com with the words “In the Journals” in the subject header.