These, in turn, are predicted to increase crime rates.
To test this model, the authors used interview data from 8, residents of 36 neighbourhoods in seven US cities. The findings offered partial support for the Sampson and Groves model, since social disorganization variables were more effective in transmitting the effects of structural characteristics on assault compared with robbery. Sampson, Raudenbush and Earls examined how social disorganization influences violence and crime, via its effects on collective efficacy. It follows that socially cohesive neighbourhoods will prove the most fertile contexts for the realization of social control. Using aggregated data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighbourhoods, they found that the traditional social disorganization variables explained 70 per cent of the variation in their collective efficacy measures, which, in turn, effectively mediated much of the direct effects of the social disorganization variables on violence and crime.
Cantillon et al. They argue that updated social disorganization models facilitate the assessment of truly important social processes and dynamics that result in cohesive and supportive neighbourhoods. These authors hypothesized that a sense of community was a more valid, comprehensive, and applicable measure for the mediating variables in social disorganization theory.
Data for this study was gathered by interviews in — The sample consisted of tenth-graders, one parent, and one neighbour of each tenth-grader. Mediation testing employed the principles outlined by Baron and Kenny Results supported the hypothesis that sense of community mediates the effect of neighbourhood disadvantage on youth outcomes. A number of studies have supported the idea that economic deprivation may be an important influence on social disorganization, which, in turn, as the previous research has indicated, is an important influence on youth violence.
This proposes that economic deprivation could lead to social disorganization, which in turn leads to violence and crime. Other researchers, in contrast, have argued that poverty conditions the effects of social disorganization on youth violence. That is, social disorganization in conjunction with poverty results in higher rates of youth violence than either social disorganization or poverty alone do. No mediating processes are proposed in this second explanation. The research highlighted below offers partial support for both propositions, and indicates that researchers and practitioners who are interested in the effects of social disorganization on crime should also consider the importance of economic deprivation.
Shaw and McKay viewed the economic well-being of a community as a major determinant of variation in rates of delinquency. In particular, poor communities lack adequate resources to defend their interests collectively. Shaw and McKay consistently found strong negative associations between several different indicators of neighbourhood socio-economic status and delinquency rates. However, a number of studies in the s and s argued that, while crime rates are higher in lower socio economic areas, this relationship is spurious and disappears when other area characteristics are simultaneously considered e.
Lander, for example, argued that delinquency rates reflected the level of anomie or integration in a given area and not the economic status of the area. Other researchers, in contrast, have argued that economic deprivation is a strong predictor of youth violence, independent of other influences Baron, ; Bellair, Roscigno and Mcnulty, ; Eisler and Schissel, Social disorganization researchers, in contrast to both of the above views, argue that the relationship between economic deprivation and youth violence is more complex, and could be better understood if the concept of social disorganization is integrated with economic deprivation.
Following is an examination of research in this tradition. Blau and Blau argue that when economic inequalities are associated with ascribed characteristics such as race, this creates latent animosities and a situation characterized by social disorganization. This is because such ascriptions are perceived to be illegitimate, especially in societies that value egalitarianism. This situation is made more salient by the visible marker of race. Blau and Blau suggest that these feelings lead to widespread social disorganization and violent crime.
Blau and Blau test these assertions using US data for a sample of Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas with populations of more than , The findings support their hypothesis. Eamon conducted research that is consistent with the findings of Blau and Blau In doing so, he examined the influence of parenting practices, environmental influences and poverty on anti-social behaviour.
Deviant peer pressure and neighbourhood problems partially mediate the relation between poverty and young adolescent anti-social behaviour. Both of the above studies are supportive of the idea that economic deprivation could lead to social disorganization, which in turn can lead to youth violence. The research by Smith and Jarjoura , Warner and Pierce , and Warner and Roundtree , in contrast to the above, all support the idea that poverty may moderate the relationship between social disorganization and crime. That is, social disorganization may lead to crime, but the effects are even more pronounced when social disorganization occurs within the context of high levels of poverty.
Smith and Jarjoura examine the relationship between neighbourhood characteristics and rates of violent crime and burglary. The authors use data from 11, individuals in 57 US neighbourhoods from three Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas to test their hypotheses. Specifically, an interaction between percentage of low income households and residential mobility is a significant predictor of violent crime.
Communities that are characterized by rapid population turnover and high levels of poverty have significantly higher violent crime rates than mobile areas that are more affluent, or poor areas that are characterized by more stable populations.
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These results hold, regardless of level of urbanization, and are found in each of the three Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas for which the authors examined data. In the case of burglary, in contrast to violent crime, the interaction terms were not significant. Warner and Pierce examine social disorganization theory using calls to the police as a measure of crime. Data were gathered from 60 Boston neighbourhoods in The authors argue that data based on complainant reports of crime, rather than official police reports, allow for the investigation of differences in findings based on victimization data and official crime data.
The rates of assault, robbery, and burglary are regressed on poverty, residential mobility, racial heterogeneity, family disruption, and structural density. Interaction terms for poverty and heterogeneity, poverty, and mobility, and mobility and heterogeneity are also explored. The authors find that each of the social disorganization variables predicted crime rates, with poverty being the strongest and most consistent predictor.
Interaction terms constructed between poverty and racial heterogeneity and poverty and residential mobility were also fairly stable predictors of crime. Similarly to Smith and Jarjoura , the results indicate that poverty strengthens the effects of social disorganization on crime. Warner and Roundtree employ a sample of Seattle census tracts and investigate the influence of poverty, racial heterogeneity, residential stability, and interaction terms on assault and burglary. Consistent with the results of Smith and Jarjoura and Warner and Pierce , they find that an interaction term between poverty and residential stability significantly predicts both dependent measures.
The studies cited in this section indicate that economic deprivation is an important factor to consider when examining the influence of social disorganization on crime. Two relationships between these constructs have been suggested by the existing research. Firstly, poverty may increase social disorganization, which in turn may lead to youth violence.
Secondly, poverty may moderate or condition the relationship between social disorganization and youth violence. Specifically, the influence of social disorganization on crime may be more pronounced in poorer areas and attenuated in more affluent areas. In addition to examining the results of studies that use social disorganization as a predictor of youth violence, it is important to assess the relative importance of social disorganization when compared with other theories of crime. This may be done through an assessment of the findings of review studies, and by examining the findings of meta-analytical studies that have attempted to assess the relative importance of various theories of crime.
One review study Sampson, Morenoff and Gannon-Rowley, and one meta-analytical study Pratt and Cullen, will be examined. In doing so, they examine the range of studies that have used social disorganization as a predictor of crime to assess whether this variable has generally been found to be important.
Over 40 studies published in peer-reviewed journals from the mids to are included. The analysis evaluates the salience of social-interactional and institutional mechanisms hypothesized to account for neighbourhood-level variations in a variety of phenomena e. Neighbourhood ties, social control, mutual trust, institutional resources, disorder and routine activity patterns are highlighted. The review indicates that crime rates are related to neighbourhood ties and patterns of interaction, social cohesion, and informal social control, and are generally supportive of a social disorganization explanation.
Pratt and Cullen conduct a meta-analysis, which examines the relative effects of macro-level predictors of crime in relation to seven macro-level criminological perspectives. The analysis included empirical studies, published between and , that contained statistical models that produced a total of 1, effect size estimates. Except for incarceration, variables indicating increased use of the criminal justice system e. Pratt and Cullen , in their meta-analysis of seven macro-level criminological perspectives, found that criminal justice system variables were consistently among the weakest predictors of crime, with the exception of incarceration, which was negatively related to crime rates.
Over all, the most obvious implication of the findings is the likely futility of continued efforts to reduce crime by focusing exclusively on criminal justice system dynamics, with the possible exception of incarceration. The wisdom of expanded imprisonment must nonetheless be balanced against its financial costs and its questionable impact on the social vitality of inner cities. This implies that policy-makers must exercise caution when ignoring the root causes of crime and placing potentially excessive faith in criminal justice solutions to control crime. Social disorganization theory suggests that public spending and private investment must be concentrated in the most impoverished areas.
This does not mean spending more human service dollars for the underclass by funding well-intentioned programs run by middle-class providers located on the periphery of the poorest neighbourhoods. Rather, this suggests that money be spent mainly on programs physically located in underclass neighbourhoods, run by people with ties to the neighbourhoods they intend to serve.
This policy has the effect of targeting programs for the underclass while also strengthening minority agencies or creating new agencies within very poor neighbourhoods. These agencies not only provide services, but can also provide jobs for neighbourhood residents. As employment opportunities increase and better-funded local agencies become centres for social action, pressures on working- and middle-class residents to flee should decrease. Such an approach will also simultaneously strengthen residential ties and interconnections within neighbourhoods. Social disorganization theory suggests that family preservation programs should be funded.
This is because the family may be able to resist the deleterious effects of social disorganization on their children, and since strong families may also work together to reduce social disorganization in their communities. Family preservation programs are short-term, intensive, empowerment model programs, which focus not on an individual client but rather on the needs of the entire family. Nelson, Landsman and Duetelman indicate that one of the most encouraging advances in social work in the past decade has been the development of family preservation programs.
Social disorganization theory implies that large public bureaucracies should become more neighbourhood-based and more open to input from clients and the neighbourhoods they serve. Reminiscent of the s community control movement Altshuler, , current research suggests that social control is least effective when imposed by outside forces. Community controls are strengthened most when informal community-level networks are voluntarily tied to external bureaucracies and other resources Figueira-McDonough, Diverse reform trends in policing, education and social services all stress more community involvement in public bureaucracies Chubb and Moe, ; Comer, ; Goldstein, ; Kamerman and Kahn, Decisions in the early years were also shaped by judgements made regarding family structure, with those in kinship, foster care or single parent families at age 11 having far greater odds of being referred to a hearing than other young people in the cohort from two parent step or birth families.
Gender was significant in the modelling at age 15 and 22 but in different ways. In the more punitive phase of policy, young women had heightened odds of being brought to hearing when other factors were held constant, whereas at age 22 men had greater odds of being brought to court. Importantly in all of the modelling, early police contact was found to be a core driver of later system involvement. In the age 11 model, early referral by the police to juvenile justice by age 5 interacted with socio-economic status such that youngsters from low socio-economic status with early referrals had five and a half times greater odds of being brought to a hearing at age 11 than their more affluent counterparts.
At age 15, low socio-economic status and early police referral remained significant as main effects in the final model with those from low socio-economic status backgrounds having two and half times greater odds of being brought to a hearing and those who had been referred by the police to juvenile justice a decade or more ago, having almost twelve times greater odds of being brought to a hearing, even when controlling for offending and level of needs.
At age 22, there is again an interaction effect between socio-economic status and early history of police contact. Those who had been unemployed for over a year and who had been referred by the police to juvenile justice at age 15 had nine times greater odds of being brought to court in comparison with other groups. Finally in both the punitive and compassionate phases of policy, having a history of hearings referrals and court referrals was also found to drive institutional dynamics. At 15 those who had been referred on offence grounds in the previous year had almost three times greater odds of being brought to a hearing and at age 22 those who had been brought to court in the previous year had almost fourteen times greater odds of being brought to court again, even when controlling for offending behaviour and a range of demographics.
In sum, the findings presented are indicative of continuities in institutional practices, predicated on culturally constructed rules of recognition. The day-to-day decision making of the police and the Reporter or prosecutor depending on age and stage serves to construct a set of characteristics that are associated with trouble-maker status. These characteristics are not always linked to the behaviour of the individual but rather to their socio-economic status, their gender at some ages and their institutional histories.
Importantly, many of the factors that are strongly linked to system contact are not under the control of the young person. Read at this level the justice system functions as a disciplinary mechanism for particular categories of youngsters, especially those from the most impoverished backgrounds.
This functioning has belied any academic or indeed political impact, remaining invisible from levers of government and semi-detached from the broader democracy project of the post-devolutionary years. Importantly, the effect of all these institutional and systemic dynamics is disempowering for the young people who are made subject to their tutelage, and it is to the evidence for this that the next section turns.
The previous section suggested that the institutional histories and structural position of young people shape their encounters with official agencies over time. In this section, the impact of these dynamics on the life chances and well-being of young people will be examined. As I will demonstrate, contact with the juvenile and adult systems appears to have limited impact on self-reported offending, but rather entrenches young people in poverty, thereby reinforcing and reproducing the conditions that make criminal justice contact more likely.
Again, these consequences appear remote from both political influence and the research base. Earlier published analysis from the Edinburgh Study showed that the more intensive the contact with the juvenile justice system in the mid-teenage years, the more desistance from offending was inhibited over a one-year follow-up period McAra and McVie This paper extends the earlier analysis by exploring the impact of early contacts by age 12 over a much longer time frame up to the age of The two groups, whose histories are being followed, were matched at age 12, utilizing the technique of propensity score matching, on the basis of gender, family structure, family socio-economic status, free school meal entitlement, neighbourhood deprivation, serious offending self-reported , drug use, hanging about public places, adversarial police contact, truancy and school exclusion.
These were all factors which analysis showed increased the propensity for young people to come into contact with the juvenile justice system at an early age. The similarities between the two groups were particularly marked with regard to self-reported violent offending, as set out in Figures 1 and 2 below. In spite of these similarities, the two groups had very different institutional histories. The dissonance between self-reported offending and criminal justice pathways is intriguing and requires further exploration.
However, of significance for this paper is the lack of connection between political command and control and the impact of intervention on young people, and the ways in which institutional cultural practices would appear to have rather a limited effect on the process of desistence, serving instead to reproduce a particular client group, who find it difficult to escape the institutional gaze. Rather than impacting behaviour, the Edinburgh Study findings suggest that system contact serves to reproduce the structural disadvantages of the system curated group. Here, the analysis turns once more the whole cohort, and the risks of being not in education, employment or training by the age of Research has shown that young people who are NEET become entrenched in poverty and worklessness and often lack the skills, capacity and social capital to turn around their situation Simmons et al.
By age 18, around 6 per cent of the cohort reported that they were not in education, training or employment. Descriptive analysis showed that contacts with the juvenile justice system were significantly linked to later NEET status. A binary logistic regression model was specified to test whether such contacts continued to be predictive of later NEET status when other school and family factors were held constant.
The findings from the modelling are set out in Table 3. As shown in Table 3 , core dimensions of the school experience shaped the odds of being NEET including poor relationships with teachers, lack of attachment to school and low aspirations. Indeed, those with experience of compulsory of measures of care were almost four times more likely to be NEET at age 18 in comparison with the young people in the cohort with no such history and those who referred by the police to the juvenile justice system for offending were around three times more likely to be NEET at age The findings from the Edinburgh Study would suggest that there is a natural pattern of desistence from offending amongst the young people who have been involved in serious offending from an early age, whether or not the individual experiences institutional contact.
However, the findings also show that systemic contact entrenches the structural disadvantages of the young people who become part of a usual suspect client group. The inter-systemic continuity occurs in the context of major transformations at the level of political dialogue and discourse and serves to support the cultural continuities in referral practices such that poverty increases the risks of systemic contact, and systemic contact increases the risks of poverty.
What then are the implications of the Scottish case for the nature and function of disciplinary engagement with politics and policy, the future of the impact agenda, and its attendant risks and rewards? The Scottish case highlights the need for criminologists to engage more fully with the dynamics of criminal justice as differentiated and multilevel phenomena, exercised concomitantly as political strategy and institutional performance, and the ways in which the spatial and temporal manifestations of such governance are experienced by those who become the object of regulation.
The findings set out in this article demonstrate that we should not assume that a linear or even hierarchic flow exists between political command, practical implementation and the longer term impact on those who come within the purview of the criminal justice system. Time and again the history of Scottish criminal justice developments have highlighted the ways in which practitioner groups have subverted the policy imperatives of government, through outright challenge or by ignoring or quietly dropping key demands; and how their day-to-day performance is shaped more by the exercise of discretion and cultural working practices with Edinburgh Study findings highlighting core continuities over the variant phases of policy.
This has occurred in a context where most politicking has been conducted under the assumption that there will be a causal pathway, or at the very least, a logical relationship, between political vision, policy construction and implementation, and impact on crime. Indeed, governments within the post-devolution era in Scotland have exercised their right to rule first and foremost through the construction of bureaucracy, and subsequently through imposing managerial controls.
The language of performance management is used in the attempt to hold agencies to account and gives the external imprimatur of rationality and control for a system in which practitioners have evolved an alternative set of rationales that appear impervious to change. Discretion in these moments is shaped by culturally transmitted rules of recognition, which render the poorest youngsters more vulnerable to intervention, resulting in repeated and more intensive forms of institutional contact.
In this way, each of the core filters in the juvenile justice system, namely the police and the Reporter, and later the adult criminal courts, works to produce a systemic client group, a path-dependency that has negative effects on the life-chances of the young people involved.
The consequence for those who both become the objects of regulation is to sustain the very structural conditions that underscore policing practices. System contact begets poverty, with early referral to, and supervision within the system of juvenile justice, heightening significantly the odds of later NEET status. Importantly, the moral boundaries delineated by institutional performance reinforce class distinctions, and place socio-economic differentiation at the heart of governance, even where this is not explicitly acknowledged.
The ways in which institutions contribute to the reproduction of structural disadvantage and poverty do not form part of managerialist imperatives, are never made subject to audit and almost never form the basis of critical self-reflection. As a consequence, even the most benign and wholly well-intentioned political motives have resulted in democratic deficit. Finally, what are the lessons for criminology in terms of how to engage with policy and practice for maximum impact? Where criminal justice becomes a centre-piece in polity building, a shared vision is a prerequisite of engagement and impact.
Pre-devolution, influential academics became part of a broader rights claim to self-determination, and their research evidence formed a bulwark against more the punitive developments south of the border in England. In the immediate post-devolutionary period, much academic research ran counter to the populist imperatives of a new government striving for legitimacy, and thus the influence of many scholars diminished.
The rising impact of the specialist advisor politicized the evidence base, with policy change being supported by partial readings of criminological knowledge or outright rejection. More recently, the compassionate justice of the SNP administrations has once again brought the wider academic community into close dialogue with government and key institutions.
However, even where academic discourse directly influences political dialogue and debate and flows into policy, the extent to which this in turn shapes the performance of criminal justice institutions is highly variable. Where academics have built up strong institutional relationships with key agencies such as SPS , this is generally with the institutional leaders rather than practitioners on the ground.
Unless academics evolve an appreciation of the ways in which discretionary spaces inhabited by practitioners are used and reproduced, then any influence that they may have over the direction of policy will not impact the lives of young people. Taken together, the findings suggest that criminologists need to evolve multilevel strategies for engagement to maximize impact and to look for multiple points of entry into discussion and debate.
There is a need for consciousness raising amongst politicians and the wider public on the dissonance between political promise and institutional performance; a need to explore how the various dimensions of criminal justice can be made to work more holistically and systemically to deliver better outcomes; and a need to work with institutional leaders and practitioners to challenge damaging cultural practices and support positive action for justice based on best practice and evidence. To conclude, the findings from the Scottish Case have profound implications for knowledge construction and the impact agenda.
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This means we need to be as much disruptive as ameliorative and to be reflexive about the politics of knowledge production within our own scholarly and institutional settings. There is a need to understand the wider structural forces that shape politics to recognize that poverty is a recurring backdrop for criminal justice activity and that the criminal justice system plays a core role in its reproduction over time. A key lesson from the Scottish case is that those who come into conflict with the law have generally lived through variant policy framings and have transitioned from juvenile to adult institutional settings.
The Edinburgh Study findings have highlighted the curatorial dimensions of these processes: something dominant impact narratives within the academy rarely grasp or interrogate. The promotion of transformative action requires reflexivity on the part of agencies regarding their practices and the manner in which they damage young people through recreating the problems, which they are set up to contain or eradicate. That these deleterious practices are not always intended or understood by politicians, institutional leaders or practitioners poses challenges for the criminologist in terms of the impact agenda.
Fundamentally, it is not possible for criminologists to evolve a praxis without combining the role of problem raiser and problem solver and without consciously constructing the opportunities to negotiate and influence. As criminologists we have to learn how to critique in a holistic way and ensure we do not ourselves sacrifice truth to power. Grateful thanks are due to all cohort members who participated in the research and to the many interviewers employed in the most recent phase of the programme. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford.
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