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i s r f

b u l l e t i n

Issue XVI

Law

Social Organisation & Social Control

Edited by Dr Rachael Kiddey


i s r f

b u l l e t i n

Issue XVI

Law

Social Organisation & Social Control


First published June 2018 Copyright © 2018 Independent Social Research Foundation


TABLE OF CONTENTS

EDITORIAL 6 FROM THE DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH

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STAGING THE ATMOSPHERES OF STATE 11 STATES OF EXCEPTION, TORTURE AND THE CONTROL OF RACIAL OTHERS 15 DEBT, LAW AND DISCIPLINE 21 DEATHS IN POLICE CUSTODY AS CULTURAL CONTESTS

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THE LIVED EXPERIENCE OF ‘CARROTS’ AND ‘RISKS’

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EDITORIAL Dr. Rachael Kiddey ISRF Academic Editor

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e are taught to think of ‘the law’ as a body of rules that are fixed, if changeable, through recognised, legal means. But Illan Rua Wall (this edition) asks us instead to think of the law as a ‘site of politico-legal thinking’. As an archaeologist, I find the proposition that we might think of the law as a ‘site’ appealing. Firstly, the language is familiar to me, suggestive that there might be multiple ways in which people ‘respond’ to the confines it imposes upon them (see also, Bulletin Issue XV). Secondly, it liberates law from its oft assumed position of safe privilege, and instead, allows us to think of it as a space in which to think, discuss, and debate, in potentially transformative ways. What is the law? How is it created and enforced? As a system of culturally attuned rules designed to control behaviour that is upheld through a variety of state-endorsed institutions, the law affects everyone – the living and the dead. In its quest to protect people and private property, the law of the land is administrated through the use of violence where the state deems this necessary. At times, such ‘systems of sovereignty’ are plainly designed to be injurious and explicit in their use of violence as forms of, often overtly racialised, social control (see Heath, this edition). As such, although it may be intended that the law applies to all people equally, in practice its weight is biased according to race and also access to social and financial capital. For example, police are six times more likely to ‘stop and search’ black people than white people in the U.K.1, while the inequalities borne of indebtedness continue to function as an increasingly powerful form of social control (see Gerber, this edition).

1. https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/crime-justice-and-the-law/policing/stop-and-search/latest 6


DR. RACHAEL KIDDEY

It is not therefore unreasonable to contend that, in the eyes of the law, only those identified by the legal system as citizens are considered ‘deserving’ of its protection; those undocumented – migrants, travellers, refugees etc. – and those legally ascribed as having ‘lost’ their rights to legal protection – prisoners and homeless people, for example – are cast as outsiders, often, left to the mercy of underground gangs and protection rackets. Such circumstances, of course, only increase the likelihood that those cast out by the law come into close contact with the institutions and bodies charged with upholding it – border control, detention centres, police, and prisons, for example. Framing deaths in police custody as a cultural phenomenon, Ian Loader (this edition) sheds light on why it is that such deaths are reputedly less important than other forms of violent death. Identifying a pattern of circularity within the discourse around custodial deaths, Loader conceptualises the deaths of those who die in police stations as a form of sacrifice – sacrifices, he suggests, designed to underline the authority of the police. Even those prisoners who choose rehabilitation and integration into mainstream society face difficulties doing so. Responding to the current U.K. Justice Minister David Gauke’s announcement that he will increase the use of Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL), Julie Parsons and Sarah Hocking reflect on the challenges this seemingly good news presents for prisoners. As project participant Quentin, interviewed by Parsons and Hocking, observes: “[staff] attitudes changes towards you [once a prisoner is granted ROTL] because they know you’re no threat. You can feel the change. It’s palpable… but if I was seen talking to a prison officer, it’s either I’m grassing someone up or you just don’t do it. If I come out [on ROTL], I’m going to be a social pariah, I must be stitching someone up, I must be sweetgrassing someone up or I must be up to something. I’ve just realised it is like being back at school…you’ve got your playground bullies”

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EDITORIAL

This edition of the Bulletin complements a study day of the same name, which will bring together scholars working on a variety of aspects of law, policing, criminology, prisoner rehabilitation, and social welfare. It is hoped that the articles presented here, together with presentations at the study day, will stimulate wide-ranging consideration of the ways in which notions and practices of the law are challenged and reconfigured in different disciplinary domains and epistemic traditions, and in conjunction with contemporary developments ranging from ‘austerity’ to cultural protest as documented in photographs printed on page 20 in this issue (from the archives of Matthew Smith).

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FROM THE DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH Dr. Louise Braddock

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nterdisciplinarity has always been a touchstone reference of a rather ambiguous kind for the ISRF. As practically applied in our research funding decisions, the concept hovers in conceptual space between the axes of the multi-, the inter- and the transdisciplinary. It was the topic of our first Workshop in 2013; then, I pondered the meaning of the word; now, I am not sure I’m much further forward. Five years ago (in Bulletin Issue II) I wrote that ‘it seemed best to seek help from others and investigate how the concept of interdisciplinarity is understood by researchers themselves’. The 2019 ISRF Prize Essay competition advertised in this Bulletin re-poses this enquiry, asking for submissions which interrogate in a radical way the ‘very idea’ of interdisciplinarity. That early Bulletin was entitled Conversation: Interdisciplinarity and Innovation; Bulletin Issue XIV re-visited the theme of conversation. The knowledge-world of social science is however dauntingly hard to apprehend and engage with; ever more wide-ranging, critical, and open-ended, its very range, interconnectedness and openendedness make navigation difficult, let alone conversation. The ISRF attempts to facilitate entry by providing, in different ways, a ‘site’ for conversation to take place. One thread running through the conversation of the five articles in this Bulletin is the central irrationality in social construction from exception; the circular reasoning in which a society constructs some of its members as Other by denying them legal status, while at the same time legitimating that denial by reference to their constructed otherness; post hoc becomes propter hoc. Though egregious, the irrationality is neither simple nor wilful; it is profoundly rooted in social anxieties. It is also entrenched, serving many functions which hold it in place. Recorded in these

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FROM THE DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH

articles we see: the recruitment of exclusionary ‘logics’ by social imaginaries of state atmosphere and white male supremacy; the interaction of legal exception with distortions of subjectivity in the lived experience of precarity and violence; such distortion, in the form of hopelessness, deviance, and illness, in interaction with economic and political exclusion, then leading to further legal exception; finally exception, justified by the symbolic weight of sacrifice, generates a vicious circularity between institutionalised violence and institutionalised expiation.1 To offset, if only a little, the bleakness of all this, we include some images grouped around the theme of acts of self re-making: the making of objects; the objects themselves as objects of hope; the acts of resistance.

1. See also Stevens, S. (2017). Life and letting die: A story of the homeless, autonomy, and anti-social behaviour. Organization Studies, 38(5), 669-690 - awarded the 2016 ISRF Essay Prize in Organisation Studies. 10


STAGING THE ATMOSPHERES OF STATE Dr. Illan Wall ISRF Early Career Fellow (2016-17);, Associate Professor of Law, University of Warwick

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n a windy evening in the spring of 2008, a group of eighteen largely white ‘nerdy libertarians’ arrived at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C.. They each inserted earphones and began individual, uncoordinated dancing. Later before the District Court they would explain that they were celebrating Thomas Jefferson’s 265th birthday, and honouring ‘the individualist spirit’ for which he was known. They were protesting without a crowd, interrupting without disorder. In response, the Court in Oberwetter v Hilliard and Salazar affirmed the importance of an atmosphere of calm reverence at sites of public memorials.1 The state had an over-riding interest in maintaining the atmospheric conditions of the national memorials. Looking at this relatively unremarkable US free speech case, I want to suggest that we find a fascinating insight into the affective conditions necessary for staging the state.

We get a sense of the events from two videos posted by ‘freethejefferson1’ on YouTube. In the first, the camera quickly picks up a gathering of graceless gestures by the rear wall: A balding man in a tee-shirt bounces around, almost moshing; a tall ungainly man wearing a sports coat gesticulates wildly; while others bob more carefully, hands moving this way and that. Soon the park rangers arrive and begin to disperse the dancers. The second video is largely made up of the conversation between a park ranger and Ms Mary Brooke Oberwetter – who would later take the case to the District Court. The ranger insists: ‘You saw 1. Oberweter v Hilliard and Salazar Civil Action No. 09-0588, available at http:// voices.washingtonpost.com/crime-scene/jeffersondecision.pdf 11


STAGING THE ATMOSPHERES OF STATE

the sign: Quiet!’ Oberwetter responds that they were being quite, after all it was a silent disco. So the ranger shifts tack: ‘You were Dancing in here. That is disorderly.’ The conversation continues until the ranger loses patience. After a number of warnings, he arrests Oberwetter and escorts her away. She was detained for five hours and later cited for an unauthorised demonstration and interfering with an agency function. While no further action was taken, Oberwetter took the case to the District Court for the District of Columbia. Among other things, she sought a declaration that the actions of the Park rangers violated the first amendment of the US Constitution – protecting free speech. The court dismissed Oberwetter’s claims, finding that the Park Service was entitled to place restrictions on speech because it was a non-public space for the purposes of the First Amendment. It is important to note, at this point, that there are a variety of ways of reading legal texts. As lawyers, we are trained to read them for their precedental value, the question is what principle they establish, what nuance or novelty emerges in this new decision. But if we look at law as a site of politico-legal thinking, rather than as an authority generator then the precedental value of a decision becomes far less significant. Oberwetter’s case has little precedental significance. It is an uncontroversial reaffirmation of classic US free speech doctrine. But, it contains a beautiful moment of insight into the manner in which the state is staged. The space of the Jefferson Memorial was not ‘public’ for the purposes of the First Amendment. It was as a special enclave, distinct from the public space of the parklands and sidewalks around it. As such, the Park Services were entitled to place certain restrictions on speech, so long as they were reasonable, given the purpose that the regulations sought to effect. The key aim that the Park Service’s intervention sought to protect was ‘an atmosphere of calm, tranquillity and reverence’. These atmospheric regulations also applied to the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln and Vietnam Veteran’s Memorials. The atmospheric dynamics of the space are important here.

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DR. ILLAN WALL

Like the earlier Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial is a monumental space, designed to convey the historical significance of the figure. Jefferson towers sternly within the space, holding the Declaration of Independence in his left hand. His dark bronzed figure contrasting against the white marble of the floor and walls, and the brilliant limestone of the cupola. The visitor must approach the building from the tidal basin, climbing the steps to a single portico entrance. As they enter, the space opens up above them, underlining its enormity. The enclosed height presses down on those who enter, like a cathedral, encouraging hushed tones, careful speech and contemplation of the enormity. The space encloses around the visitor, with four framed vistas of the capital. The Memorial is part of the monumental spaces of US statecreation. If there was any doubt as to constitutional significance of the space, there is a direct line of sight between the Jefferson Memorial and the White House. In the political imaginary, the Memorial is a space from which the citizen contemplates the enormity of the project of building a ‘united states’. But it is also imagined to work in the opposite direction, where the resident of the White House interiorises Jefferson’s watchful eye. The significance of the space in the political imaginary allows us to understand why the atmosphere might need to be protected. Atmospheres are the affective condition of a space. The built environment conducts atmospheres, which is to say that the design of a space can encourage or discourage common affects. Certain spaces conduct atmospheres with greater intensity: A stadium is designed to face one crowd off against another, to intensify affects by circling the playing field; a lecture theatre is designed to focus attention on the stage, but an audience should also interiorise the view of the people behind them who look over their shoulder. But it is not simply the manner in which the space distributes bodies, as Zumthor points out, the building materials, flow, rhythm and soundscape are all crucial atmospheric dynamics1. The conditions of a space help conduct the atmosphere. So, in a very different context, one could contrast the light cast by burning tiki-torches or 1. Zumthor, P. (2006). Peter Zumthor: Atmospheres. Birkhäuser. Chicago 13


STAGING THE ATMOSPHERES OF STATE

burning cars to the crisp, ‘sterile’ atmosphere engendered by police flood-lighting. However, while the spatial conditions conduct atmosphere, they do not determine the atmospheres that emerge. Even a space that is intensely conditioned and managed may be interrupted. This is the over-riding worry in the Oberwetter case. The dancing itself disrupts the atmosphere of reverence and awe. But it does so by lightening the atmosphere. It is hardly disorderly. While the dancers might not be a crowd, Judge Bates worried that they will attract one. The state ‘need not wait until havoc is wreaked’, he quotes, to restrict this type of speech1. Of course, a small crowd of spectators watching a silent disco is hardly ‘havoc’. But, this is not merely hyperbole. ‘Havoc’ here does not mean widespread civil unrest, riot and revolt. Quite clearly, the Memorial is a significant site of national attachment and imagination. It is invested with the dignity of foundation. This is embodied by Jefferson with the Declaration of Independence in his hand. The figure is supposed to resonate with citizens as they come face to face with the origins of their state. The memorial makes the state monumentally present, staging a symbolic relation between the offices of state. As Lauren Berlant remarks, this is the function of Washington: ‘When Americans make the pilgrimage to Washington they are trying to grasp the nation in its totality.’2 Washington is a place of ‘national mediation’, she writes. The Jefferson Memorial is a crucial site in this mediation between the state and nation. It is in this context that we can understand Judge Bates’ worry about ‘havoc’. It is not physical disorder that he contemplates, but the manner in which the staging of the dignity of foundation might be disrupted. It is an affective and symbolic havoc that he fears. The atmosphere of dignity and awe must be secured against those who might lessen it.

1. Oberweter v Hilliard and Salazar, 18 2. Berlant, L. G. (1997). The queen of America goes to Washington City: Essays on sex and citizenship. Duke University Press. 14


STATES OF EXCEPTION, TORTURE AND THE CONTROL OF RACIAL OTHERS Dr. Deana Heath ISRF Mid-Career Fellow (2017-18); Senior Lecturer in Indian and Colonial History, University of Liverpool

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he torture regime initiated by the United States in Iraq and other contexts in the aftermath of 9/11 was spurred by a spectacular moment of boundary transgression that, in fracturing the external borders of the United States, made manifest a new imperial, biopolitical and exceptional global order. Such an order has witnessed the escalation of new forms of violence, including both what Slavoj Žižek, in Violence: Six Sideways Reflections (2008), terms subjective violence, which is a disruption of the ‘normal’ state of things (such as drone attacks), and objective violence, which includes both structural and symbolic violence (such as, in the case of the former, infrastructural warfare and economic sanctions, and in the latter the wide-scale denigration of Muslim cultures). Central to both such forms of violence has been a stunning disregard for the lives of others, primarily Muslims, vast numbers of whom have been reduced to what, in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1998) the philosopher Giorgio Agamben terms ‘bare life’, and untold (and uncalculated) numbers killed with impunity. The new global order has also, however, been marked by the scandalous resurgence of an older and more familiar form of violence, namely torture, which instead of being a ‘barbaric’ remnant of the West’s recent past and an aberrant aspect of the present, has revealed itself to be central to the manufacture of sovereignty (and, in light of wide-scale public support for such violence, of consent) in liberal democratic states. My aim, here, is tease out the exceptional nature of Abu Ghraib

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STATES OF EXCEPTION, TORTURE AND THE CONTROL OF RACIAL OTHERS

and the sorts of violence such a legal state of exception made possible – particularly torture – as well as to think about how both the exception and the scandals that exceptional spaces produce operate as means of controlling racial others. The generation of a state of exception by the United States after 9/11 was, to begin with, spurred by boundary loss, namely by a shattering of the United States’ belief that it has a right to transgress the sovereign borders of other states, but never to be in the position of having its own borders transgressed. The country’s response to such a threat was to declare a national emergency, which included the enactment of a military order regarding the “Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism”. The order sanctioned the indefinite detention and extra-judicial trial of individuals engaged in what the U.S. regarded as suspected terrorist activities who were not United States citizens. Suspects detained under the order could be jailed without charge, refused knowledge of the evidence used against them and sentenced by courts that followed no recognised rules. Guantánamo, an imperial relic, was selected as the site of detention for such suspects in light of its ambiguous sovereign status as part neither of Cuba nor the United States. What the order therefore established was a state of exception, for in eradicating the legal status of individuals such an order served to suspend the juridical order and render them subject to a system of rule outside the law and judicial oversight. It was this suspension of the law that enabled the extension of sovereign power through governmental practices, namely through the aegis of managerial officials, operating extra-legally, who assumed the power to decide who was to be detained (including indefinitely) and tried. The sovereignty thus produced was, therefore, a rogue and lawless one in which the executive, in conjunction with military authorities, became the final arbiter of individuals’ guilt or innocence, as well as their punishment. The individuals detained under such prerogatory power were

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therefore rendered what Agamben refers to as bare life, or homines sacrii, and hence as capable of being subjected to the full force of sovereign power, including torture. The military order and the location of Guantánamo served, in fact, to annul domestic legal means to protect prisoners from torture, although torture was, notably, carried out in other spaces of exception – most notably, of course, at Abu Ghraib. Moreover, the International Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified by the United States in 1994, was circumvented by attempts to distinguish between torture and acts that, while cruel or degrading, fell short of actual torture. Although the United States’ international torture regime was an open secret, and had already been subject to an internal investigation, it did not become a scandal until the torture at Abu Ghraib was exposed on the programme 60 Minutes II in April 2004. The response of the U.S. administration was two-fold: to depict such torture as an aberration, since it was anathema to the American values of democracy, freedom and human rights; and to displace blame from the state, which had systematised the use of torture as a technology of sovereign violence, onto rogue individuals. While the United States has a long history of torturing racial others or of exporting torture training to its non-democratic allies, what was particularly striking about the Abu Ghraib scandal was what it revealed about the relationship between torture, pornography and spectacle in American culture. The photographs of naked Iraqi men in chains, on a lead, stacked in a monstrous pile and performing or simulating sex acts were conceptualised and carried out as pornography. In being photographed undergoing various forms of sexual violence, violation and humiliation the torture victims in the photographs were not only, therefore, being forced into the role of pornographic actors, they were also being inducted into American culture. Since pornography, like torture, is a form of dehumanisation, the staging of torture as pornography served not only to humiliate and emasculate Iraqi men, but to transform them into the (white) American image of non-white men, namely as hyper-sexual, unmasculine, and inhuman – and, in the

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STATES OF EXCEPTION, TORTURE AND THE CONTROL OF RACIAL OTHERS

process, to justify the violence and dehumanisation to which they were subject. Rather than being an aberration, the photographs thus instead laid bare the reality not only that “American values” such as democracy, freedom and human rights did not apply to those perceived as inhuman others, but that the enactment of sexual violence on “deviant” bodies, and its transformation into spectacle, were central to the construction of such values. The focus on a handful of purportedly rogue individuals as the agents of torture at Abu Ghraib ultimately served, moreover, to obscure the structural and systemic nature of such violence in the perpetuation of the so-called “war on terror”, and the ways in which, since one of the primary aims of torture is to terrorise, torture operated as part of what was in reality a war of terror against colonised populations. The Abu Ghraib scandal did nothing, therefore, to effect justice, or to transform the system of structural violence that produced it – but such scandals never do. In fact, as the Indian historian Nicholas Dirks argues in The Scandal of Empire (2006), public scandals instead operate as ritual moments that serve to erase the scandal itself, not its systemic causes. When it comes to empire, scandalous revelations about the transgression of social and political boundaries serve, therefore, to re-legitimise existing norms and to make empire appear to be a natural expansion of the sovereignty of the conquering power. In addition, in affirming the colonisers’ view of the colonised such scandals provide further justification for empire rather than undermining it. As the most recent in a long line of imperial torture scandals, the Abu Ghraib scandal thus reveals how torture operates in imperial and colonial contexts. It makes evident, firstly, the unstable nature of imperial and colonial sovereignty, and of how, in an effort to restore and extend such sovereignty, the exception not only emerges but becomes the norm. It also exposes the biopolitical nature of imperial and colonial states in regard to racial others, and the ways in which the colonised are transformed into homines

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sacrii. The scandal demonstrates, furthermore, that the goal of torture in imperial and colonial contexts is not (or not solely) the infliction of pain, but to dehumanise, humiliate and resocialise the victims, as well as that sexual violence and spectacle are central to such processes. It illustrates, in addition, that, although torture is an open secret in imperial and colonial contexts, it erupts into public discourse only when it becomes a scandalous spectacle. Moreover, it uncovers how, while a few “rogue” individuals may be punished, the system that produced it emerges unscathed, and often strengthened. Finally, it demonstrates that, rather than being a deviant aspect of the West’s past, torture is an aspect of colonial modernity, and plays a vital role in ‘civilising’, and hence controlling, the colonised.

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EXIST TO RESIST - MATTHEW SMITH

Clockwise from top: ‘A Very British Democracy’, G20 Summit London 2009; ‘Baton Wound Portrait’, G20 Summit London 2009; ‘Riot Shields’; ‘Dark Times For Democracy’. © Matthew Smith http://www.mattkoarchive.com

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DEBT, LAW AND DISCIPLINE How the capitalist cocktail is becoming Molotovian Dr. Julien-François Gerber ISRF Early Career Fellow (2018); Assistant Professor of Environment and Development, International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague

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ebt is certainly not a new phenomenon. Debt was widespread in the civilisations of antiquity and during the medieval era. But by the second half of the sixteenth century, a new factor appeared in Western Europe: interest-bearing loans started to be legalized and strictly enforced. The morality of charging an interest was relegated to individual conscience and the state began to actively protect credit contracts. As a result, interest-bearing loans expanded dramatically. The credit engine was launched – largely unintentionally – and it never stopped. Generalized indebtedness seems thus to correlate with the birth and spread of capitalism. What are the implications? Well, the implications are far-reaching. I would identify four broad categories of consequences1. Credit and debt have not only been a key factor behind social differentiation through the control of land, labour and capital (consequence 1); they have also fostered market discipline by forcing borrowers to calculate, pay, trade, work, intensify – a process that generates pressures for economic growth, short-termism and cost-cutting innovations (consequence 2). In parallel, the credit/debt couple has also acted as an acid dissolving traditional community bonds and undermining environmental conditions (consequences 3) and it can be seen, overall, 1. Gerber, J. F. (2014). The role of rural indebtedness in the evolution of capitalism. Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(5), 729-747.

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as a powerful mechanism shaping the evolution of capitalism (consequence 4). Let’s briefly focus on the last consequence, specifically how debt supported the development and reinforcement of the legal apparatus of the state. The initial early modern expansion of credit correlates with an equally dramatic boom of debt litigations in local courts, and formal bankruptcy proceedings started to be applied widely1 . Later on, however, rates of litigation declined as the individuals’ skills and way of thinking became better adapted to the management of credit2, highlighting how credit shaped the ‘spirit’ of capitalism. Simultaneously, the early modern credit boom also shaped the legal system itself. Creditors continuously pushed for legal reforms to strengthen their position and facilitate law enforcement: “From 1540 to the early eighteenth century, the authority of the state grew because of the demand on the part of private civil disputants who required a reservoir of authority to mediate and resolve their many [debt-related] disputes”.3 Accordingly, legal institutions have been gradually transformed to the benefit of more secured credit relations. The mutuality of exchange relations diminished over time and there was a general shift, in the seventeenth century, from informal to formal credit. In line with this, David Graeber argued that over time the imprecise and community-building indebtedness of ‘human economies’ has been replaced by quantified and atomising debts, largely through the introduction of state-backed violence.4 Debt has thus very different meanings in a ‘human economy’ as in a state-enforced market economy. In the former, debt was indistinguishable from morality insofar as those economies are based on mutuality. Payment, in this context, is ironically the ending of a social 1. Muldrew, C. (2016). The economy of obligation: the culture of credit and social relations in early modern England. Springer. 2. Finn, M. C. (2003). The character of credit: personal debt in English culture, 17401914 (Vol. 1). Cambridge University Press. 3. Muldrew, C. (2016), op. cit., p. 331 4. Graeber, D. (2012). Debt: The first 5000 years. Penguin UK. 22


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relationship, and debt is not immoral or synonymous with shame or guilt, but the very foundation of society. Credit and debt thus constituted a major mechanism by which capitalism reshaped the political and legal institutions in the early modern and modern period. It played a particularly important role in the shift from the feudal conventions of social obligations to the capitalist conceptions of contractual enforcement – that is, from ‘status’ to ‘contract’. These processes haven’t come to an end, and no one really knows where they will lead us. Debt continues to expand – to unprecedented levels – and to intensify discipline, sometimes under the names of ‘austerity’ or ‘structural adjustment’, be it at the individual, firm or national level. For Maurizio Lazzarato, debt is at the very heart of the neoliberal project and has virtually reached every corner of the (industrialised) world. Bankers are now more powerful than industrial capitalists, and even more powerful than governments. He argued that a new debt-driven proletarianisation has taken place since the 1980s, reinforcing the key function of debt as a control and disciplinary device which largely occurs at a ‘subjective’ (internalised) level through the new neoliberal ethics of existing as ‘human capital’, as an ‘entrepreneur of the self’ (in Foucault’s words).1 The creditor-debtor relationship is indeed ‘exterior’ (involving contracts, law, enforcement) as much as it is ‘interior’ (involving values, ethics, emotions). Interiorly, the relationship is typically framed in terms of personal responsibility when the contract is signed. The notion of ‘creditworthiness’ is intimately linked to central values – ‘trustworthiness’, ‘honesty’ – that we have learned to respect since a very young age. Unsurprisingly, then, defaulting debtors are more likely to experience very low self-esteem and poor mental health. Psychiatric studies of debt have been booming over the past five years. Deteriorating personal relationships, 1. Lazzarato, M. (2012). The making of the indebted man: An essay on the neoliberal condition. 23


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insomnia, anxiety, depression and suicides are not uncommon among debtors and an overview demonstrated “serious health effects related to indebtedness”.1 In some ways, one could argue that the neoliberal counterrevolution became too ‘successful’. As inequalities grew and public services shrunk, the capitalists had no other choice but to lend larger parts of their astronomical surpluses to the working class (and to students) in order to relaunch consumption, avoid recession, and also exploit workers twice – through wages and through interest. Maurizio Lazzarato argued that one consequence of this expansion of credit was that the class struggle has slowly shifted its centre of gravity from the capital-labour relation to the creditor-debtor relation. But what is the actual extend of anti-debt struggles? In a study related to my ISRF Early Career Fellowship, we offer a preliminary global overview of social mobilisations against private debts drawing on the most exhaustive database compiled to date (67 cases). 2 Our worldwide database starts in 14th-century northern Italy, the birthplace of the ‘commercial revolution’ and a region witnessing high levels of rural indebtedness. As we advance in time, more debt revolts are recorded. This increase in debt struggles could be the result of the combined effect of better coverage and larger overall indebtedness. The frequency of such resistances has even augmented after the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. If this general trend is confirmed, we can infer that the 21st century could be the century of anti-debt struggles. We find that anti-debt struggles have contested various aspects of the creditor-debtor relation and involved different social classes with various political objectives, ranging from populistopportunistic to radical-revolutionary. The majority of our cases 1. Turunen, E., & Hiilamo, H. (2014). Health effects of indebtedness: a systematic review. BMC public health, 14(1), 489. 2. Gerber, Julien-François, Tsegaye Moreda & Christina Sathyamala (2018) The euthanasia of the rentier: A global overview of resistances against private debts, 1300-2018. Journal of Peasant Studies, submitted. 24


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come from members of lower classes, however, for whom credit is a fundamental albeit dangerous ‘last resort’ (or ‘safety net’) when the compulsory payments are no longer immediately possible. This is observable in ancient agrarian economies as well as in contemporary industrial America. In 2012 for example, “40 percent of indebted [U.S.] households used credit cards to pay for basic living expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, groceries, utilities, or insurance, […] because they did not have enough money in their checking or savings accounts”.1 Indebtedness – and the struggles that go with it – must always be understood within their broader politico-institutional context. In the U.K. for instance, Will Davies and his colleagues found that “[t]here is a clear link between a lack of social safety net and borrowing in times of personal/family crisis. This […] poses a direct challenge to policy narratives which seek to individualise debt as a personal problem”.2 The simultaneous necessity and burden of the credit/debt couple explains why it is politically inflammable, and probably increasingly so as economies continue to financialise. At the same time, the frequent harsh repression of anti-debt protests – seen as a threat to the very foundation of capitalism – and the particular subjectivity associated with debt have also deterred mobilisations. Debt cancellations, progressive tax reforms, and the (re)creation of social security are all crucial reforms to be pursued in the short run. These policies will only be possible if the pressure of ant-debt movements increases, which doesn’t seem too unlikely.

1. Traub, A., & Ruetschlin, C. (2012). The plastic safety net: Findings from the 2012 national survey on credit card debt of low-and middle-income households. New York: Demos. Retrieved November, 13, 2014. 2. Davies, W., Montgomerie, J., & Wallin, S. (2015). Financial Melancholia: Mental health and indebtedness, p. 5. 25


DEATHS IN POLICE CUSTODY AS CULTURAL CONTESTS Professor Ian Loader ISRF Mid-Career Fellow (2016-17); Professor of Criminology and Professorial Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford

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n January 2015, following their long and fruitless struggles for justice, then Home Secretary Theresa May met the families of Sean Rigg and Olaseni Lewis, two young black men who died in police custody having been restrained by officers. The Home Secretary then announced the setting up of an Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody, to be chaired by Dame Elish Angiolini. The Review reported in January 2017.1 It is stacked with detailed recommendations. But the Report also observed – in a moment of frustrated reflexivity – that this Independent Review followed no fewer than seven inquiries into failings in police custody held between 2013 and 2015. The Report went on: Much of the frustration felt by families can be attributed to 1. Angiolini, E. (2017). Report of the Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody. London.

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the occurrence of the same failings time after time. This feature is evident from the many reviews, inquiries and reports looking at these very issues over the years. Despite clear, pragmatic recommendations and agreement for action from successive governments, the police and other agencies, some of the worst types of failings have persisted.1 The question is why? Why this repeated cycle of death, review and inaction, and the attendant sense of enduring, irresolvable crisis? Why the repeated police defensiveness and failure to bring anyone to justice? Why are families met with a contradictory mix of sympathy and recalcitrance? Why is the state’s failure to protect the lives of those whom it detains the subject of so little public attention? The Report of the Independent Review and the accompanying survey of international evidence can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ deaths-and-serious-incidents-in-police-custody Figures on deaths in or following police custody can be found at: https://www.inquest.org.uk/ deaths-in-police-custody

The dominant liberal discourse on such tragedies is rooted in the idea of the police as a rule-bound, governed, and reformable institution. It is focused on reducing the scale and impact of custodial deaths via better training, police cell design, access to medical support and legal advice, and so on. The Independent Review is the latest example of such – entirely laudable - efforts. But if we are to apprehend the repeated cycle of stalled reform in this field, and the endless repetitions of official discourse, we need to pay closer attention to the ‘structure of feeling’ 2 that holds the problem and its remedies in this particular place. This 1. ibid., p. 23. 2. Williams. R. (1964) The Long Revolution. Harmondsworth: Penguin. 27


DEATHS IN POLICE CUSTODY AS CULTURAL CONTESTS

means recognising that policing is a cultural institution, a site for the production, authorization, circulation, and contestation of meaning. It requires us to attend to deaths in police custody as sites of cultural contest. If we do this, we can fruitfully analyse such contests using the metaphor of sacrifice. Sacrifice seems an antiquated idea to liberal secular sensibilities, steeped as it is in religious practice and rituals that we moderns believe that we have transcended. Though the analysis of sacrifice has a rich history in the social sciences1, it has of late become a marginal concept, both as an object of enquiry and an analytical construct. But we shouldn’t give up on the heuristic value of this idea. Etymologically sacrifice means ‘to make sacred’ and the core of any sacrificial practice entails a process of mediation between the profane and the sacred. To make any entity or institution sacred is, as Terry Eagleton has recently observed, to lift it out of the realm of instrumental rationality and endow it with untouchable properties. 2 This idea may help us to unearth some crucial dimensions of contemporary policing. It is a significant theme of literature on the symbolic power of policing that – beneath the surface trappings of bureaucratic rationality and liberal governance – the police retain traces of sacred authority.3 Responses to deaths in custody are arguably structured by one such untouchable quality of the police – namely, that they are embodiments of a social fantasy of order and sovereign control whose core task is to protect the ‘law-abiding’ from threatening or unwanted outgroups. To the extent that the police are identified and imagined in this light, two things follow: first, policing becomes an arena where individuals who confront this fantasy are routinely violated, neglected, forgotten, left unheard and invisible – in clear contravention of the claim to treat those who transgress with decency and care that legitimizes and supposedly constrains police 1. Hubert, H., & Mauss, M. (1898). Sacrifice: Its nature and functions. University of Chicago Press. 2. Eagleton, T. (2018). Radical Sacrifice p. 52. Yale University Press. 3. Loader, I., & Mulcahy, A. (2003). Policing and the condition of England: Memory, politics and culture. Oxford University Press on Demand. 28


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power. Second, policing is transformed into a site in which the values that liberal democratic polities purport to hold dear, and use to hold the police to account, are jettisoned at the altar of security and sovereign control. What the circularity of the discourse on custodial death may disclose is that those who die in police stations are, in effect, sacrificed to uphold the greater go(o)d of communal order and well-being and resurrect the authority of officers who bravely expose themselves to danger to keep ‘us’ safe. Framing deaths in police custody as a cultural phenomenon helps to shed clearer light on official and social reactions to such deaths. Let us return first to the merry-go-round of review, recommendation and inaction that the Independent Review highlights – something that can be traced back to at least the 1990s.1 It appears on the surface that there exists a governmental consensus about what needs to be done to prevent custodial deaths and that the task at hand is to get the police to take the necessary action. However, the stubborn failure to enact this consensus suggests that a deeper conflict is at play here between the state’s duty to ensure the welfare of those it detains and the idea that policing must be afforded the tools and support needed to secure and maintain order. The circuit of recommendation and inaction also arguably tells us something important about the social purpose of post-death investigation, inquest and review. At first sight these seem animated by a liberal distrust of state power and the attendant will to render it accountable and curb police excesses. The recurring process of enquiry and institutional intractability intimates, however, that something else is going on – namely, a ritual of catharsis and reassurance which conveys the appearance of busy concern while the fundamentals of the status quo that conduce to custodial death are left in place. As Eagleton notes, in the face of ‘some disruption or turbulent transition’, sacrificial rites ‘buttress and integrate the social order’.2 The metaphor of sacrifice can also illuminate the delays, 1. Baker, D. (2016) Deaths after Police Contact: Constructing Accountability in the 21st Century. Basingstoke: Palgrave. 2. Eagleton, T. (2018). op. cit., p. 52. 29


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obfuscations, institutional blunders and complacency that, the Independent Review notes, typically confront the grieving families of those who perish in police custody. Part of what it illuminates is who can and cannot claim the label of victim in public culture. Those who die after police contact find several roadblocks in the way of successfully claiming such status. By behaving ‘strangely’ (as in the case of Sean Rigg), or being intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, or even simply by coming to be in a police station, those who die in custody are, in the eyes of many, marked as difficult or dangerous - and hence morally unworthy of the label victim. This of course cannot so easily be said of their families, who campaign tirelessly for years in search of justice and redress. They clearly are victims of a sort and are often initially treated as such. But they are – for this very reason – capable of causing institutional trouble and doing serious damage to the cultural structures that keep the police safe from serious reform. Hence, the conflicted mix of empathy and fearful distancing that the Independent Review found to be the typical experience of families of those who die after police contact. What, thirdly, of the observation that police concern in such cases is soon ‘replaced with defensiveness’1? There is no doubt that in circumstances where ‘unpredictable’ individuals need to be restrained police officers have to make quick and difficult judgements. But it is also apparent that such cases are all too often governed by a police logic – structurally and situationally. In the former case, the prime indicator of this is that individuals who are intoxicated, or experiencing mental health trauma, are taken to police stations rather than appropriate places of safety. In the latter, what one commonly finds in these cases is that the imperative to control a distressed and/or distressing individual trumps the duty to protect the health – and in extremis the life – of that individual. When things go wrong, the tendency of the police to close ranks (astonishingly, officers can confer before giving evidence to investigators) in order to close down the risk to which they are exposed looks, on the surface, like self-protection. But this response may also be animated by the beleaguered sense officers’ share of not being appreciated for having to handle such tricky and 1. Angiolini, E. (2017). Independent Review., p. 10. 30


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potentially tragic situations on ‘our’ behalf. The idea of sacrifice can shed light, finally, on some notable features of the process of inquest and investigation: families waiting ‘years for a resolution’1; the relative lack of resources devoted to them (compared to homicides); the absence of funds for families to secure legal representation (when the state can and does enlist QCs); the fact that families experience supposedly inquisitorial Coroners’ inquests as adversarial, even toxic, and the lack of any successful prosecution of an officer for murder or manslaughter in such cases, despite inquest verdicts of ‘unlawful killing’. As the Independent Review puts it: ‘the same patterns reveal themselves time after time’. 2 There are clearly material and legal dimensions to these issues. But they also send important cultural signals about what matters (or whether it matters) and what is at stake in custodial death. It may, to take one example, be difficult to secure evidence and get juries to convict officers in such cases. But it is also apparent that prosecutors’ actions are guided by a cultural assumption about what juries will think: namely, that brave police officers who give so much to protect us from danger have suffered enough from this tragedy and ought to be protected from criminal sanction. The cumulative outcome is that victims and their families are left without law, while officers operate ‘outwith’ law.

1. Angiolini, E. (2017). Independent Review., p. 11. 2. ibid., p. 28. 31


THE LIVED EXPERIENCE OF ‘CARROTS’ AND ‘RISKS’ Voices from Within the Criminal Justice System Dr. Julie Parsons ISRF Mid-Career Fellow (2016-17); Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Plymouth

and

Sarah Hocking Project Co-Ordinator, LandWorks

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he current Justice Minister David Gauke has recently announced plans to increase the use of workplace Release on Temporary Licence or ROTL. In this article we draw on data from an on-going Photographic electronic Narrative (PeN) project, initially funded through an ISRF Mid-Career Fellowship, collected from ROTL men on enhanced work placements at LandWorks, an offender resettlement charity based in South Devon. The voices of those on the margins of the criminal justice system, in the spaces between prison and release, are rarely captured. Reflecting on their narratives, we argue that whilst Gauke’s employment and education strategy is laudable, the risks may be considered too high for some, unless provision can be made to fully support and protect individual prisoners when they are on workplace ROTL. Despite the fanfare around workplace ROTL as a new fix to combat recidivism in England and Wales, ROTL is not new. For example, at LandWorks, an independent, part community funded, charitable

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incorporated organisation (CIO), staff and volunteers have been working with ROTL men as part of a bespoke, individualised work placement offer since July 2013. Over five years, LandWorks has worked with 30 ROTL men, securing work, accommodation, improving family relations; supporting them with problems concerning mental health and addiction, helping them to build self-esteem and confidence prior to their release, and providing on-going through-the-gate support. Statistically, one in two people leaving prison will return within a year. On the other hand, LandWorks’ reoffending rate is less than 4% and for those who have been through the scheme on ROTL, the employment rate is 98%. ROTL, as Gauke has highlighted is a privilege, it is organised social control, part of a hierarchy of incentives within a prison system that rewards exceptionally good behaviour with access to resources that aid resettlement. In theory it was always intended to form part of a phased and planned resettlement package that played a pivotal part in the process of reintegration into the community after punishment. However, workplace ROTL, which has declined in use by 40% for category-D prisons since the former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling introduced new eligibility criteria in 2013 (and is virtually non-existent for category-C resettlement prisons), is only one element of the prison reward system. At the top of the hierarchy are Resettlement Overnight Release (ROR) licences, which are issued to enable prisoners to spend a night with their families at their release address. Other release licences include Special Purpose Leave (SPL), a short duration leave granted in exceptional circumstances (visiting dying relatives, weddings, funerals, medical appointments, court appearances etc.), and Childcare Resettlement Licences (CRL) granted for certain prisoners who are the sole carer of a child under 16 years, to enable them to maintain contact and prepare them for parental duties on release. What is significant is that these are all interlinked, so a breach of a workplace ROTL, could have implications in terms of ROR, as well as a knock-on effect on other prison privileges and enhancements. The number of ROTL men granted a licence to work outside of

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THE LIVED EXPERIENCE OF ‘CARROTS’ AND ‘RISKS’

the prison at LandWorks has varied across the five years it has been operating, from a maximum of six to zero, when licences have been revoked due to perceived and/or real security risks. Men eligible for ROTL come from an enhanced resettlement wing at the prison, which houses up to 34 men (out of an operational capacity of 724). The men on this wing have earned this privilege through exceptionally good behaviour. Moreover, ROTL is not a right, but if granted men can apply for a LandWorks placement up to 12 months before the end of their prison tariffs. However, restrictions on those eligible for ROTL has led to a drop of 40% in ROTLs (2013-16). It has also been reported that in nearly three-quarters of resettlement prisons between 2013-15, the use of ROTL was either non-existent or negligible. During 2015–16, there were a total of 1,467 people (out of a prison population of around 85,000), on average only 335 per month, working out of the prison on licence (mostly from category D prisons). Moreover, temporary release licences are only granted following strict administrative procedures, they all have exclusions and exceptions, as well as conditions. Once granted any breach results in a loss of privileges, and possibly a return to closed conditions, or the main wing. Indeed, when applying for a workplace ROTL, whilst there are obvious benefits to working/leaving the prison every day, there are also risks that have to be considered. This was a key theme that emerged from a focus group with current and former ROTL prisoners at LandWorks. The overriding fear for many is that their ROTL could be revoked for reasons beyond their control, such as the behaviour of other people on ROTL or changes in prison policy. For example, Benny described his ROTL as a daily “gamble” and Quentin says, “I can’t win. I want to continue coming out to LandWorks but tomorrow I could lose it all.” Surprisingly, Benny also says, “there’s not a queue of people waiting to come. There really isn’t.” Prisoners report being fearful of losing their enhanced contact with family through ROR, or the steady jobs they have managed to secure within the prison estate as a result of something going wrong with a workplace ROTL, as Lee says, “originally, I didn’t want to come out [to LandWorks] because people were saying

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THE LIVED EXPERIENCE OF ‘CARROTS’ AND ‘RISKS’

“snitches go over there” and I was in one of the best jobs in the prison”. Other risks associated with workplace ROTL relate to changing relations within the prison. Quentin says: “But what happens, once you get your ROTLs, some prisoners’ attitudes change towards you. You then become hated by fellow prisoners, envy creeps in…” Others report the pressures from fellow inmates to smuggle contraband in and/or out of the prison, as well as threats of violence and intimidation. Relationships with prison staff can also be affected, as Quentin continues: “[staff] attitudes changes towards you because they know you’re no threat. You can feel the change. It’s palpable… but if I was seen talking to a prison officer, it’s either I’m grassing someone up or you just don’t do it… If I come out [on ROTL], I’m going to be a social pariah, I must be stitching someone up, I must be sweet-grassing someone up or I must be up to something. I’ve just realised it is like being back at school… you’ve got your playground bullies.” For some, even the privilege of going home to spend more time with family during their sentence has risks. Benny says: “There’s a lot of stress when you go out on town visits because there’s a massive build-up to it in anticipation and it can be an anti-climax. You get your few hours and within a blink, it’s gone. There is a lot of stress for everyone who’s involved.” Not least for the prisoner himself, again as Quentin says: “Because you become disconnected, massively disconnected to the point where you tell yourself “I don’t want to go home, I can’t be arsed anymore, I don’t care if she comes and visits” and you tell yourself this, so, when the town visit comes, in the morning I’m thinking “I just want to go back to prison.”

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Others report the shock of finding that their families are coping well without them, which feeds into a fear of how the family will readjust to their homecoming, as Benny says: “What I have learnt is life outside of prison goes twice as fast as life inside prison. People outside of prison do move on quicker than you have. You’re still stuck in the day you went to prison. So, if you go home and something’s changed, the furniture, jobs, attitude, people change, and things change. You haven’t. ROTLs in that respect are a good thing because you can change a little bit with ROTLs. It gives you more time to adjust to it… Time goes quick when you work out here. The clock in prison doesn’t move…” In a comment piece in Inside Time, the National Newspaper for Prisoners and Detainees, it was noted that “making the first trip home on ROTL becomes the Holy Grail; the sole focus of your being.” 1 It acknowledges the importance of ROTL, whilst highlighting some of the potential downsides to home visits, which are often masked by “a certain amount of bravado, an unwillingness to show weakness to your fellow prisoners.” The author of the piece calls for a well-trained, fully supported peer team to work in resettlement prisons, preparing prisoners for potential downsides to ROTL. Overall, in response to the lived experience of ROTL and in light of Gauke’s push to increase workplace ROTL, there needs to be more organised ROTL support. The perceived risks, especially those of workplace ROTL are often considered beyond the control of the individual and serve as a reminder of the lack of agency that prisoners deal with on a daily basis, they also raise questions about the extent to which ROTL is a ‘carrot’ and not another form of social control. We agree therefore, following the Inside Time commentary, that in order to alleviate anxieties around ROTL, there should be a comprehensive peer support network 1. Smith, M (2018) The Downnside of ROTL, first taste of freedom is not always sweet, Inside Time, April 2018:28. 37


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for prisoners on ROTL, one that provides an outlet for prisoners dealing with all aspects of ROTL, not least when considering the incitement of jealousy and resentment that can occur amongst fellow inmates. Also, that the specialist ROTL prison officers Gauke recommends, should work with probation to ensure that workplace ROTL placements are properly supervised. Indeed, whilst Gauke’s employment and education strategy is laudable, there may be some resistance to employment ROTL uptake, unless there is a concerted effort to reduce the perceived risks for individual prisoners. The ROTL carrot needs to outweigh the stick by some considerable way. Acknowledgements A special thanks to all of the ROTL men who have worked at LandWorks and shared their stories. Some of their narratives can be read on the PeN project blog: https:// penprojectlandworks.org/

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THE 2019 ISRF ESSAY PRIZE COMPETITION Interdisciplinarity: the new orthodoxy? Submissions are invited on the theme ‘Interdisciplinarity: the new orthodoxy?’ Essays may address any topic, problem or critical issue around or on this theme. The successful essay will be intellectually radical and articulate a strong internal critique of existing views. Writers should bear in mind that the ISRF is interested in original research ideas that take new approaches and suggest new solutions to real world social problems. The full statement of the ISRF’s criteria and goals may be viewed on our the ISRF website. The winning author will be awarded a prize of €5,000 in the form of a grant for research purposes. It is intended that this award would be made to the author’s home institution, although alternative arrangements may be considered for Independent Scholars. The submitted essays will be judged by an academic panel (the ISRF Essay Prize Committee). The panel’s decision will be final, and no assessments or comments will be made available. The ISRF reserves the right not to award the prize, and no award will be made if the submitted essays are of insufficient merit. The winning essay, and any close runners-up, will be accepted for short format presentation at the 2019 ISRF Annual Workshop (expenses for attendance at which will be covered by the ISRF) and publication in the ISRF Bulletin; authors may be asked to make some corrections before publication. The competition will launch 1st July 2018 and the closing date will be 31st December 2018. Visit

http://www.isrf.org/essay-competitions for more information


This issue features: Julien-Franรงois Gerber Deana Heath Sarah Hocking Ian Loader Julie Parsons Illan Wall

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Isrf Bulletin Issue XVI: Law - Social Organisation & Social Control  

What is the law? How is it created and enforced? As a system of culturally attuned rules designed to control behaviour that is upheld throug...

Isrf Bulletin Issue XVI: Law - Social Organisation & Social Control  

What is the law? How is it created and enforced? As a system of culturally attuned rules designed to control behaviour that is upheld throug...

Profile for isrf