Chapter 31 Review questions answer guidance

1. What are the distinguishing features of a critical perspective in criminology?

The answer requires an understanding that the critical perspective often draws on evidence to question some of our assumptions about criminal justice and its effectiveness. For example, you might consider the evidence of systemic inequality in the administration of criminal justice and criticisms that it disproportionately impacts on the poor, those from ethnic minorities and other marginalised groups.

2. Identify some of the key theorists of social control and their contributions to criminological thinking

Key social control theorists include Foucault, Stanley Cohen and Gramsci. Your answer should identify which theorist is associated which idea so that, for example, you can explain the concept of hegemony (ideological domination or control) and associate it with the work of Gramsci, explaining how this idea has influenced criminological thinking.

3. Why might it be important to understand the ‘crimes of the powerful’?

While the focus of criminal justice often appears to be on street crime and the behaviour of individual offenders, there is a need to pay attention to the crimes of those in positions of power. This can include powerful individuals but also corporations or even states. These crimes are often wider in scope than street and property crimes and can include, for example, war crimes that result in thousands of deaths. Understanding these crimes may require thinking beyond traditional justice and providing redress and recognition through specialised justice systems such as war crimes tribunals.

4. What do you think has been achieved by international efforts to promote truth and reconciliation?

This question identifies the need for specialised justice mechanisms to address internal conflicts and crimes committed against an entire community. In exploring this topic, you might look at examples of truth and reconciliation in South Africa, Northern Ireland, Rwanda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Consider that the aim of these initiatives was to try and negotiate healing and to move on from conflicts that have sometimes resulted in genocide. To what extent do you think these aims have been met?

5. Outline the benefits and limitations of the abolitionist perspective.

In answering this question, you should identify abolitionism as being concerned with ending the use of penal sanctions and removing the institutions and administrative mechanisms of penalism. The question requires you to consider how abolitionism encourages a wider consideration of criminal justice and a critical look at the ‘effectiveness’ of punishment and the notion that ‘prison works’. Your answer might also consider abolitionists’ moral arguments against continued reliance on prison as a form of punishment. In exploring the limitations of abolitionism, your answer might explore its limited popular appeal and the limited take up of alternatives to the use of prison within mainstream criminal justice policy.

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