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What is criminology?

Criminology is the academic home of all the educators in the course team. In this video we ask, *'what is criminology?'*
In this video, the academics from Crime, Justice and Society will introduce themselves, and speak about their areas of expertise and what drew them to study criminology. So I’ll go first. I’m Dr Maggie Wykes. My criminology teaching, writing, and research focuses on crime as a gendered phenomenon, which impacts on men and women very differently. I’m particularly interested in why men and women have very different experiences of crime. And how we make sense of those differences. And particularly the role the media play, whether it’s the newspapers, film, or the internet in telling audiences about crime and deviance. Criminology for me is very much about working for justice and fairness in the law, criminal justice system, and society as a whole.
My work is about understanding and changing the ideas about gender roles, relations, and norms in culture that seem to relate to high levels of violence being perpetrated by men against women and girls across the world. I’m with you for Week 1 of Crime, Justice and Society to discuss our everyday ideas about crime and criminals, and how accurate these are. To question why something’s are crimes and others aren’t. And to think about the way criminology has developed to find ways of explaining and controlling crime. I’m Professor Claire McGourlay and I’ll be taking you through some of the issues around how cases get progressed through the criminal justice system and miscarriages of justice in Week 1 of this course.
I studied law at the undergraduate level, and then went on to do a PhD in criminal justice at Sheffield. When I was an undergraduate, I was actively involved in miscarriages of justice work, and enjoyed this work so much that I decided to stay on and do a PhD. I worked for the National Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders for a year after completing my PhD as a policy development officer, before taking up a full-time job here at Sheffield as a law lecturer in 2001. I’m not a criminologist, but I’m part of the Centre for Criminological Research here at Sheffield because the subjects I teach and publish in are criminal law, criminal evidence, and criminal process.
I also set up and run the School of Law Miscarriages of Justice Review Centre, and as well as teaching, this is what I’m most passionate about it. Later this week, you will get to learn more about the centre for miscariages of justice and the work that we do with our clients. I’m Professor Joanna Shapland, and you’ll see me in Week 3, Week 4, and Week 6 of the course. So on victims, on restorative justice, and on offenders and how they react to probation supervision as part of a community sanction. And my research - why I’m really interested in criminology, criminal justice - is actually all about how ordinary people get on with justice.
What they think about it, what they believe justice to be, how they react to the institutions of criminal justice. So I do research on victims and how they react to the police and courts. On offenders and how they react to probation supervision. And indeed on restorative justice, because that’s where victims and offenders meet together and try and work out themselves what to do about the offence. I am Dr Tinneke Van Camp. In my research and teaching, I zoom in on the impact of crime on victims and how we can support victims of crime to move beyond victimisation. This also involves research into the benefits of restorative justice for victims of crime. Restorative justice offers a particular approach to crime.
It seeks to actively involve the victim, offender, and community in the aftermath of a particular crime. As such, it allows them to help search for a restorative response to the crime and its consequences. I will guide you through the principles and practices of restorative justice in Week 4. We will also discuss its theoretical background and research findings regarding restorative practices. As such, we will explore whether it offers a better response to crime than the conventional criminal justice system. Being a criminologist for me is about investigating when justice is perceived as fair and how we can enhance perceptions of fairness, whether it be through the conventional criminal justice system, or innovative approaches to crime.
In my research and teaching, I also aim to give a voice to those directly affected by crime as they’re not always sufficiently being heard in the criminal justice system. For instance, what is it that victims are looking for and how can we help them? Through this course we aim to offer you a better understanding of victims’ needs and what role restorative justice can play to respond to those needs. I’m Dr Cormac Behan. I specialise in teaching and researching punishment, especially the use of imprisonment, and you will see me in Week 5 as I examine the development of prison and places of confinement. I’m interested in why certain forms of punishment have emerged over time.
And I’m particularly keen to explore why some jurisdictions use certain forms of punishment that would be considered inhumane in other countries. This requires an understanding not just of how and why particular societies label certain types of deviant behaviours criminal, but the different responses to crime and deviancy through punishment, which must be considered in a wider social, political, cultural, and historical context. Hello, I’m Dr Gwen Robinson. Like many of my colleagues I came to criminology after studying in other disciplines. In my case, sociology, psychology and social work. In the 1990s, I qualified as a social worker specialising in working with offenders in the probation service. And it was that experience that really got me interested in criminal justice.
And in particular, thinking about how societies respond to people who get into trouble with the law, and how they might respond more effectively, and without doing more harm than good. My teaching and research focuses on ideas and practices about the rehabilitation of offenders and forms of punishment that take place beyond prison in the community. I’m interested in how those approaches have evolved over time, and how and why they vary between different countries. I’ll be with you for Week 6 to introduce you to community sanctions and measures. These are forms of punishment or sometimes alternatives to punishment that involve the oversight or supervision of offenders, but while they remain at liberty in the community.
Among other things, we’ll be looking at the purposes and types of community-based options that are available. We’ll be looking at what good quality supervision might look like and the development of electronic monitoring. See you in Week 6. I’m Dr David Hayes. And I’ll be taking you through some of the issues around community sanctions and measures, and particularly electronic monitoring, or tagging, in Week 6 of this course. My focus, both in my research and my teaching, is on the justification of criminal justice, and especially of punishment, in theory, philosophy, and politics. Simply put, crime is clearly horrible. But why do we respond to it by imposing horrors of our own?
Criminal justice is an anomaly in a supposedly liberal society because it inevitably imposes coercive authority on supposedly free citizens. How do we resolve that tension between an authoritarian state and our desire to live freely? And what does that imply about who we punish, and how and why we punish them? Ultimately then for me, criminology is about understanding what crime and punishment are, who gets to define them, and whose interests they serve within our societies. It speaks to who we are as individuals, as citizens of states and as members of communities.
It’s about understanding the limits of our freedoms and identifying better ways to live together in the context of some of the most dreadful things that we do to one another. Hi, my name is Stephen Farrall. You’ll meet me again towards the end of the course when we explore why people stop offending. What is criminology? Well, that’s a very easy question to answer initially. Essentially it’s just the study of crime. But when you to start to peel that back a bit further, you start to encounter some other issues that we need to take account of. Unlike for example sociology, or geography, or political science, criminology doesn’t have what we call its own epistemology.
It doesn’t have its own unique way of at looking at the world. Sociologists are interested in groups and processes. Psychologists are interested in individuals. Geographers are interested in space. Historians are interested in time. Political scientists are interested in all sorts of other processes associated with groups and decision-making. And criminologists are also interested in all of those. But they don’t have their own unique way of looking at the world. So they have to go and beg, borrow, and steal ideas from within those other disciplines in order to help them make sense of crime. So criminology is as much about economics, is as much about philosophy, is as much about psychology, or sociology, or history, or geography as it is about crime.
Criminology is the academic home of all the educators in the course team, but there are many very different interests, areas of expertise and ideas about what criminologists should be doing.
In this video, we’ll ask the course team: ‘what is criminology?’.
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Crime, Justice and Society

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