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Article

Indigenous justice has been practiced by Indigenous peoples in Oceania and North America since time immemorial. These practices have been disregarded, disrespected, and displaced by Eurocentric principles of criminal law and procedure—a system that has been forced upon Indigenous peoples without their consent. As a result of colonization, Indigenous peoples have endured a system that not only has used its laws to erase the existence of Indigenous peoples but also has failed to recognize and honor Indigenous peoples’ systems and principles of laws. At the present time, the colonial systems of laws have begun to recognize Indigenous laws and justice; however, the state has still tried to control how, what, and where Indigenous laws and justice can be utilized. There continues to be a lack of understanding of Indigenous justice, because most education systems are not required to teach it. This is slowly starting to change, but we are nowhere near the actual recognition and practice of Indigenous justice systems. Indigenous peoples continue to practice their laws despite the colonial systems and processes, and in the future, Indigenous justice will be fully recognized with its own jurisdiction and with Indigenous peoples making healthy and respectful decisions about their own peoples.

Article

Criminal justice and its institutions are key objects of popular culture and attract extensive media attention. The portrayal of the justice system, its rules, professions, and institutions has been invigorated with the invention of new media technology. The authorities’ reaction to wrong doing has proven not less exciting to the audience than the criminal acts themselves. French sociologist Emile Durkheim emphasized that every member of society has an interest in social cohesion and wishes to see perpetrators appropriately punished. The media plays to this basic inclination. From the reactions of the justice system to crime people take clues not only for its effectiveness but the public also wants to see its basic values represented in the work of officials and their decisions. Therefore, aspects of procedural and distributive justice are picked up by popular imagination and exploited to the full by media producers. Beyond recognition that media depictions of criminal justice will follow media conventions and will therefore be distorted in systematic ways, it has to be acknowledged that those representations and the expectations they formed have become a major force in society. Political repercussions and influences on how crime is dealt with are a consequence.

Article

Since the end of the Second World War, police cooperation has experienced several transformations affecting the conduct of law enforcement operations across jurisdictions. These critical changes emerged from global legal, political and socioeconomic trends that constantly redefining the nature, structure and the role of actors involved in policing cooperation. For instance, the creation of vast free trade zones in North America, Europe and Asia has provided an important momentum for collaboration and coordination among national justice systems and the protection of the sovereignty of states. Moreover, the evolution of transnational criminal networks and the internationalization of terrorist activities have directly contributed to the multiplication of law enforcement and intelligence initiatives that transcends local and national jurisdictions. The so-called wars on crime, drug and terrorism ranging from 1960’s to 2010’s have generated the deployment of a formidable web of policing activities across the globe. In the 21st Century, a complex assemblage of public and private actors conducts police cooperation activities. These actors operate at several levels of geographical jurisdictions and cooperate through different organizational structures and legal frameworks.

Article

Margaret Colgate Love

Executive clemency has a rich history in the United States, both as an agent of justice and as a tool of politics. A presidential power to pardon was included in Article II of the Constitution, and all but one of the state constitutions provides for a clemency mechanism. States have established a variety of ways to manage and sometimes limit a governor’s exercise of the constitutional pardoning power, but the president’s power has remained unlimited by law. Until quite recently, clemency played a fully operational part in both federal and state justice systems, and the pardoning power was used regularly and generously to temper the harsh results of a criminal prosecution. Presidents also used their power to calm and unify the country after a period of strife, and to further policy goals when legislative solutions fell short. But in modern times unruly clemency’s justice-enhancing role has been severely diminished, initially because reforms in the legal system made it less necessary, but later because of theoretical and practical objections to its regular use. A reluctance on the part of elected officials to take political risks, as well as clemency-related controversies, have further eroded clemency’s legitimacy. As a result, in most U.S. jurisdictions clemency now plays a limited role, and the public regards its exercise with suspicion. There are only about a dozen states in which clemency operates as an integral part of the justice system, in large part because its exercise is protected from political pressures by constitutional design. At the same time, the need for an effective clemency mechanism has never been greater, particularly in the federal system, because of lengthy mandatory prison sentences and the lifelong collateral civil consequences of conviction. It appears unlikely that an unregulated and unrestrained executive power will ever be restored to its former justice-enhancing role, so that those concerned about fairness and proportionality in criminal punishments must engage in the more demanding work of democratic reform.

Article

The American trial and American cinema share certain epistemological tendencies. Both stake claims to an authoritative form of knowledge based on the indubitable quality of observable phenomena. And both are preoccupied with sustaining the authority that underlies the knowledge produced by visual perception. The American trial and cinematic form also increasingly share cultural space. Although the trial film (otherwise known as the courtroom drama) is as old as the medium of film, the continuing popularity of the legal drama centered on a courtroom verdict suggests more than a trend. The inherent affinities between law and film not only produce enduring and memorable stories about law and justice but help constitute a popular legal consciousness that sustains the authority of the rule of law in the United States. This article describes these affinities in more detail, tracing the common themes in trial films, the special case of trial film based on true stories, and the future of the genre in American popular culture. It concludes by reviewing the disciplinary approach to the study of law and visual popular culture.

Article

Jennifer M. Chacón

The regulation of immigration in the United States is a civil law matter, and the deportation and exclusion of immigrants from the United States are matters adjudicated in civil, administrative courts operated by the federal government. But migration in the United States is increasingly managed not through the civil law system, but through the criminal legal system, and not just at the federal level, but at all levels of government. The most obvious example of the management of migration through the criminal law in the United States occurs through the federal prosecution of immigration crimes. In the 2010s, federal prosecutions of immigration crimes reached all-time record highs, as immigration offenses became the most commonly prosecuted federal criminal offenses. But it is not just the federal government, using federal criminal prosecutions, that has moved criminal law and criminal law enforcement agents to the center of immigration enforcement in the United States. The federal government relies on state and local police to serve as front-line agents in the identification of noncitizens potentially subject to removal. Everyone arrested by state and local law enforcement for any reason has their fingerprints run through federal law databases, and this has become the leading screening mechanism through which the federal government identifies individuals to target for removal. Federal law also relies on state law convictions as one of the primary means through which federal immigration enforcement officials determine which noncitizens to remove. This means that state legislatures and state and local governments have the power to shape both their criminal laws and their discretionary enforcement choices to either enhance or mitigate the scope of federal immigration enforcement in their jurisdictions. The problems of racial inequity in the U.S. criminal legal system are both exacerbated by and fuel the centrality of immigration enforcement to the nation’s law enforcement agenda. Racial profiling is broadly tolerated by law in the context of immigration enforcement, making it easy for officials at the state and federal level to justify the targeting of the Latinx population for heightened surveillance on the theory (often incorrect) that they are unlawfully present. At the same time, the overpolicing of Black communities ensures that Black immigrants as well as Latinx immigrants are disproportionately identified as priorities for removal. Immigration enforcement is frequently written out of the story of racial inequality in U.S. policing, but the criminalization of migration is a central architectural feature of this inequitable system.

Article

Keller G. Sheppard, Nathaniel L. Lawshe, and Jack McDevitt

Hate crimes are criminal offenses that involve elements of bias based on some individual characteristics of the victim, including race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and religion. The passage of laws criminalizing or enhancing the punishment for crimes featuring bias motivations has been met with intense controversy. In addressing criticism of such legislation, proponents of these laws highlight the considerable harms caused by hate crime. These incidents are considered especially heinous as they not only violate the civil and human rights of the immediate victim but also send a message of fear to the entirety of that victim’s community or social group. Prior scholarship on these offenses have employed numerous theoretical frameworks—psychological, historical, sociological, and economic theories—to describe why perpetrators target victims based on perceived group identity. Other work has provided insight into the causes of hate crime by considering factors distinguishing bias-motivated offenders from other criminal offenders. Conflicting legal definitions of hate crime add to the complexity of its conceptualization. At the international level, hate crime statutes are strongly influenced by the different social, cultural, and historical contexts across nations. Hate crime laws differ markedly across countries with respect to the specification of protected groups’ identities, treatment of hate speech, legal standards for establishing bias motivation, and utilization of hate crime statutes for criminal prosecutions. These differences, coupled with nationally distinct methodologies for recording bias-motivated incidents, have stymied attempts to engage in cross-national comparisons of the quality and extent of hate crime.

Article

Vigilantes have arisen at many times in different regions of the world, taking the law into their own hands as defenders, often by force, of their view of the good life against those they see to be its enemies. They have a strong attraction for some commentators and they rouse equally strong hostility in others. For yet others, who attempt to take a broader view, they are a source of deep ambivalence. Academic interest in the phenomenon has grown strongly over recent years, and this has contributed significantly to an increase in knowledge of its distribution beyond the bounds of western Europe, the United States, and particularly in many parts of Africa. Although vigilantes are most commonly male, increased evidence of women’s vigilantism has also come to light in recent years. Vigilantism is difficult to define in rigorous terms, partly because of general problems of comparative study, but there are also special reasons in this case. Vigilantism is not so much a thing in itself as a fundamentally relational phenomenon which only makes sense in relation to the formal institutions of the state. It is in several ways a frontier phenomenon, occupying an awkward borderland between law and illegality. Many of its manifestations are short-lived and unstable, nor is it always what it claims to be. For these reasons, definitions of vigilantism are best treated as an “ideal type,” which real cases may be expected to approximate to or depart from. This approach provides the possibility of comparing different cases of vigilantism and also allows one to explore the differences and similarities between it and other “dwellers in the twilight zone,” such as social bandits, mafias, guerrillas, and resistance movements.

Article

International Criminal Justice is a controversial concept, and there is a burgeoning body of literature on its exact contours. Understood broadly, the term “international criminal justice” covers a broad category, integrating international criminal law (ICL) within an overarching interdisciplinary enterprise also “incorporating philosophical, historical, political and international relations, sociological, anthropological and criminological perspectives” (Roberts, 2007). International criminal law consists, at its core, of a combination of criminal law and public international law principles. The idea of individual criminal responsibility and the concept of prosecuting an individual for a specific (macrocriminal) act are derived from criminal law, while the classical (Nuremberg) offenses form part of (public) international law and thus the respective conduct is directly punishable under ICL (principle of direct individual criminal responsibility in public international law). The dualistic base of international criminal law is also reflected in the reading of the mandates of the international criminal tribunals; one can either take a “security, peace, and human rights”–oriented approach or a “criminal justice”–oriented approach, either of which may entail a paradoxical goal or purpose ambiguity of international criminal law. In any case, the strong grounding in criminal law, together with the actual enforcement of international criminal law by way of international criminal proceedings and trials, converts international criminal law into criminal law on a supranational level and thus entails the full application of the well-known principles of liberal, post-enlightenment criminal law, in particular the principles of legality, culpability, and fairness. These principles constitute the minimum standard of any criminal justice system based on the rule of law and thus must also apply in an international criminal justice system. The adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 1998 and the effective establishment of the Court in 2002 have led to an institutionalization of international criminal law, turning the page on ad hoc imposition in favor of a treaty-based universal system. In addition, the Rome Statute provides for the first codification of international criminal law, with a potentially universal reach. Therewith, international criminal law was not only united into a single penal system of the international community, but it was also extended beyond its fundamental core areas of substantive and procedural law into other branches of criminal law (law of sanctions, enforcement of sentences, and judicial assistance).

Article

Carole Gibbs and Rachel Boratto

Environmental crime is a complex and ambiguous term for several reasons. It is sometimes used as an umbrella term for crimes related to biodiversity, wildlife, animals, natural resources, hazardous waste, banned substances, and environmental quality, but scholars have also developed typologies to capture the unique dimensions of each form of environmental crime. Disagreements regarding whether to distinguish violations of environmental laws (addressed via civil prosecution or administrative actions) from environmental crimes (criminally prosecuted), and whether to also consider environmental harms (legal activities that harm the environment) or environmental risks produce further confusion. The range of offenders also complicates this concept, as individuals, groups/networks, and powerful organizations commit environmental crimes. The degree of harm created by each actor may, or may not, be equivalent. Given the complexities of this area of study, scholars have developed and/or tested a wide range of theoretical perspectives on and interventions to address environmental crime. Consistent with conceptual disagreements, these theoretical frameworks and corresponding interventions vary (arguably the most) based on whether the dependent variable is environmental crime (as defined by law), or environmental harm or risk defined using other criteria. However, multiple theoretical perspectives/interventions are also examined within research on these broad categories of environmental crime, harm, and risk. In order to capture the breadth of research on environmental crime, we narrow the focus of this article to pollution related crimes (e.g., hazardous waste, banned substances, environmental quality). In the following article, we offer further detail regarding conceptual discussions, legal complexities, types of offenders, types of crime, and research on this subset of environmental crimes.

Article

Alexandra Stupperich, Helga Ihm, and Shannon B. Harper

Since the late 1950s, criminological research has focused on the question of why particular groups are more likely to become involved in criminal and/or deviant behavior. Theories about subcultures start from the premise that smaller sub- or countercultural groupings exist within a larger society and differentiate themselves by developing their own moral precepts, values, and norms. Subcultural theories were originally developed in the United States and have a long theoretical tradition dating back to the 1930s. Structural-functionalist sociologist Albert Cohen in 1955 first used the term, “delinquent subculture.” In his book Criminal Youth, Cohen defined subculture as the sum of dominant knowledge, convictions and beliefs, conventions, preferences, and prejudices within and acquired by participation in the particular group. Deviant behavior arises when these values and norms run counter to those of the dominant culture. Cohen interpreted delinquency as a collective, practical, and quick solution to problems caused by unequal opportunities in the class system. The basic assumption of early subcultural theories was that members of the lower socioeconomic classes established their own value system and norms due to their inability to conform to middle-class values and norms and achieve middle-class goals. Later in the 1970s, subcultural theory was altered and further expanded by the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at Birmingham University. The CCCS posits that criminal subcultures favor delinquency due to intersecting attitudes such as the rejection of authority, hedonism, or sensation-seeking. Moreover, the relationships between members within a subculture are important due to the shared nature of values, norms, and identities. Regionality is no longer a criterion for a delinquent/criminal subculture due to modern Europe’s high level of mobility and digital networks. Instead, modern delinquent/criminal subcultures utilize social media outlets not limited to region to disseminate their values and norms and establish identity. Islamic fundamentalism and the Reich Citizens and Sovereign Citizens movements are examples of subcultures that utilize the Internet to rapidly spread programs and ideologies in a targeted and simple manner. While earlier subcultural studies tended to explain the relationship between subculture and criminality as due to frustration over social and economic inequality, more recent research argues that subcultural theories need to be macro-level focused. Consequently, recent scholarship frames subcultural criminality as an expression of groups’ social and material life, which are defined by stylistic factors such as intentional communication, homology, and specific (piecemeal) solutions to problems.

Article

Therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) is a multidisciplinary approach to assessing the impact of the law itself on the emotional and psychological experiences of all those who have contact with the legal system. Variously described as a theory, a method, a lens, or a process of analysis, its distinguishing feature is to conceive of the law as a “therapeutic agent.” That agency can cause both therapeutic and antitherapeutic consequences. By investigating and assessing the social, professional, and political contexts in which laws are made and applied, TJ seeks to identify how unintentional harms are caused and suggests ways to remedy them. It also identifies opportunities to enhance psychological strengths and positive emotional experiences to improve legal outcomes. It has commonalities with positive criminology, restorative justice, procedural justice, and other less adversarial approaches within the criminal justice system. Since being founded by David Wexler and Bruce Winick in the 1980s as a project to improve the experiences of those subjected to mental disability law in the United States, the theory and methodology of TJ has evolved, and its influence has expanded to virtually every major legal system and jurisdiction. TJ was at the core of the operating philosophy of the problem-solving court movement, which now operates across nine countries. It is increasingly influential in new approaches to probation and offender treatment models in the United States, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, and in influencing access to justice policies in India and Pakistan. It offers some common conceptual principles for the development of First Nations courts, tribunals, and dispute resolution programs seeking to eradicate systemic, monocultural bias in postcolonial criminal justice systems which tend to lead to intractable, carceral overrepresentation. TJ is currently undergoing a process of “mainstreaming” across disciplines and internationally. This involves encouraging lawyers and other criminal justice workers outside specialist court and diversion jurisdictions to adopt therapeutic outlooks and practices. So far there have been projects to mainstream TJ principles in police interviewing, risk assessment, diversion, criminal settlement conferences, bail, sentencing, conditional release from custody, and appeals. The sorts of reforms, innovations, and changes in mindsets suggested by TJ work has also sparked resistance and criticism. The latter ranges from constructive concerns about conceptual vagueness, risks of paternalism, and coercion to absolute ideological opposition on the grounds that TJ allegedly advocates for the complete abandonment of the adversarial system and strongarms defendants into surrendering their constitutional and due process rights.

Article

Jin R. Lee

Cybercrime is generally understood as behaviors that involve the use of virtual environments and/or networked computer systems to generate harm. This broad definition of cybercrime captures a variety of different online behaviors, including interpersonal violence offenses such as cyberbullying and online harassment, as well as those involving the unauthorized use and access of computer systems such as malware dissemination, ransomware, and distributed denial of service attacks. Cybercrimes are policed by both law enforcement (e.g., local, state or provincial, federal) and extralegal agencies. Local law enforcement agencies are composed of police officers, who are generally tasked with maintaining public order within a specific municipality or county, including investigating crimes, apprehending offenders, and implementing crime prevention mechanisms (e.g., educating the public on available resources; proactive neighborhood patrol) within their local jurisdiction. State and provincial law enforcement agencies are larger police forces that are generally responsible for conduct that occurs within their wider state and provincial borders, including conducting highway traffic control and providing forensic services to smaller local agencies residing within their state or province. State and provincial agencies often become involved only when local forces are limited in their resources to adequately respond to an incident or when local jurisdictional conflicts exist. Federal agencies operate at the highest level of law enforcement, because they deal with crimes that involve homeland security. In fact, federal agencies can obtain cooperation among several national jurisdictions depending on existing political ties and extradition agreements. Several extralegal agencies (e.g., Internet Crime Complaint Center; Computer Emergency Response Teams) are also active in responding to cybercrime incidents. These agencies, which may develop from either public or private sectors, generally perform acts that support law enforcement, including facilitating communication and information sharing between victims and law enforcement agencies. Despite efforts to sanction online offenses, research suggests that cybercrimes present several challenges for law enforcement agencies across all levels of government. First, cybercrime offenders often anonymize their attacks and offline identities, making arrests and criminal prosecutions extremely challenging. Second, even if offenders and their actions are identified, agencies are limited by their geographic location and jurisdiction. Third, the technical nature of cybercrime means that victims may not be aware of their victimization until months after the attack, which may affect the identification of digital evidence necessary to prosecute an offender. Fourth, law enforcement officers may not possess the knowledge and expertise needed to secure and investigate a digital crime scene adequately. One approach that could improve how cybercrimes are enforced and regulated is the paradigm of evidence-based policing (EBP). EBP is a collective effort involving law enforcement agencies, academic researchers, and industry personnel/practitioners, whose central focus is to develop a robust evidence base that can identify current and emerging problems in policing, examine possible solutions to these problems using rigorous scientific methods, and monitor these solutions over extended periods of time to ensure successful outcomes are maintained. Knowing which operational practices work best in different situations will not only lead to a more intentional use of officers’ time and agency resources but also strengthen public perceptions of law enforcement in responding to cybercrime calls for service.

Article

In the mid-1970s, the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS), which came to be known as the “Birmingham School,” published two major books that contributed substantially to the field of critical criminology: Resistance Through Rituals (RTR) and Policing the Crisis (PTC). These two groundbreaking and complementary works aimed to contribute to the two main topics of criminological enquiry: deviance/crime and social reaction/punishment. In both cases, the Centre deployed a Marxist-inspired and sociologically driven approach whose main objective was to study both deviance and social reaction from a critical perspective that takes into consideration the broader social, political, economic, and cultural context in which they take place. RTR challenged the dominant discourse of the postwar era, which proclaimed the end of class antagonism and the exhaustion of “class” as a relevant social category. The Birmingham School’s research demonstrated that the many subcultures—punks, mods, teddy boys, rastas, etc. —that flourished in the United Kingdom at the time were not symptomatic, as many argued, of the rise of a “classless youth.” On the contrary, RTR made the case that subcultures are part of a century-long tradition of symbolic, working-class resistance against the hegemonic order. From this perspective, subcultures were seen as an attempt, on the part of working-class youths, to solve the many contradictions of their class experience at a time of broad, multidimensional changes. While the Birmingham School’s work on subcultures was a celebration of working-class resistance and agency, ultimately, it reached the conclusion that this form of resistance, which remained restricted to the symbolic sphere, could not offer a solution to the exploitation and oppression faced by working-class youth, which stemmed from the material, social relations of production of capitalism. While RTR focused on “deviance,” PTC shifted the analysis to the other side of the equation, that of social reaction and punishment. In this second publication, Stuart Hall and his co-authors developed an impressive “conjunctural analysis” approach that allowed them to move from the study of the so-called “mugging crisis” of the United Kingdom in the early 1970s, to the elaboration of their groundbreaking theory on crisis of hegemony and the rise of a new, “law and order society.” PTC is one of the pioneering studies that argued that the rise of “authoritarian populism” and the birth of a “law and order society” that were taking place in the United Kingdom in the 1970s were not temporary phenomena but were representative of a long-lasting change of epoch. More than 40 years after the publication of this seminal work, it leaves no doubt that the Birmingham School’s predictions have been validated, as is corroborated by an extensive literature studying the “punitive turn” that has taken over the globe over the last few decades. Overall, at a time when criminology was becoming increasingly dominated by positivism and disconnected from the sociological tradition, the Birmingham School’s most influential and long-lasting legacy resides in RTR and PTC’s invitation to critically investigate what the CCCS members called the “social and political ‘conditions of existence’” of both deviance/crime and social reaction/punishment.

Article

More than 70% of the world’s countries are considered to have abolished the death penalty. The nearly 30% of countries retaining the death penalty and carrying out executions are found primarily in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia-Pacific, and some states in the United States. Where the death penalty continues to be authorized, legislators must determine the crimes for which the penalty may be applied and the method by which the execution will occur. International law stipulates that a death sentence should be imposed for only the most serious crimes, but the term “serious” is not defined. As a result, the death penalty is not only applied for the crime of murder (generally considered an example of “most serious”), but also for other crimes against the person (e.g., rape, kidnapping), crimes against the state (e.g., treason, espionage, terrorism), offenses against the community (e.g., drug-trafficking), offenses against property (e.g., robbery, arson, and burglary), and crimes against religion (e.g., blasphemy or apostasy, and offenses against sexual morality). After conviction, the method of executing those convicted may be by hanging (currently the most widely authorized and frequently used method), shooting, beheading, stoning, lethal injection, or electrocution. Where the death penalty is retained, arguments favoring its use are likely to focus on issues of deterrence, retribution, and religious doctrine. Where it has been abolished, the arguments have highlighted concerns of questionable fairness in its application, the possibility of executing an innocent person, public opinion, and how capital punishment violates human rights. This last point that the death penalty violates human rights is the predominate view under international law and provides the primary theme explaining the world trend toward abolition.

Article

Joachim J. Savelsberg and Suzy McElrath

Structural and cultural changes in the modernization process, combined with contingent historical events, gave rise to a human rights regime. It is codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, promulgated after World War II and the Holocaust. Yet, only the gravest of human rights violations have been criminalized. First steps were taken beginning in the 19th century with The Hague and Geneva Conventions, constituting the Laws of Armed Conflict. They were followed by the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), and eventually the Rome Statute (1998) on which the first permanent International Criminal Court is based. Some scholars even observe a justice cascade. Enforcement of the norms entailed in the above legal documents benefits from opportunities such as increases in international interdependencies, the buildup of international organizations, and the proliferation of nongovernmental organizations in the human rights realm. Challenges arise from partially competing principles such as conflict settlement and survival of suffering populations as cultivated by social fields such as humanitarianism and diplomacy and from a lack of law enforcement. While international institutions play a crucial role, much international law is implemented through domestic courts. International penal law pertaining to human rights has affected domestic policymaking in the human rights realm but also nation-level policies pertaining to the punishment of common crimes. Finally, debates continue to rage regarding the effects of the criminalization of grave human rights violations. Proponents have thus far focused on potential deterrent effects, but a new line of thought has begun to take cultural effects seriously. Its representatives identify a redefinition of those responsible for mass violence as criminal perpetrators and substantial representational power of international criminal law against those who bear responsibility for the gravest of human rights violations.

Article

David Weisburd and Sean Wire

Hot spots of crime, and the criminology of place more generally, deviate from the traditional paradigm of criminology, in which the primary assumption and goal is to explain who is likely to commit crime and their motivations, and to explore interventions aimed at reducing individual criminality. Alternatively, crime hot spots account for the “where” of crime, specifically referring to the concentration of crime in small geographic areas. The criminology of place demands a rethinking in regard to how we understand the crime problem and offers alternate ways to predict, explain, and prevent crime. While place, as large geographic units, has been important since the inception of criminology as a discipline, research examining crime concentrations at a micro-geographic level has only recently begun to be developed. This approach has been facilitated by improvements to data availability, technology, and the understanding of crime as a function of the environment. The new crime and place paradigm is rooted in the past three decades of criminological research centered on routine activity theory, crime concentrations, and hot spots policing. The focus on crime hot spots has led to several core empirical findings. First, crime is meaningfully concentrated, such that a large proportion of crime events occur at relatively few places within larger geographies like cities. This may be termed the law of crime concentration at places (see Weisburd, 2015). Additionally, most hot spots of crime are stable over time, and thus present promising opportunities for crime prevention. Crime hot spots vary within higher geographic units, suggesting both that there is a loss of information at higher levels of aggregation and that there are clear “micro communities” within the larger conceptualization of a neighborhood. Finally, crime at place is predictable, which is important for being able to understand why crime is concentrated in one place and not another, as well as to develop crime prevention strategies. These empirical characteristics of crime hot spots have led to the development of successful police interventions to reduce crime. These interventions are generally termed hot spots policing.

Article

Ferdinando Spina

Cinema, together with television, has proved to be perhaps the most extensive, popular, and powerful medium in the representation of crime. From a criminological point of view, the crime films are all those movies whose central theme is crime and its consequences. The crime films should be defined on the basis of their relationship with society. On one hand, crime films say something important about the social context that they represent and from which they have been fashioned. On the other hand, they themselves have an effect on the social context, since their representation of crime, law, justice, and punishment itself becomes culture, acquires meaning, and provides an interpretation of reality. The approach of criminology to crime films has a series of important theoretical and methodological consequences. It leads to a fundamental enrichment of academic knowledge, for example, regarding the themes to be tackled, the disciplines and research methods to be used, and even the forms of teaching. Indeed, the analysis of crime films can help to better investigate many aspects of the perception and understanding of crime, law, and justice in society. The criminological study of crime requires a multifaceted approach, looking at the changing representation of crime and criminals in relation to the wider political, economic, and cultural transformations, and to the commercial and technological development of the cinematographic industry. The historical and thematic reconstruction of the productive and stylistic cycles of crime films comprehends the gangster, noir, detective, courtroom, and prison film genres. Moreover, this perspective deals with the main reasons for the success of crime films, the elements that influence their production, and finally the thorny topic of the effects of crime films.

Article

Since the inception of television, portrayal of crime and justice has been a central feature on television. In particular, the police are featured as prominent characters in many fictional crime programs. Some television cops, such as Joe Friday, Columbo, and Kojak transcend the genre and become enshrined within popular culture. Sometimes referred to as a police procedural, the police drama is a staple of both current and past television programming. In fact, almost 300 police dramas have aired on American network, cable, and syndicated television, with several new shows premiering each year. The vast majority of these shows are short-lived and are largely forgotten. However, some police dramas capture large viewing audiences and/or achieve critical acclaim. Sweeping changes within society have resulted in shifting portrayals of the police on television. Early portrayals focused on a law and order approach, in which the police were moral agents who represented a conservative, pro-establishment point of view. These types of shows represent the so-called “authentic” police drama. The authentic police drama features storylines and characters that engage in somewhat realistic investigative practices and depict relatively common criminal events. The classic example of an authentic police drama is Dragnet, while more recent versions would include shows such as the very popular Law and Order franchise. The 1970s represented the golden age of the police drama, with numerous shows that can be described as gimmicky, with police appearing as super-cops who could singlehandedly fight corruption and achieve justice. Moreover, demographic shifts in the field of policing led to more diversity in media depictions of police, with shows that featured female and African-American characters. In the 1980s, the portrayal of police became even more complex with the appearance of Hill Street Blues, a genre altering show that introduced serialized storylines and characters that were depicted with distinctly human characteristics, with real emotions and flaws. Moreover, the standard law and order approach was challenged, as a more liberal explanation of crime emerged with social inequality as a cause of criminal behavior. Contemporary police dramas, especially shows that appear on network television, tend to focus on a law and order approach. The emergence of cable networks has allowed the police drama to push the limits of television by depicting the police in a more realistic fashion.

Article

American courtroom films depicting criminal trials have long resonated with audiences around the world, including viewers in countries whose legal systems are very different from those portrayed in the films. Three principal factors account for the broad popularity of these films. 1. Flexibility of the genre: The crimes with which defendants are charged can be carried out in an infinite number of ways and for an infinite variety of motives. Stories can be comedies or dramas; real or fictional; and “who-dunits,” “why-dunits,” or “how-dunits.” 2. The adversary system of trial: The American adversary system of trial is made to order for screenwriters. The question-and-answer format produces verbal duels between lawyers and witnesses that often result in surprise evidence, sudden plot twists, and in-your-face comeuppances. While the nominal targets of the testimony and the arguments are the jurors who are frequently present, the jurors are proxies for the writers’ ultimate targets, the viewers. 3. Subject matter: Defendants in courtroom films are typically charged with murder or other forms of serious crime, topics to which viewers in all countries can easily relate. For individual courtroom films, the “moment of truth” typically occurs when viewers find out whether a defendant is innocent or guilty. But for the courtroom genre as a whole, “moments of truth” consist of the “macro lessons” that courtroom films “teach” to viewers about the American system of criminal justice. Most viewers, regardless of where they live, have had little or very little exposure to actual criminal trials. For most people, what they think they know about American criminal justice is based on the images of law, lawyers, and criminal justice portrayed in courtroom films.