Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70

21 Mar

Maynooth University Department of Law is hosting a two-day conference, ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Seventy: A Review of Successes and Challenges’. The event will take place on 21st-22nd June.

The call for papers is now open (deadline April 29th). Applicants are asked to send a 300 word abstract to udhrat70@gmail.com

For more details, including keynote speakers and registration, please see: Call for Papers 2.


Irish Criminal Justice Expert Needed!

13 Mar

Luca Machnich, an Italian screenwriter and director, is seeking an expert guide to the Irish criminal justice system to help with a film he is currently working on. Luca debuted with a short film that won 200 international awards, and is currently working on a screenplay for a full-length mystery film set in an unidentified Irish village where police are investigating the disappearance of a number children.

Luca has a budget to pay for an Irish script supervisor to ensure the accuracy of the portrayal of the investigation and criminal justice agencies in the film.

For more information on the director/screenwriter or the plot of the film, please contact this e-mail address addproduzioni@yahoo.it

Shane O’Mahony: The Neoliberalisation of Addiction Understandings in Ireland

16 Feb

ICRN is very pleased to host a guest blog from Shane O’Mahony, a PhD researcher at the University of Manchester. Shane is researching drug addiction in Ireland, approaching the issue from both an historical as well as a contemporary perspective. His research has involved conducting qualitative interviews with people who have drug addiction issues in his native Cork City.

The Neoliberalisation of Addiction Understandings in Ireland:

Continuities and Discontinuities in Irish Addiction History

It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions that appear to be both neutral and independent. To attack them in such a way that political violence which has always exerted itself obscurely through them, will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them‘ (Michel Foucault, Chomsky-Foucault debate 1971).

Many social commentators (see here and  here) have noted that a key feature of Neoliberal social policy globally, is a shift away from attempts to uncover the cause(s) of social problems, and toward an attempt to minimise the risks associated with them. In the case of crime and homelessness in Ireland, this has taken the form of a massive increase in the prison population (see IPRT here), as well as the passing of a number of legislative acts criminalising begging (see the Criminal Justice Act 2011 for example) and other behaviours which homeless individuals are likely to engage in (street drinking, and loitering, for example). At the same time we have witnessed, particularly since the 2008 financial crisis, a reduction in spending in social services which have traditionally attempted to alleviate social deprivation (seen as an important contextual factor in crime causation) and to provide social housing, and other measures intended to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable.

However, in the realm of addiction it seems, at least on the face of it, that Irish policy is moving in a more enlightened and humane direction. Indeed,  the Government’s most recent policy document entitled ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery: A Health-led Response to Drug and Alcohol Use in Ireland 2017-2025′ , argues that addiction is a health problem rather than a criminal one. Is it the case then that addiction policy in Ireland is running counter to domestic and international policy trends in relation to social problems? Or is there more to this development than the Government simply moving in the direction of a policy more sympathetic to those suffering with addiction?

The key to answering this question, I believe, is a reconceptualisation of how power operates, and of how our understandings and conceptualisations of social problems develop across time, along the lines suggested by Michel Foucault. Foucault argued famously that social theorists should ‘cut off the king’s head’. Cutting through Foucault’s grisly poetics, this can be interpreted as a call to shift our gaze from an excessive focus on the state – its policy, concepts, and influence – to a broader appreciation of the many and varied sites from which power can operate; often in subtle and powerful ways. This is potentially beneficial as there seems to be a tendency among those who analyse drug and alcohol policy in Ireland to create a dichotomy between vested interests on the one hand, and progressive campaigners interested only in the public good on the other.

In terms of alcohol policy this has taken the form of the alcohol industry, in particular the Vintner’s Association, being portrayed as nefarious and interested in only their bottom line, rejecting the ‘objective evidence’ demonstrating a link between alcohol advertising and binge-drinking. At the other side of this dichotomy, we find those supporting population-based alcohol consumption models (for example, the medical profession) who argue that certain supply and demand measures (minimum pricing, stricter regulation of advertising, for example) can tilt the balance of incentives and disincentives in favour of a reduction in total population consumption levels, and alcohol problems more generally. In terms of drug policy, the dichotomy is between reactionary drug war supporters arguing for criminalisation and punitive measures intended to punish addicts, and public-health inspired campaigners arguing in favour of viewing addiction as a medical issue. However, a Foucauldian inspired perspective enables us to look beyond such dichotomies.

This shift in focus alerts us to the fact that Irish thinking in relation to alcohol and drug problems has never been, and still isn’t, based on an objective appraisal of the available evidence. Indeed one does not have to think very hard to come to the realisation that such a conceptualisation is not even possible. Facts do not speak for themselves, they must be selected, analysed, and placed within a framework. As psychologists have taught us, such a process is extremely vulnerable to confirmation bias and to our deeply held beliefs and prejudices. Furthermore, as Jean-Francis Lyotard reminds us, the social world is infinitely complex and the narratives and frameworks we deploy in order to render it more understandable are always incomplete, contingent, and intimately influenced by broader political-economic and socio-cultural processes.

So it has been in the history of addiction in Ireland, and two crucial developments will illustrate this point. Shane Butler and Tony Jordan have conducted extensive research on the emergence of the disease concept of alcoholism in an Irish context. In a number of books and articles they demonstrate how the disease concept of alcoholism was accepted initially, not because of the weight of scientific evidence in its favour, but rather, due to broader socio-cultural and political-economic developments. Indeed, the crucial neuroscientific evidence in favour of the disease model only emerged decades later with the advent of modern medical technology (FMRIs etc). Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and their ambassadors in Ireland had been trying to champion the disease theory since AA’s first European meeting was held in Dublin in 1946. However, initially they were met with an extremely hostile reaction from the Church, and indifference from government and the medical profession. This all changed in the late 1950s, and it is the timing that is crucial here.

The late 1950s represented a watershed in Irish history. The Government initiated its ‘First Programme for Economic Expansion’ which shifted Irish economic policy from a focus on protectionism and the promotion of native industry, to an aggressive policy of economic liberalism, free trade, and an attempt to attract foreign direct investment. Within this context, Ireland’s outdated and restrictive licensing laws came under attack. Indeed, in 1959 the country liberalised its licensing laws allowing for longer opening hours and easier access to alcohol in general. Despite the Catholic Church opposing this legislation, the Government quoted World Health Organisation research, which argued that alcoholism was a disease of a tiny number of susceptible individuals,  unrelated to population consumption levels. Furthermore, with the advent of foreign holidays and increasing access to the mass media, it is not surprising that the country at large became more receptive to the influence of global policy. Furthermore, the medical profession, eager to fall in line with international best practice, were at the forefront of setting up the Irish National Council on Alcoholism in the coming years. In relation to the Church, Butler and Jordan demonstrate that it was the AA’s ambassador’s theological and organisational sophistication which slowly broke down their resistance to the ‘alcoholism as a disease’ construct. I would add to this the fact that articles began to appear in The Furrow (the Church’s seminary journal), which highlighted alcohol problems among priests, and a drive to modernise the Church in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council.

Today’s embrace of Neoliberalism – and its attendant focus on the risks related to alcohol and drug use – is no more an embrace of the objective evidence and a move towards a more enlightened policy, than was the acceptance of the ‘alcoholism as a disease’ concept. To better comprehend this shift, one need only examine the policy documents from the late 1990s to the present (see Rabbitte, 1997; Ryan, 2001; Ahern, 2005; Irish Government, 2013; Irish Government, 2017). Throughout each document we see a shift away from discussing causation and towards risk, minimising risk, inter-agency co-operation to contain disorder among those at risk, and, in particular, the need to minimise the risks associated with intravenous drug use. A similar trend is noticeable in the Irish Medical Journal, The Furrow, and indeed the media.

However, such a shift in addiction understandings can be located in a Neoliberal response to the disorder produced by socio-cultural and political-economic restructuring, in particular the 2008 financial crisis. Indeed, none of the policy documents mentioned, nor any articles published in The Furrow, or the Irish Medical Journal, examine the impact of structural readjustment on alcohol and drug related problems. Instead we find a prominent discourse which blames alcohol and drugs for a host of social problems including: crime, suicide, rape, sexual assault, and violence.  At the same time this discourse focuses overtly on minimising risk and eschews discussions of causation. This represents a type of ‘New Managerialism’ whereby market principles and ideologies are used to contain the disorders (or risks) associated with social problems and ‘problem populations’, which is indicative of Neoliberal social policy. Discussions of broader socio-cultural and political-economic processes are afforded little credence and a host of political commentators attempt to depoliticise social policy with calls for ‘evidence-based’ and ‘objective’ policy-making.

However, as has been demonstrated throughout, our thinking, understanding, and responses to alcohol and drug problems are overtly political and always have been. Rather than being based on objective evidence, addiction understandings are produced by power struggles within society and broader socio-cultural and political-economic processes. An approach to addiction policy and understanding, based on a Foucauldian (and indeed a broader post-structuralist) perspective, highlights this and encourages us to challenge those who would impose an ideological (Neoliberal) position under the guise of objective evidence-based policy. What Irish addiction policy and debate needs is more deep discussion of politics, economy, and philosophy, and less rhetoric in relation to ‘objective evidence and policy’. The most immediate political task, however, is to demonstrate the historically contingent and ideologically based nature of addiction understandings and responses. This has the potential to create an opportunity to challenge Neoliberal policy and responses which masquerade as objective science, and opens up the possibility to advocate for radical future alternatives. It is to this end the current piece hopes to contribute.


  1. Ahern, N. (2005) ‘Mid-term Review of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008’. Dublin: The Stationary Office. Available at: http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/3887/1/2727-2914.pdf (Accessed: 29 June 2017).
  2. Rabbitte, P. (1997) Second Report of the Ministerial Task Force on Measures to Reduce the Demand for Drugs. Dublin: The Stationary Office. Available at: http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/5114/1/542-0492.pdf (Accessed: 01 July 2017).
  3. Ryan, E. (2001) ‘Building on Experience: The National Drugs Strategy 2001 – 2008’. Dublin: The Stationary Office. Available at: http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/5187/1/799-750.pdf (Accessed: 03 January 2018).
  4. Irish Government (2013) ‘National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 Progress Report to End 2013’. Dublin: The Stationary Office. Available at: http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/21621/1/National_Drugs_Strategy_2009-2016_2013_Review.pdf (Accessed: 05 July 2017).
  5. Irish Government. (2017) ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery: A Health-led Response to Drug and Alcohol Use in Ireland 2017-2025’. Department of Health: Dublin.

Lecturer in Criminology – Maynooth

12 Feb

Maynooth University are recruiting a Lecturer in Criminology, to support the delivery of their undergraduate programmes, the BCL (Law and Criminology) and BA Criminology, and postgraduate MA in Comparative Criminology and Criminal Justice.

The deadline to apply is Sunday 11th March 2018.

For more information see here.

More about the role: 

‘Candidates should have an excellent broad knowledge of criminological theory and criminal justice. The Department would particularly welcome applications from candidates with a specialist knowledge of policing and/or victimology.

‘The person appointed will have a proven record of teaching, research, and publication, appropriate to career stage. She/he will be expected to make a strong contribution to the teaching mission of the Department, and undertake teaching duties on the Department’s undergraduate and postgraduate programmes as well as the supervision of Master’s and PhD students.

The appointee will be expected to build a strong research profile that supports the University’s research strategy, including affiliating to the Research Institutes, where appropriate, and working with colleagues on national and international research. The appointee will be expected to sustain and conduct research, engage in scholarship of quality and substance, and generate publications of international standard.’

Children with a parent in prison

28 Jun

A new scoping exercise is assessing the extent of research and work being done with children who have a parent in prison. The survey is part of a project – National Advocacy and Research Strategy to support Children Affected by Parental Imprisonment – being undertaken by Dr Fiona Donson and Dr Aisling Parkes (School of Law, University College Cork), the Irish Penal Reform Trust and the Children’s Rights Alliance. The project is funded by the Irish Research Council.

Take Part:

There are two surveys – one for academics or researchers who are researching children with a parent in prison, and one for practitioners/NGO/professions working with children with a parent in prison.

Both surveys are below – please complete and pass along to anyone you think this applies to!

Survey – Those researching children with a parent in prison:


Survey – Those working with children with a parent in prison (practitioner/NGO):


‘Crime, Justice and Society’ – Free online course from the University of Sheffield

26 May
‘Crime, Justice and Society’ is a free 7-week course from the University of Sheffield.
Utilising the skills, knowledge and experience of 10 leading academics from the School of Law, the course is an expansion of the University’s commitment to open access, digital learning and explores the judicial system of Great Britain and the wider world.
Hashtag: #FLcrime
Twitter: @Shefunionline

Statement of the American Society of Criminology Executive Board Concerning the Trump Administration’s Policies Relevant to Crime and Justice

8 May

Thanks for Prof Ciaran McCullagh for sending this on. It is very unusual for the ASC to issue a statement of this nature. Here they use evidence to take Trump and his administration to task on their ‘alternative facts’ concerning  crime and justice.

Statement of the American Society of Criminology Executive Board Concerning the Trump Administration’s Policies Relevant to Crime and Justice

The Trump administration has signaled its crime policy intentions through a series of Executive Orders signed in the President’s first several months in office.i These executive orders demonstrate an incongruity between administrative policy efforts and well-established science about the causes and consequences of crime. Four general areas are especially emblematic of this problem.

Immigrants do not commit the majority of crime in the United States. First, a century’s worth of findings on immigration and crime in the U.S. show that immigrant concentration decreases crime at the neighborhood and city levels – also known as the revitalization thesis.ii That immigration is a protective factor against crime also holds true for individuals; immigrants as a whole are far less likely to commit crimes than non-immigrants.iii Recent examples of crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants are not representative of national, state, neighborhood, or even individual-level violent crime trends,iv yet the President and his administration present them as the norm. This erroneous view underlies executive orders that see immigrants as criminogenic, and that threaten cities receptive to immigrants (i.e., sanctuary cities) to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement or face the withdrawal of federal funding, and also is reflected in development of the new Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office.

The proposed travel ban is not empirically justified and targets the wrong countries.

Second, there is no empirical evidence to support President Trump’s decision to ban citizens of six majority-Muslim countries from travel to the U.S. in the name of preventing terrorist infiltration. No terrorist perpetrator from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen – whose nationals would be halted from U.S. travel under Trump’s Executive Order of March 2017 – has been involved in a fatal terrorist attack in the United States since September 11, 2001.v Every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack in the United States since 9/11 was a United States citizen or legal resident, while the three countries from which the deadliest terrorists have come to the U.S. are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt – none of which are included in the travel ban.

The U.S. is not in the midst of a national crime wave. Third, rates of violent and property crime have been declining in the U.S. for at least a quarter century.vi Many criminologists have referred to this post-1990s period as “the great crime decline.” It is true that some cities experienced large increases in homicide in 2015, but this is not indicative of a national pattern as homicide rates overall remain significantly below 1990s peaks.vii As for violent crime generally, recent projections anticipate that violent crime rates in America’s 30 largest cities will increase slightly next year, but will still remain near 30-year lows.viii That our nation and cities are safer now than at least the 1990s has been disregarded by an executive order that would empower the federal government to make fighting a non-existent crime wave a top priority.

The U.S. government plays an important role in police reform. Finally, the federal government has played a critical role in recent decades in the reform of U.S. police departments. Most recently, former President Obama convened a task force on policing in the wake of police

violence against African Americans. The report generated by this task force advances a number of empirically-based solutions aimed at improving policing, rebuilding community trust in the police, and ensuring officer safety and wellness.ix In addition, the federal government has intervened in the form of consent decrees in U.S. cities that have well-established patterns of police discrimination and abuse. These consent decrees are designed to create long-term and system-wide pathways for police reform, including funds to do so. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ call for sweeping review of these consent decrees can signal both to law enforcement and to citizens that such problems are not systemic but instead simply the result of “a few bad apples.”x Research indicates that this is not necessarily the case.xi Pulling back on the use of consent decrees could undermine police reform efforts and dial back hard-won progress that many police leaders support.

Recent Presidential executive orders and other administrative decisions are at odds with established evidence in criminology and criminal justice.xii Crime-control policies should be built on science, and elected officials at all levels of government have a responsibility to endorse public policies that are evidence-based and that promote fairness, equality, and justice. The Executive Board of the American Society of Criminology is concerned by the actions of the Trump administration in its dissemination of misinformation and development of uninformed policy initiatives. Not only are these initiatives unscientific, they are likely to engender further cynicism about and discontent with the criminal justice system that is harmful to citizens, to members of law enforcement, and to other sources of social control.xiii Rather than keeping Americans safer, these initiatives stand to exacerbate existing crime problems by increasing risk of victimization while decreasing likelihood of reporting, and by worsening marginalization and discrimination in the U.S.

We urge the Trump administration to draw upon scientific evidencexiv and the research expertisexv of scholars who study crime and justice issues to help shape its crime policy agenda, and we stand ready to assist. Specifically, we caution the Trump administration against the resuscitation of Drug War era “get tough” policies and other “law and order” crackdowns that stand to worsen already strained relations between police and communities, especially communities of color, and policies that disparately arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate members of these communities. Evidence has shown such policies to create many unintended problems for families, children, law enforcement personnel, and other institutions across our nation. Furthermore, we advocate for a justice system that recognizes the adverse impact of draconian punishments and that seeks to prioritize beneficial reentry and social integration programsxvi that hold offenders accountable while still allowing them to maintain bonds with their families and communities. Our discipline has learned muchxvii about reducing crime, policing smarter, and punishing more effectively over the years, and we urge the Trump administration to draw from these lessons learned in order to advance policies that preserve and protect due process rights for all, and that promote justice at home and abroad.

James Lynch, University of Maryland; President, American Society of Criminology (ASC) Karen Heimer, University of Iowa; ASC President-Elect
Ruth D. Peterson, The Ohio State University; ASC Past-President
Jody Miller, Rutgers University; ASC Vice President

Christina DeJong, Michigan State University; ASC Vice President-Elect
Gaylene Armstrong, University of Nebraska; ASC Executive Counselor
Delores Jones-Brown, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; ASC Executive Counselor Natasha Frost, Northeastern University; ASC Executive Counselor
Charis Kubrin, University of California-Irvine; ASC Executive Counselor
Cynthia Lum, George Mason University; ASC Executive Counselor
Ineke Marshall, Northeastern University; ASC Executive Counselor
Hillary Potter, University of Colorado; ASC Executive Counselor
Claire Renzetti, University of Kentucky; ASC Executive Counselor
María B. Vélez, University of New Mexico; ASC Executive Counselor

Chris Eskridge, University of Nebraska; ASC Executive Director
Bonnie Fisher, University of Cincinnati; ASC Treasurer
Amanda Burgess-Proctor, Oakland University; Member, Ad-hoc Committee on the ASC’s

Statement on the Presidential Administration’s Policies Relevant to Crime and Justice
Gary LaFree, University of Maryland; Member, Ad-hoc Committee on the ASC’s Statement on

the Presidential Administration’s Policies Relevant to Crime and Justice
Sheldon X. Zhang, University of Massachusetts-Lowell; Member, Ad-hoc Committee on the

ASC’s Statement on the Presidential Administration’s Policies Relevant to Crime and Justice

i https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/executive-orders

ii Gonzalez-O’Brien, B., L. Collingwood, and S. Omar El-Khatib. Forthcoming. “The Politics of Refuge: Sanctuary Cities, Crime, and Undocumented Immigration.” Urban Affairs Review.

Lyons, C.J., M.B. Vélez, and W.A. Santoro. 2013. “Neighborhood Immigration, Violence, and City-Level Immigrant Political Opportunities.” American Sociological Review. 78: 604-632.

Martinez, R., J.I. Stowell, and M.T. Lee. 2010. “Immigration and Crime in an Era of Transformation: A Longitudinal Analysis of Homicides in San Diego Neighborhoods, 1980–2000.” Criminology. 48: 797– 829.

Oussey, G.C. and C.E. Kubrin. 2009. “Exploring the Connection between Immigration and Violent Crime Rates in U.S. Cities, 1980-2000. Social Problems. 56: 447-473.

Stowell, J.I., S.F. Messner, K.F. McGeever, and L.E. Raffalovich. 2009. “Immigration and the Recent Violent Crime Drop in the United States: A Pooled, Cross-Sectional Time-Series Analysis of Metropolitan Areas.” Criminology. 47: 889–928.

Wadsworth, T. 2010. “Is Immigration Responsible for the Crime Drop? An Assessment of the Influence of Immigration on Changes in Violent Crime between 1990 and 2000.” Social Science Quarterly. 91: 531-553.

Zatz, M.S., and H. Smith. 2014. “Immigration, Crime, and Victimization: Rhetoric and Reality.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science. 8: 141-159.

iii Vaughn, M.G., C.P. Salas-Wright, M. DeLisi, and B.R. Maynard. 2014. “The Immigrant Paradox: Immigrants are Less Antisocial than Native-Born Americans.” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 49: 1129-1137.

iv http://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Immigration-and-Public-Safety.pdf http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/03/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/

vi https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2014/crime-in-the-u.s.-2014/tables/table-1
Baumer E.P. and K.T. Wolff. 2014. “Evaluating Contemporary Crime Drops in America, New York City,

and Many Other Places.” Justice Quarterly. 31:5-38
Blumstein A. and J. Wallman. 2006. The Crime Drop in America. Cambridge University Press.

vii Rosenfeld, R. 2016. Documenting and Explaining the 2015 Homicide Rise: Research Directions. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice (https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/249895.pdf).

viii https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/analysis/Crime_in_2016_Updated_Analysis.pdf ix https://cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/taskforce/taskforce_finalreport.pdf

x https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/03/us/justice-department-jeff-sessions-baltimore-police.html?_r=0 xi

xiii http://lawenforcementleaders.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/LEL_Agenda_for_a_ New_Administration.pdf

xiv https://www.crimesolutions.gov/
xv http://crimeandjusticeresearchalliance.org/
xvi https://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/reentry/Pages/welcome.aspx xvii http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/series/CJ.html

v https://www.cato.org/blog/guide-trumps-executive-order-limit-migration-national-security-reasons http://www.start.umd.edu/profiles-individual-radicalization-united-states-pirus-keshif

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/jan/29/jerrold-nadler/have-there-been-terrorist- attacks-post-911-countri/

National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences. 2004. Fairness and Effectiveness in

Policing: The Evidence. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

xii Stowell, J.I., S.F. Messner, M.S. Barton, and L.E. Raffalovich. 2013. “Addition by Subtraction? A Longitudinal Analysis of the Impact of Deportation Efforts on Violent Crime.” Law & Society Review. 47: 909–942.