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  • Author or Editor: Jessica René Peterson x
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Discretion in the context of law enforcement is not easily operationalized, but the concept essentially refers to a law enforcement officer’s agency and ability to choose how they will (or will not) respond to law violations and encounters with community members. The amount of discretion available to officers can be expanded or restricted based on the structural, cultural and situational context of their setting; these contexts also influence the way officers make decisions and utilize their available discretion. Characteristics of the law enforcement agency, the officer, the community and the situation or involved persons are significant in the use of discretion (see Carrington and Schulenberg, 2003; Shukla et al, 2019). Urban-centric research finds that offense severity, prior record, offender attitude, presence of a victim, race or ethnicity, gender and officer philosophy are key common factors that influence the decision to arrest. Taking an individual into custody through arrest is the most formal method of social control that can be exerted by officers. However, officers also employ informal sanctions to exert social control in their communities. Such practices may include verbal warnings or threats, releasing a suspect, driving an offender home and more.

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Technology has a significant impact – including both advantages and disadvantages – on rural criminal justice agencies and their capabilities regarding efficiency, effectiveness and supervision. Although the connectivity gap is narrowing, connectivity and communication remain limited by poor internet access and cellular service in many rural settings. For example, the International Telecommunication Union found that 71 per cent of rural areas in the world had access to 4G mobile network coverage in 2020, compared with 95 per cent of the world’s urban locations. This gap increases in underprivileged areas (such as Tribal areas in North America) and developing nations worldwide. Lack of funding in many rural jurisdictions can affect both the quantity and quality of technological services provided to and by justice-involved agencies such as law enforcement, the courts and corrections.

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The key reference guide to rural crime and rural justice, this encyclopedia includes 85 concise and informative entries covering rural crime theories, offences and control. It is divided into five complementary sections:

  • theories of rural crime;

  • rural crime studies;

  • rural criminal justice studies and responses;

  • rural people and groups;

  • rural criminological research.

With contributions from established and emerging international scholars, this authoritative guide offers state-of-the-art synopses of the key issues in rural crime, criminology, offending and victimisation, and both institutional and informal responses to rural crime.

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Community corrections are non-custodial criminal sanctions that have been adopted by courts and other criminal justice agencies, with a basic philosophy that, rather than relying on incarceration, the preferred approach is community-based alternatives to supervise, manage, rehabilitate and educate offenders. Alternatives to imprisonment include diversionary schemes for defendants, probation or suspended sentences for convicted offenders and parole or early release for prisoners. They are relatively low-cost sanctions and measures that do not consume prison space (see Groves, 2017). Community corrections consist of two basic types of programmes: (i) sanctions that serve as alternatives to incarceration and (ii) programmes that assist prisoners in community re-entry after prison (see Cromwell et al, 2002). Community sanctions combine the purposes of controlling and reforming the offender. These diversionary schemes attempt to redirect certain offenders from the formal criminal justice system to various services that improve their chances for rehabilitation and improve re-entry back into the community, thereby reducing recidivism. As Klingele (2021) points out, offenders may face many challenges in the communities where they live, including adequate housing, access to healthy and affordable food, addressing chronic physical and mental health issues, the need for vocational training and employment, transportation to various human services, childcare and so on. By meeting these needs, there is a greater chance that the supervision, management and rehabilitation of offenders who are on probation or have suspended sentences will be improved and thereby reduce re-entry back into a criminal lifestyle, potentially leading to additional arrests and jail time.

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‘Rural’, most crudely, is defined as ‘non-urban’, but this dichotomous delineation is grossly inadequate because it neglects the consideration of the nuances of geography, demography, attitudes, culture and issues of access both tangible and amorphous. These are vitally important considerations: there exists significant cultural and spatial separation between urban and rural because what is taken for granted in the city is not accessible or available outside of it. There exists, most certainly, definitional difficulties about rural that will never go away. Should we just consider physical and demographic measures, such as population size and density, accessibility and remoteness? Such imprecision is typified by the existing definitions even within the same jurisdictions by different organizations and agencies of the same governmental units. Adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach is unwise, though, as a universal measure will not account for the non-homogenous nature of geographic location, both within and across jurisdictions. For instance, a coastal location in Australia dominated with former city dwellers cannot be easily compared to a rapidly populated boom town in Canada reliant on imported labour, to a primarily agricultural community in Ireland with multiple generations of the same families present, to the Yanomamo and Kayapo and other tribes in the rain forest regions of South America, nor to a remote settlement in the Siberian region of Russia or in the state of Alaska in the United States. Indeed, different places have different cultural origins – as scholars such as Hayden, Weisheit et al, Donnermeyer and DeKeseredy, Ceccato, Harkness (see suggested readings) and many other scholars already have observed.

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