Criminology

Our growing Criminology list takes a critical stance and features boundary-pushing work with innovative, research-led publications.  

A particular focus of the list are books that engage with our global social challenges, both on a local and international level. We aim to publish books in a wide range of formats that will have real impact and shape public discourse. 

Criminology

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This Conclusion highlights the ways that experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic were mediated and influenced by socio-economic position, and how a microcosm of this can be seen within the sex work community. Some questions about the experiences of sex workers cannot be answered by analysing media texts, and this chapter highlights areas for future study: in particular, the experiences of workers who are beneficiaries, and workers who live with a disability or chronic illness. Finally, the chapter offers a summary of changes and progress that can be seen when comparing this corpus of media coverage to coverage from the previous decade. There are subtle but important shifts in how sex work is discussed more frequently as a job and the language used to describe it, but the position of sex workers who are affected by intersectional oppressions remains fraught.

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This chapter summarises and synthesises the dominant themes in media discourse about sex work and COVID-19 during 2020 and 2021. First, it explores the way that sex work was treated during a national public health crisis is explored, addressing how stigmatising narratives of the sex worker as a disease vector were deployed, and which parts of the sex industry these focused on. Second, the ways that sex workers were made vulnerable are analysed, including economic vulnerabilities. These are considered with reference to which parts of the sex industry are especially exposed to this precarity – notably workers who experienced intersectional oppressions. Third, the chapter addresses how sex workers made use of media coverage to assist with the project of destigmatisation, offering counternarratives, and rendering themselves as part of the broader community. Within this, sex workers’ use of humour to convey key messages about their jobs are explored. Finally, the chapter considers how New Zealand’s model of decriminalisation functioned under stress, and what strengths of this legislative approach are apparent from the research.

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Giving an overview of the core topic areas for the book, this chapter summarises the current functioning of New Zealand’s sex industry. Although prostitution has been decriminalised since 2003, migrant sex workers are still excluded from the protection offered by decriminalisation, and the vulnerabilities this produced became clear during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. The history of treating sex work as a public health issue, and viewing the sex worker as a disease vector, is contrasted with the way that New Zealand’s legislation uses a dominant frame of labour to position health concerns as workplace health and safety. Sex worker activist and advocacy organisations frequently develop peer education and health initiatives, and this history is explored for the way it contextualises peer-led efforts during COVID-19. Exploring the existing international research into the effects of the pandemic on sex workers allows for an exploration of how New Zealand’s combination of an unusual legislative approach and unusually successful COVID-19 response produced improved outcomes for many sex workers. The media is a key site where the stigmas of sex work are produced and challenged, and an explanation of this function justifies the selection of objects of analysis in this research.

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In 2020 New Zealand responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with a nation-wide lockdown that successfully stopped community transmission of the virus for a period of time. The impacts of the pandemic on all businesses were explored in the media. Questions about how sex workers would respond were raised very early in the response, prior to restrictions on movement and trading being introduced. Key themes in analysed media during this period included the impacts on the physical activities sex workers could perform; sex workers as community members and public health advocates; the misbehaviour of clients attempting to breach lockdown; a move towards producing online content; and sex workers’ ability to access financial support aimed at businesses. Media coverage contained elements of stigmatising narratives and stereotypes, such as the sex worker as a vector of disease, but effective uses of the media by sex workers helped to counter these. Sex work was sometimes considered alongside comparable industries, suggesting a discursive shift to being discussed in the register of work, without its status as a job first having to be justified.

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In 2021 New Zealand began to face increasing difficulties in keeping COVID-19 out of the community, and the largest city, Auckland, was kept in a state of lockdown or heightened restrictions during the latter part of the year. The impacts of this on sex workers is explored in this chapter through the lens of media texts. Key themes that emerged here were online sex work and the impact of OnlyFans’ planned ‘porn ban’; inconsistent access to economic support; workers who broke the lockdown or crossed regional boundaries to work; and changes to the precautions sex workers were required to take in their interactions with clients. The impacts of the pandemic on multiple-marginalised groups, including migrant sex workers, are examined here, as well as the impacts of banking discrimination.

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Avoid the Moist Breath Zone

New Zealand’s relatively recent decriminalisation of sex work, and its unusual success in combatting COVID-19, have both attracted international media interest. This accessibly-written book uses the lens of news media coverage to consider the pandemic’s impacts on both sex workers and public perceptions of the industry.

Analysing the stigmatisation of sex work in both short- and long-term contexts, the book addresses the impacts of intersectional oppressions or marginalisations on sex workers, and the ways sex work advocacy relates to other social justice movements. It unpicks how New Zealand’s decriminalisation approach functions under stress, offering valuable information for advocates, activists and scholars.

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COVID-19 constitutes one of the most significant global health crises in a century. Since the novel coronavirus was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019, over 5 million people have died worldwide (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 2021). Many who contracted the virus are now suffering from the debilitating effects of ‘long Covid’. A mental health crisis brought about by, among other factors, bereavement, enforced social isolation and financial anxiety, poses an acute challenge to health services (Campion et al, 2020). Children and young people, from preschoolers to university students, have lost over a year of traditional education. Many businesses, and their employees, face an uncertain future. And billion-euro fiscal bailouts will take decades to balance. Widespread vaccination may have reduced infection and subsequent rates of hospitalization and death in developed countries but, at the time of writing, infection and mortality rates in the Indian subcontinent and the global south are catastrophic.

The onslaught of the pandemic in Western Europe in spring 2020 led to a groundswell of community solidarity: across the United Kingdom people emerged from their houses every Thursday evening to applaud frontline health workers; 700,000 people volunteered their services; and a 99-year-old war veteran, Captain Tom Moore, was knighted after raising millions of pounds for healthcare charities by walking laps of his garden. Similar rounds of applause for frontline workers were held in the Republic of Ireland, and members of An Garda Síochána (the national police service) took part in a dance challenge in a bid to lighten spirits.

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The Scottish Prisoner Advocacy and Research Collective (SPARC) state that in the context of COVID-19, ‘care of people in prison is being reconceptualised purely in terms of protection from coronavirus and health is being reconceptualised only as bare physical survival’ (SPARC Scotland, 2020). As the wider community slowly emerges from lockdown, many prisons remain in some stage of restricted regime. Outbreaks within prisons continue to force lockdowns across wings or entire estates, and the challenges that go with them remain prevalent. In this final chapter, we review the issues and impacts identified within Chapters Two to Four and explore the ways in which prisons may move beyond the pandemic – what can be learned from this experience. We note that while many restrictions had negative effects, some created positive change that should be maintained into the future. Additionally, we reflect on the challenges for staff and prison management as regimes change.

Public health modelling proved broadly correct: restricting human interaction through lockdown saved many lives in prison. The death rate is all the more remarkable when one considers the poor physical health of many prisoners. However, achieving this success came at significant social and psychological costs. Compromises were required, and while strict lockdowns could be justified when the threat posed was so extreme, other benefits accrued. We recognize that even as the risk from COVID-19 abates (at least in the developed world), there may be calls to retain some of the measures introduced during lockdown, which led to other desirable outcomes:

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This chapter reviews the experience of prison lockdown on minority ethnic prisoners. As noted in research conducted by Belong (2021) entitled Collaborating with People from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds in Prison: COVID-19 and Beyond, there are several terms currently used to describe minority ethnic groups, each with their own political and cultural connotations. A range of previous research – often including that relating to the criminal justice system – has used the acronym BAME to encompass several minority ethnic groups. There has also been a growing use of the term ‘people of colour’, both in academia and the wider community. However, both terms have been criticized and, in the current context of this book, neither felt appropriate. Rather, this chapter will consider the experiences of prisoners from a range of Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, with the exception of White minorities and traditionally nomadic communities (for example, the Irish Travelling community who are discussed in Chapter Four). Ultimately, we have chosen to use the term ‘Black, Asian and minority ethnic’ reflecting the decision made by Belong (2021) following their consultation process with members of these communities. At times, based on the research being discussed, we may also use the term ‘minority ethnic groups (excluding White minorities)’. In the latest census of England and Wales, approximately 14 per cent of the population were from minority ethnic groups, excluding White minorities.

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This chapter focusses on the experience of foreign national prisoners during COVID-19 prison lockdowns. In this context, a foreign national prisoner refers to anyone who does not have an absolute legal right to remain in the country. Those with citizenship (or dual citizenship) are not foreign nationals, and as such, the number of foreign-born persons may be higher than those of foreign nationality (The Parole Board, 2020). We recognize that the experience of foreign national prisoners may differ significantly if they have been a resident in their country of imprisonment for a period of time. We also recognize that foreign national prisoners are far from a homogenous group. As has been mentioned in previous chapters, there may be substantial overlaps between some foreign national prisoners and other groups discussed in this book. For example, the HM Inspectorate Annual Report 2019–2020 noted that 10 per cent of foreign national prisoners were members of the Gypsy, Roma or Irish Travelling community (HMIP, 2020a). As such, issues discussed here may be equally applicable to the other minority groups featured in this book. Similarly, issues facing foreign national prisoners may also be reviewed in other chapters. In 2019, it was estimated that foreign nationals comprised 9 per cent of the population in the United Kingdom (Rienzo and Vargas-Silva, 2020). This does not include non-UK-born residents who hold British citizenship. There are three primary reasons for differences between nationality numbers and country of birth figures.

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