Goal 5: Gender Equality

SDG 5 aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Browse books and journal articles relating to this SDG below and find out more on the UN Sustainable Development Goals website.

Goal 5: Gender Equality

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Nowhere is peer-to-peer research, or peer-to-peer care more important than in sex work. It would be hard to name another demographic that has experienced the level of paternalistic representation, silencing and exclusion regarding rights, laws and care without naming other demographics overly represented in sex work. It is time to move the conversation forward. Nobody knows sex workers as well as other sex workers, and we trust each other. Many of us have never been able to depend on anyone else other than each other. Stigma has kept us from being able to turn to neighbours, friends, family and sometimes even partners for fear we will lose everything. And many of us have. There are no genuine and justifiable reasons to continue to exclude us from conversations about ourselves. Nothing about us without us. (Adeline Berry, co-author and SWAI peer researcher)

Positioning sex workers as experts in their own lives is fundamentally implied in a ‘nothing about us without us’ model. As Adeline’s words eloquently state, excluding sex workers from conversations about themselves is no longer justifiable. When we inhibit or limit access for sex workers to arenas where knowledge on sex work is produced and communicated, we are at once perpetuating the kind of stigma that has long disenfranchised sex working communities while also limiting opportunities for developing the depth of knowledge and experiential understanding that sex working communities hold.

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Weaver and Weaver (2013: 273) have argued that unbroken autobiographical narratives of desistance can ‘inform’ the desistance literature, especially when connected to existing theory and research. In keeping with ‘nothing about us without us’, these analyzed autobiographical narratives provide knowledge of use to policymakers and practitioners (Weaver & Weaver, 2013). The first half of this chapter will present my own experiences of childhood, offending, drug use, desistance, and recovery. The second half of the chapter uses criminological theories to explore my experiences.

I grew up on the north side of Cork City, which had many wonderful people but a lot of social problems (see Cambridge, 2019; Leonard & Windle, 2020). While I enjoyed primary school, my report cards can be summarized in one line: ‘Bright but needs to apply himself more’. Secondary school was a nightmare! Towards the end of primary school my father had been sentenced to seven years for a drugs offence. By the time I started secondary school, when I was almost 13, I was hurt and angry.

The secondary school was an all-boys Christian Brother college and I hated it. Full disclosure, I was a difficult pupil. I had poor concentration, little interest in most of the subjects, and was a class clown. My Irish teacher called me a ‘thug’ and a ‘scut’, harsh terms to call a child messing in class. There were about eight people in my class who were the misfits, a collection of the children with the most adverse childhood experiences, but in a school that was anything but trauma informed, we were categorized as those who either could not or did not want to learn.

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This chapter serves to examine the history of Irish drug policy, specifically in terms of persons who inject drugs (PIDs). A survey of law and policy in this area reveals that the historical approach of prohibition and strict criminalization has partially ceded to one which privileges harm reduction through calculated interventions. One such intervention of recent vintage has been the proposal of supervised injection facilities (SIFs). On examination, much of the history of legislative interventions in the realm of drug control in Ireland has been maladaptive to the aims of controlling drug use and reducing the societal ills that stem from drug use. As such, the promotion, on the part of government, of SIFs signals a change of approach – solidifying a greater commitment to harm-reduction measures and enshrining an ethos of care for the individual. While this shift in policy has been welcomed by many, practical difficulties have arisen in terms of the placement and operation of a SIF proposed for Merchants Quay, Dublin. In the following section, a survey of Irish drug policy over a number of decades reveals a gradual acceptance of a public health approach towards PIDs, as opposed to the strict and exclusive operation of the criminal law in this area.

While, at the macro level, political commitment to a public heath approach is important, individual communities equally must commit to these strategies. One example of this, which this chapter explores, is the objections to the Merchants Quay facility and the difficulties encountered in obtaining planning permission; the contentious issue of planning permission for a SIF in Merchants Quay reveals deep-seated anxieties on the part of local communities concerning the placement of these facilities.

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Research in the Republic of Ireland finds the rate of reoffending for sex offenders is low in comparison to other types of criminal offences, which corresponds with international research findings.1 Nonetheless, there are on average more than 400 people in custody convicted of sexual offences on any given day (Irish Prison Service, 2019) and at the time of writing, 170 sex offenders were under probation supervision in the community following release from custody (Probation Service, 2020). The field of sexual offence prevention and rehabilitation is challenging. Empirical research into desistance from sexual offending is lacking, with even less in the area of assisted desistance, that is, in how individuals are best helped to avoid reoffending. Researchers face challenges in accessing perpetrators in the community and handling highly sensitive data from a vulnerable population (Farmer et al, 2015). Small jurisdictions can heighten these difficulties when different rehabilitation interventions frequently involve a crossover of programme stakeholders. Other challenges in this field include strong public emotion regarding sexual offending, the pressure on politicians and policymakers to respond to public anger, and often inadequate or conflicting evidence for effective interventions (Schmidt & Mann, 2018).

General desistance principles argue that rehabilitative approaches to offending must consider not only thought processes and risk but also the broader issue of reintegration which needs to involve the community (McAlinden, 2011, 2016). It is now recognized at government policy level in Ireland that public alienation drives perpetrators of sexual harm underground and that rehabilitative approaches to sexual offending which do not address wider issues relating to reintegration fail to adequately help offenders or communities and are therefore less likely to prevent further victims (compare Mews et al, 2017).

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‘Nothing about Us without Us’

The people most impacted by criminal justice policies and practices are seldom included in the decision-making processes that affect their lives.

Building on the ‘nothing about us without us’ social movement, this edited volume advocates an inclusive approach to criminology that gives voice to historically marginalized, silenced, and ignored groups.

Incorporating the experiences of service users, academics, and state and grassroots practitioners, this volume considers how researchers might bridge the gap between theory and lived experience. It furthers criminological scholarship by capturing the voices of marginalized groups and exploring how criminology can authentically incorporate these voices.

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Inside-Out should come with a warning label – in big black and yellow letters: Warning: may cause severe damage if taken internally. We have seen, first hand, the kind of damage the program can do to preconceived notions, stereotypes, and most importantly – ignorance. … Inside-Out has acted, for many of us, as a kind of eye-exam for the soul, forcing us to realize what we believe and why we believe it. And we now realize that our vision was never 20/20. We leave here with a little better vision. (Outside student)

It began by chance – an idea tossed into the universe – and then it took hold. It has been unstoppable ever since.

This article provides a description of, and reflection on, The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program®,1 a unique, groundbreaking initiative that brings people together for in-depth dialogue about issues of social justice. Since the program described herein is centered on the power and importance of dialogue, voices of inside and outside students, as well as instructors, from across the globe and across time, are included throughout, providing somewhat of an imaginary dialogic conceit and illustrating the depth of this experience beyond what my words could ever express.

Here is how it started. I have been going into prisons and jails several times a week since 1985 as a volunteer, a social worker, and, finally, as an educator. In 1992, I began teaching in the Criminal Justice Department at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, taking my students into correctional facilities multiple times each semester. In 1995, I took one of my classes to the state prison in Dallas, PA, for a tour, and we met with a panel of men who were incarcerated there.

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The girls and women who were incarcerated in Ireland’s Magdalene institutions found themselves under lock and key due largely to perceptions that they were at risk of violating or had violated moral rather than legal codes. Their treatment was in many ways worse than the treatment of those imprisoned under the Irish criminal justice system; arbitrariness and exploitation were its hallmarks. Addressing the manifold injustices that occurred is still an ongoing issue for groups such as Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR)2 and for survivors themselves,3 and this chapter offers an introduction to the difficulties that the women face in seeking accountability and redress for the legal wrongs perpetrated by state and non-state actors. In particular, the chapter discusses the findings of a 24-month European research project in which the authors were involved, entitled SASCA (Support to Adult Survivors of Child Abuse in institutional settings), and draws on survivor testimony recorded as part of a separate oral history project (O’Mahoney, 2014).

Magdalene institutions had a long history on the continent of Europe, and they were established in the mid-eighteenth century in Ireland as asylums for poor and destitute women. Prior to the twentieth century, they were run by religious orders or lay-managed philanthropic concerns, often equipping women with training and references of good character to afford them the opportunity to earn a living after their rehabilitation work (Luddy, 2007; Smith, 2007).

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‘Nothing about us without us’ summarizes a burgeoning movement in criminology that is about giving voice to diverse perspectives and a way of doing research. Primarily it refers to the importance of an approach to criminology that is inclusive of those voices that have historically been hushed, marginalized, silenced, or ignored. It also refers to the need for researchers to work with state and grassroots practitioners, especially those who provide a conduit to peoples most impacted by social injustice and crime. This edited volume will explore the importance of diversity and inclusivity in criminological discourses and consider how researchers might bridge the gap between theory and lived experience and how the authenticity of the voices of those who have been silenced can be incorporated into a meaningful criminology. This introductory chapter will explore the conceptual history of ‘nothing about us without us’ before summarizing some of the key themes explored in this volume.

Criminal justice policies are formed through consultation and deliberation between moral entrepreneurs, politicians, and bureaucratic and economic actors (Monaghan, 2011; Windle, 2014, 2018). This, however, often occurs from positions of authority (see Becker, 1963; Stevens, 2020), and those most impacted by such policies are seldom included in decision-making processes (see Joyce & Lynch, 2017; Lynch & Argomaniz, 2017; Askew & Bone, 2019; Leonard & Windle, 2020).

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