I am Criminonymous, a criminologist who strongly believes that the criminal justice process lacks procedural legitimacy and largely fails to have any positive impact on the crime problem. By neglecting the importance of the political economy of crime, existing criminal justice interventions betray victims and communities, and, in many ways, are the equivalent of doing nothing about crime. For the young men and women caught up in an increasingly punitive system, however, it is certainly doing something: it is trapping them in a destructive process, one which destroys social bonds and negatively impacts on their identity and internal narratives of the self, setting them up for a life of low self-worth, low self-confidence and low self-esteem. And don’t even get me started on prisons!
I do not believe that there is a such thing as the criminal “other”. Of the overwhelming majority of people who commit criminal offences at some point in their lifetime, there are those who are caught and those are not, those whose offending behaviour is targeted by the criminal justice process, and those whose offending behaviour is not. We only need to look at the criminal law of other countries, such as where homosexuality is illegal, to see how ridiculous the criminal law can be, while appearing so natural to so many of the people living under its watchful eyes. As I have said elsewhere: if mis-selling isn’t theft, then shoplifting must be mis-buying!
This poem is called “Bad Person”.
There are people who break into other people’s homes
People who trespass on private land because they want to roam
A drunken person might steal a phone and a garden gnome
And then there’s couples whose love is a crime and a sin
People whose political views are deemed worthy of prison
People who transgress to achieve an end they were taught was legitimate
What you consider deviant depends on what you see as normal
What you see as bad depends on your experience of sorrow
The norms we adhere to shift like the continents
Our priorities change, but no one keeps on top of it
We all want safety, irrespective of our stance
But the people in the jails are mostly there by chance
We don’t fight crime; we define crime
We respond when we can, but for the majority of offences
There’s no such thing as a plan
That can effectively stem all the illicit demand
We blame cops too for the culture in which they live
Like with any gang culture, recruits may be of a certain creed
But to reintegrate, our forgiveness is what they need
The police are as manipulated as everyone else
All mental health is suspect in and of itself
People are fragile
Liable to influence by their surroundings, like the hopeless in prison
The futile stockpiling of our brothers and sisters
And when they’re out, these erstwhile exiles
No longer fit the profile of a worthwhile punt
They must be imbeciles; their values must be totally different
Can’t reconcile employment with debilitating criminal illness
Forgetting that crimes are committed by almost all of us
What if everyone was charged the first time they tried drugs?
Everyone who shoplifted, downloaded a song, sped or littered?
Caught or not, it’s the overwhelming majority
That’s the sheer insanity of the us-and-them mentality
Our primal hostility masked as higher morality
Assumptions of purity are no more than an illusion
We prescribe division like our laws are the words of a god
And to break them is to trash our religion
But if you put everyone corrupt in jail, who will be left to lock us all in?
It’s a war of attrition that we’re never going to win
See more of my work at criminonymous.wordpress.com/