Measuring the Bangkok Rules

This post is published prior to Human Rights Day (December 10) and after the American Society of Criminology conference (November 16 – 19). #ASC2016 #HumanRightsDay

by Barbara Owen, co-author of In Search of Safety: Confronting Inequality in Women’s Imprisonment

The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders or the Bangkok Rules outlines a human rights approach to the management of women in prison. In the United States, most prison operational practice is based on a version of civil rights; the Bangkok Rules and other international instruments are based on human rights- a very different approach. While few US prison system rely on a human rights perspective, the rest of the world has been more open to the human rights approach with its emphasis on the respect and dignity of all persons, regardless of their legal status.

As researchers who study women in conflict with the law know, women in prison require a separate approach than those designed for men. Despite their small share in prison population, the number of women prisoners worldwide has significantly increased at faster rate than men over the past decade. Across the globe, women prisoners share common background which shapes their pathways to prison. Many have similar histories of abuse and trauma, limited opportunity to education and work. Some have substance abuse, mental and physical health problems. Without appropriate support and gender sensitive treatment, women prisoners are at risk of re-victimization in prison settings and reoffending.

Author Barbara Owen (bottom row, 3rd from right) with Thailand Institute of Justice and program attendees.
Author Barbara Owen (bottom row, 3rd from right) with Thailand Institute of Justice and program attendees.

Since 2008, I have had the enormous pleasure of working with the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ) in developing, implementing and measuring human rights through in women’s prisons. This post outlines the work I was privileged to develop in August of this year. The Bangkok Rules also requires UN member states (which are mostly countries) to collect survey and profile data on women in prison. To date, surveys that I developed with my colleagues at TIJ have been administered in almost all the Southeast Asian countries.

Author Barbara Owen speaking in front of Thailand Institute of Justice program attendees on Bangkok Rules.
Author Barbara Owen speaking in front of Thailand Institute of Justice program attendees on Bangkok Rules.

Based on the Bangkok Rules and my on-going research on imprisoned women, I was part of a team that designed a two-week program training program that aimed to provide guidance and practical knowledge on translating the Bangkok Rules and other human rights instruments into practice. The program was delivered to team form 12 different countries, most were from Southeast Asia, with additional participants from Kenya and Sri Lanka. Using polling software, I developed a Self-Assessment process that provided immediate feedback and spurred discussion among the 20 participants. In addition to rating their compliance and progress toward implementing the Bangkok Rules and other relevant human rights instruments, the self-assessment process structured discussions of challenges and solutions of gender-sensitive prison management, sets priorities, and helps to develop a preliminary Action Plan.

The Self-Assessment process and the overall training was an enormous success. These pictures provide a glimpse into this program. Cambodia has invited us to a follow-up conference next year. I have long been discouraged about the progress of US prison systems to implement a gender-responsive approach to managing women’s prisons. My work with the Thailand Institute of Justice has given me new hope that prison systems can incorporate both human rights standards and gender-sensitive management practices.

Owen.InSearchOfSafetyMy ASC presentation, “Measuring the Bangkok Rules” will describe the survey research and the Self-Assessment process. Come on by Wednesday morning and hear about this very exciting work. I also invite readers to look at additional work around the Bangkok Rules conducted by the TIJ and another partner in this work at Penal Reform International.

Barbara Owen is Professor Emerita at California State University, Fresno and co-author of In Search of Safety: Confronting Inequality in Women’s Imprisonment alongside James Wells and Joycelyn Pollock.

Communicating Evidence Within the Criminal Justice System

By Corinna Kruse, author of The Social Life of Forensic Evidence

This post is published after the American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans from November 16–19. #ASC2016 

Have you ever thought about how much communication across professions is needed for the criminal justice system to be able to produce forensic evidence that can be used in court? Or how the criminal justice system overcomes the difficulties inherent in this communication?

Kruse.SocialLifeOfForensicEvidenceThe production of forensic evidence requires, by necessity, the involvement of different professions. In the Swedish criminal justice system, there are specialized police officers who examine the crime scene and recover traces; forensic scientists at the National Forensics Centre who analyze these traces and evaluate the results (i.e. assess how strong conclusions can be drawn from the laboratory results ); police investigators who procure other evidence, for example through interrogation, that will form the context for the forensic evidence; prosecutors who not only lead the investigation and thus direct the police but also assemble the whole of the evidence in a case into a coherent court case; and finally, judges and lay assessors (the Swedish criminal justice system does not use juries)  who assess the evidence as a whole and make a decision on both the defendant’s culpability and, implicitly, on the meaning of each piece of evidence.

The difficulties of lay jurors to understand evidence, in particular probabilistic evidence, have received quite some attention. But what about communicating and understanding forensic evidence with the criminal justice system?

Of course, crime scene examiners, forensic scientists, police investigators, prosecutors, and judges are not laypeople. Still, their professional competences and perspectives differ considerably. Thus, where probabilistic reasoning is for forensic scientists the solution for managing and conveying uncertainty, the expert statements that are the result of such reasoning can be difficult to understand and, subsequently, use efficiently for the police investigators and prosecutors that are conceived of as their main recipients.

What, however, makes these recipients different from lay jurors is that they are part of the criminal justice system, and within the criminal justice system, there are mechanisms – formal and informal – of addressing these difficulties. There, crime scene examiners, due to their familiarity with both police work and forensics, are mediators and translators between the different professions, for example by giving advice about forensic analyses and results to police investigators and prosecutors or by handling contact with the laboratory for them. In addition, there may be informal telephone calls to or from the laboratory, with, say, a prosecutor asking a forensic scientist what the probabilities specified in an expert statement mean or a forensic science calling an investigation leader to discuss the meaningfulness of an analysis they have ordered. In this way, probabilistic evidence is often accompanied by translation work by different people in the criminal justice system actively working towards successful communication between professions.

Because criminal justice systems are made up of different professions, such communication and its inherent difficulties are inescapable. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see in which ways other criminal justice systems address them?

Corinna Kruse is a lecturer in the Department of Thematic Studies—Technology and Social Change at Linköping University.

The New Global Regulators

By Natasha Tusikov, author of Chokepoints: Global Private Regulation on the Internet

This guest post is published during the American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans, which ends today. Search our blog for #ASC2016 to find other blog posts from our authors related to the ASC conference.  

In another disturbing example of pervasive corporate surveillance, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report in mid-October that showed Facebook, Twitter and Instagram facilitated surveillance against Black Lives Matter activists. These Internet companies allowed a Chicago-based social-media monitoring firm, Geofeedia, to access their users’ information, which it then sold to law enforcement agencies. Geofeedia’s information, which provides real-time data on social media users, enabled police to track protests and monitor activists. Following outrage from civil-society groups and Black Lives Matter activists, the companies have ceased operation with Geofeedia. Serious concerns, however, remain about the vast amounts of information social media platforms – and Internet firms more generally – gather on their users. What’s also interesting about the Geofeedia case is that it highlights the growing, but often murky role of mostly large, U.S.-based Internet firms as global regulators.

Tusikov.ChokepointsA key reason that these Internet firms, like Google, PayPal, Facebook and Twitter, are powerful global regulators is because they operate what security analyst Bruce Schneier calls surveillance-based business models in which they comprehensively track their users. The firms’ regulatory capacity derives in part from their provision of essential services, such as search, web hosting, or payment services, but also from their global platforms, significant market share, and sophisticated enforcement programs. Internet firms’ legal authority for setting and enforcing rules comes from their contracts with their users – the lengthy, (often unread) terms-of-use agreements that spell out users’ responsibilities and rights. Through these contractual agreements, Internet firms can set and enforce rules that govern hundreds of millions of people who use their services and monitor their platforms for illegal content. And they can do so without court orders.

The U.S. government has recognized Internet firms’ capacity to target online wrongdoing and have increasingly delegated responsibility to them to address social problems such as child pornography, illegal gambling, copyright infringement, and counterfeit goods. We may cheer corporate efforts to rid the web of child sexual abuse images and to deter fraud. But we should do so with caution. These companies have significant discretion to determine the legality of certain types of content, such as the kinds of images that constitute child pornography or copyright infringement. How comfortable are we with Facebook determining what images constitute illegal pornography, or with Google deciding what information should be defined as terrorism? While these companies have considerable power to determine all manner of wrongdoing on their platforms, governments have generally neglected to require oversight or accountability measures on Internet firms. The resulting regulation is largely opaque, unaccountable, and prone to error. Consequences of mistakes are serious as people may have funds frozen, be placed on ‘blacklists’ as criminals, or come under police investigation.

Who regulates the Internet and how are vitally important questions given its centrality to economic, social, and political life. We need debate in both the public and political arenas to consider how rules governing the Internet are made and enforced, by whom, and in whose interests.

NatashaTusikovphotoNatasha Tusikov a visiting fellow with the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the Australian National University, and a former strategic criminal intelligence analyst with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Ottawa, Canada. She holds a PhD in sociology from the Australian National University.

Genocide: From Armenia to Darfur

This post is published in advance of the National Women’s Studies Association conference in Montreal, Quebec from November 10 – 13 and in advance of American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans from November 16 – 19. #NWSA2016 #ASC2016 #Election2016 

Joachim J. Savelsberg presented insights from Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur to affected groups on several occasions. After a speech in Yerevan, Armenia, on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide, Savelsberg more recently addressed and exchanged ideas with refugees from Darfur and other troubled regions in the Middle East.

Savelsberg-RepresentingMassViolenceOne opportunity was offered by the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, participant in a movement among French universities that offer refugees a path back into higher education. In this context, Savelsberg lectured and discussed with a group of Sudanese, Syrian and Palestinian refugee-students. His lecture evoked much interest and intense discussions. Students primarily wanted to know what actions could put an end to the continuing and newly intensifying mass atrocities in Darfur. Why does the West not intervene with military force? Why does it not arm rebel groups who fight the Sudanese government? Why have peace negotiations not succeeded? Why have indictments by the International Criminal Court (ICC) not resulted in arrests? While not all answers could satisfy all members of the group, students took some comfort from the observation that UN and ICC interventions had advanced an international perception of the mass atrocities as a form of criminal violence. They shared the author’s hope that this trend will, in the long run, further delegitimize mass atrocities and challenge those political and military actors who bear responsibility. American institutions of higher education might, it seems, learn from French universities and their initiatives, which stand in sharp contrast to closed doors rhetoric (and policy) and to the rise of right-wing populist movements that enhance exclusion and risk advancing political-religious radicalization and criminalization.

Joachim Savelsberg at Darfur Women Action Group's Mobile, Engage, Empower to End Genocide Symposium.
Joachim Savelsberg at Darfur Women Action Group’s Mobile, Engage, Empower to End Genocide Symposium.

More recently, Savelsberg spoke to Citizens for Global Solutions in Minneapolis, MN and, in Washington, DC, at the 2016 Women and Genocide conference, organized by the Darfur Women Action Group (DAWG), with support from the Global Women’s Institute, George Washington University, and the Genocide Prevention Program, George Mason University School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. His lecture followed reports in which women from Rwanda, Darfur, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Northern Nigeria spoke to their experiences in the context of mass atrocities. Like in Paris, careful scholarly analysis of the effects of new international institutions encounter impatience among those who are directly affected. Some scholars reinforce that impatience also at the DAWG event, as they focus on the weaknesses of new institutions. Savelsberg instead highlighted the historical novelty of international criminal justice, and alternative transitional justice institutions, urging patience in the exploration of the degree to which – paraphrasing Justice Robert Jackson – reason and some degree of the rule of law may eventually supplement the pure use of power in international relations. The experiment began only in the 20th century. It is a novelty in human history, initial malfunctions are expected and no reasons for dismissal. Representing Mass Violence documents how it may advance cultural change and promote hope.

Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur by Joachim J. Savelsberg is available as a free Luminos Open Access e-book and available for free download.

Police Aggression and the Debasement of Black Citizen Experiences

By Andrea S. Boyles, author of Race, Place, and Suburban Policing: Too Close for Comfort

This guest post is published in advance of the American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans. Check back every week for new posts through the end of the conference on November 19th. #ASC2016 

9780520282391-boyles-race,place,suburbanpolicingAs ASC’s theme this year is “The Many Colors of Crime and Justice,” advocates in Ferguson/St. Louis and beyond continue to push for criminal justice reform. They fight for justice and against racialized policing, exploitive court proceedings, and mass incarceration. Accordingly, my work lends attention to areas where advancing social change may be strengthened, while underscoring areas where it could be weakened. Likewise, proponents of reform must remain reflective, judiciously disallowing ideologies, discourse, and/or narratives to do the following:

  • place lone focus of black citizen-police conflict on the killing of unarmed black citizens. It is through a single approach that black deaths by police become challenged—treated as if atypical or separate from other forms of police aggression—then dismissed. Consequently, black citizen-police analysis and discussions must be holistic. Although the ambiguous deaths of blacks at the hands of law enforcement are more egregious, they alone do not fully account for the broad range of perceivably bias experiences faced by people of color in everyday police interactions. In fact, aggressive forms of policing (e.g., shoving, slamming, macing) experienced by blacks often escalate in a continuum of encounters (e.g., surveillance, pedestrian/vehicular stops, question, frisk/searches) and progressively worsen with each additional interaction. Therefore, the focus should be experience/evidence-driven, lending itself to everyday contentious exchanges that seemingly normalizes decreased police restraint and increased susceptibility to police misconduct and/or death for black citizens. So true examination must start at the beginning of encounters: what did Eric Garner specifically mean by “Every time you see me you want to mess with me” or what exactly made possible Philando Castile’s 40+ traffic stops, thousands of dollars in misdemeanor fines and so forth.
  • ignore the re-codifying/renewing of ciphers/concepts regarding “black threat”, racialized behavioral expectations, and subsequent punishment. Blacks continue to be stereotypically perceived and treated as if inherently dangerous, and therefore, face differential behavioral expectations and sanctions. Correspondingly, statements/explanations about assumed police fear and the need to “eliminate or stop the threat” are spontaneously and routinely given, following violent or deadly acts against black citizens. It is then in this subjective space—whereby officers are granted the benefit of the doubt—that differential instructions retrospectively emerge regarding black behavior. That is, suggestions for how blacks should behave when in the presence of police/dominant populations (e.g., watch tone of voice, say yes sir/m’am, say no sir/m’am, keep hands visible). However, when accounting for historically racialized institutional mandates, these commands become analogous to slave codes, black codes, Jim Crow laws and aggressive state responses when blacks are suspected of violation.

Andrea S. BoylesBoyles.Andrea is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Lindenwood University-Belleville. She has also taught inmates and correctional officers within the Missouri prison system.

Trump and Homosexuality: Differences in Public Opinion

By Amy Adamczyk, author of Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality: Examining Attitudes across the Globe

This guest post is published in advance of the American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans. Check back every week for new posts through the end of the conference on November 19th. #ASC2016 #Election2016

Like many academics, I was surprised at how well Donald Trump did early in the presidential election, securing the Republican nomination and at times rivaling Hillary Clinton in the polls. Part of the reason I was so surprised is because almost everyone I know and spend time with is a staunch democrat, socialist, or even communist. For many academics most of our friends are very liberal left-leaning highly educated people. For me it is even more extreme because I am childless and live in Manhattan. So the thought of millions of Trump enthusiasts has been hard to fathom.

Adamczyk-CrossNationalThat a social scientist like myself, trained to avoid generalizing from personal experience, is nonetheless taken aback by the Trump phenomenon is a testament to the power of context. Simply put, those with whom we interact have a powerful role in shaping our views. And our friendship groups tend not to be very diverse, so it’s easy to find ourselves in an echo chamber soundproofed from the voices of the outside world. This is especially true for people at opposite ends of the educational spectrum, whose friendship networks tend to be particularly homogeneous.

The media coverage of the presidential election provides repeated reminders of the deep cultural divides within our country. When we regularly see our fellow citizens cheering on a candidate who we find outrageous or worse, it is easy to forget all the subjects on which most of us agree, and how this agreement is fostered by the cultural and structural context we share as residents of the United States. For example, the issue of gay rights, a wedge issue in past elections, has faded from view in the current election. Opposition to same-sex marriage has narrowed over the last two decades and this year Republicans nominated someone who appears only now to oppose same-sex marriage out of political expediency. Meanwhile, there are nations where a person can be put to death for being gay. As great as the cultural differences among our fellow citizens, the differences between nations are vaster still, especially on key issues like gay rights.

In my forthcoming book, Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality: Examining Attitudes across the Globe, I show just how vast the differences are across nations on this important issue. What accounts for such dramatic differences across nations? The book shows that much of the variation in attitudes about homosexuality can be traced back to differences in the degree of economic development, democratic governance and religious fervor. The book also shows how these factors interact in complex ways with a nation’s unique history and geographic location to produce divergent cultural and structural climates.

The interesting thing about contextual forces, whether they are operating within friendship groups, regions, or nations, is that we often do not know they are there. It takes something like a divisive national election or stories about the denial of civil rights to remind us of the different worlds in which we live.

Adamczyk.Amy-PhotoAmy Adamczyk is Professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

How Donald Trump’s “Locker-Room Talk” Perpetuates Sexual Violence Against Women

By Jerry Flores, author of Caught Up: Girls, Surveillance, and Wraparound Incarceration

This guest post is published in advance of the American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans. Check back every week for new posts through the end of the conference on November 19th. #ASC2016 #Election2016

Recently, a video of presidential candidate Donald Trump making sexist, lewd, and offensive comments about women flooded media coverage. In the video, Trump can be heard saying, “I just start kissing them [women]. Just kiss—I don’t even wait. And when you are a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Whatever you want. Grab them by the pussy. Whatever you want.” A reporter laughed aloud at these statements.

“Locker-Room Talk”

After the release of this video a slew of women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Mr. Trump. Even more problematic is that videos and quotes have also emerged. With this new information the resounding theme of the hyper-sexualization of women, the use of sexist language and the objectification of women’s bodies are exceedingly clear. In response, Trump apologized and referred to this type of language as “locker-room talk.” He also affirmed that he holds the utmost respect for women. Despite these statements, Mr. Trump’s discussion of women reflects the larger hyper-sexualization of women in a patriarchal society that largely ignores this type of sexual misconduct. There is no place where this is more painfully apparent than in the narratives of marginalized young women (especially women of color) featured in my book Caught Up.


Sexual Abuse at the Hands of Those We Trust

In this book, I address how the schools and detention centers in Southern California are collectively punishing young Latina girls in new and dynamic ways. For this project, I interviewed over 30 young women and included twenty more via group interviews or ethnographic fieldwork. The ubiquitous sexual abuse of young women was the largest and most pervasive theme I heard during my two years of research. Interview after interview, I heard young women recount instances of this type of abuse at the hands of immediate and distant family, neighbors, students at school, current and ex-romantic partners, institutional actors, priests, human traffickers or by complete strangers.

Another major theme in my research was the relative impunity with which these men continually victimized the young people in my study. From stories of gang sexual assault at the hands of boys told by “Feliz” or stories of being molested by multiple neighbors over the course of various years like “Ray,” sexual violence was ubiquitous in the lives of young women.


Additionally, while local, state and federal governments always seemed to have the resources to punish young women, they often lacked the ability to provide resources to help youth cope with their prior and current sexual assault. As a person who is concerned with the well being of these young women, my wife, mother, cousins, and all women, I wonder how Trump’s type of “locker-room talk” emboldens and perpetuates the ongoing assault and abuse of young women, and rape culture as a whole. I also wonder what message it sends to men of all ages when they hear how Mr. Trump has allegedly victimized so many women and gotten away with it. This is even more shocking since Donald Trump is a presidential candidate that has the support of large segments of the U.S. population.

As an academic, feminist and victim of childhood sexual assault, I hope that we as a society can find a way to stop the continued attack on women and more broadly on all marginalized and oppressed groups. I also hope that we come to our senses and realize that a person who preys on the weak and exploits their privilege to do so is not someone we want as our president. Flores is a Ford Foundation Fellow, University of California President’s Postdoc, and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program at the University of Washington, Tacoma.