Plenary Sessions

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Plenary Session 1

Chair: Michael Tonry (University of Minnesota, USA)

Can Criminology become an unitas multiplex? Philosophical, methodological and pragmatic issues
Cândido da Agra (University of Porto, Portugal)

The author answers this question in three parts.
In the first part he addresses the question at the light of Philosophy of Knowledge and Science, using the Foucauldian archeologic method. What is it revealed by this inquiry into the archeologic territories of Criminology? By the end of the XIX century and during the first decades of the XX century, Criminology reached a level of knowledge that obeyed to the rules of the scientific method, such as coherence of statements and concepts, norms of verification, and the critic supported by the scientific method, etc. This was followed by a contradictory period of about 50 years (from the forties to the nineties) which represented both an advance and a retreat for the project of scientific Criminology. The sub-period that went until the end of the Second World War was characterized by a will of making Science and of specialization. This was the advance. The second sub-period, from the end of the Second World War, was characterized by the infiltration of ideology, the labeling of psychologic and biologic approaches, and methodologic anarchy. This was the retreat. The most recent period, since the late eighties and the beginning of the nineties, was characterized by the still hesitant re-emergence, or resurrection, of Criminology as a scientific domain.

In the second part, C. da Agra focuses exclusively on the characterization of Criminology as a Science. He does it based on insights from the epistemology of Th. S. Kuhn, namely the concepts of scientific community, paradigm, and scientific revolution. He argues that over the last fifty years there has been a revolution in Science as a whole. What is the behavior of Criminology at the face of this revolution? There are several indicators that show adaptation to new scientific paradigm. Among others is the emergence of Biosocial Criminology, Developmental Criminology, and, in general, the paradigm of Epigenetics and the framework of Gene-Environment interactions.

In the third part, using the North American pragmatic and neo-pragmatic philosophy as inspiration, C. da Agra defends the importance of the research - action link and of practical problem-solving. What are the major social problems addressed by Contemporary Criminology? Security, victims, terrorism, cybercrime, drug-crime relation, migration, sexual offenses, bulling… Criminology must adapt itself to the recent changes in the criminal phenomenon. Has Criminology put into practice the proper mechanisms to respond to the new challenges? Here are some indicators: Pre-crime Criminology, Risk prevention Criminology, Narrative Criminology. Criminal and prevention policies must be guided by a new Criminology that is both scientific and pragmatic.

Can Criminology become a unitas multiplex? The scientific revolution in Science, on one hand, and the current problems that we might clarify and help solving, on the other, force the criminological scientific community to answer: yes. Criminology can and must become a unitas multiplex.


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS - Proliferation of Criminological Theories in an Era of Fragmentation
Gerben Bruinsma (Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement, The Netherlands)

In this presidential address I reflect on the theme of this year’s annual meeting by addressing the issue of the overwhelming number of theories in criminology, as well a brief assessment of the quality of these theories. I sketch the evolution of the discipline and some of its features that led to the current state of affairs. The discipline possesses a mixture of hundreds of perspectives, definitions, ideas, sketches, multiple factors, theories, and single hypotheses that are partly true and partly untrue, and none are completely true or untrue. I will argue that, among other factors, criminologists apply no rule to distinguish between true and untrue theories. I raise the question whether this situation is good or bad for criminology. I discuss future challenges of the discipline, while urging researchers to design more epistemological and methodological studies.


Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

PLENARY SESSION 2 – Communicational bridges between biological and social sciences: The relevance of biosocial approaches in contemporary criminology

Chair: Carla Cardoso (University of Porto, Portugal)

Developmental origins of chronic physical violence: Why environment and genes matter
Richard Tremblay (University of Montreal, Canada & University College of Dublin, Ireland)

An increasing number of longitudinal studies of singleton and twins initiated at birth or during the first few years of life are showing that physical aggressions are more frequent in early childhood than at any other time during the life-span. Although these studies show clear genetic impacts on the tendency to physically aggress, there is growing evidence from longitudinal studies that environmental factors during pregnancy and early childhood also impact the development of chronic physical aggression through gene expression (epigenetics) and psycho-social mechanisms. These studies suggest that preventive interventions of chronic physical aggression should start during pregnancy because they are much more likely to be effective and substantially decrease the costs of criminal behavior during adolescence and early adulthood. Developmental criminology needs to take a bio-psycho-social intergenerational and life-span perspective as well as focus more systematically on females as the key target for intergenerational prevention of chronic physical aggression.


The Humanity of Biosocial Criminology: Building a Relevant Science for Positive Change
John Paul Wright (University of Cincinnati, USA)

Contemporary criminologists now have an array of evidence linking human biological functioning to a range of traits and behaviors—including criminal behavior. Despite the broad base of empirical evidence drawn from a variety of disciplines, the future of biosocial criminology remains uncertain. In this discussion I argue that the forces underpinning this uncertainty are the same forces that banished biological theorizing from the social sciences more than 100 years ago. Current antipathy towards biosocial criminology is the product of motivated political reasoning—a type of reasoning that justifies false beliefs and the exclusion of evidence. As Haidt (2012) notes, motivated reasoning is rooted in affectively moral processes that can and do trump scientific evidence—even amongst scientists. In this vein, the core moral concern appears to be that linking biology to behavior not only invites harsh sanctions against offenders but also justifies the withdrawal of social welfare efforts by the State. Less often considered, however, is how biosocial criminology can be used to more effectively and more efficiently intervene in the lives of offenders across the life-course. I reject the narrative that biosocial criminology inalterably leads to harsh and repressive sanctions and provide a blueprint for building a relevant science for positive change—change not only for offenders but also for criminologists.


Friday, September 4th, 2015

PLENARY SESSION 3 – Social Experimentation and Drug Policies

Chair and Discussant: Serge Brochu (Université de Montréal, Canada)

Portuguese decriminalization of drug use and law enforcement: Impact and perceptions of its effectiveness
Jorge Quintas (University of Porto, Portugal)

The communication presents the empirical work on the Portuguese drug use decriminalization law developed at the School of Criminology, Faculty of Law, University of Porto. The first part examines the Portuguese experience, making a brief reference to the decriminalization law, and presenting a critical analysis of longitudinal data about law enforcement, drug use and drug related harms. Additionally, it also presents international comparative data. In general, decriminalization law did not affect decisively drug use trends, it was followed by a decrease in drug use related harms, and allowed a more effective bridge between the legal and the health systems. The second part presents survey results concerning attitudes to the legal regulation of drugs, knowledge of the law, and predictors of drug use. The results of those studies highlight the public preference for alternatives to coercive sanctions, the limited public awareness of the law, and the relative irrelevance of deterrence factors for drug use. The final part of the communication argues that the effectiveness of multiple experiences on the legal regulation of drugs must be reconciled with the debate concerning the legitimacy of drug use prohibition.


What is the impact of drug policy? Insights from narrative criminology
Sveinung Sandberg (University of Oslo, Norway)

Advocates for very different drug policies share a fairly straightforward understanding of the relationship between policy and practice. Whether inclined to punish or to reduce harm, they tend to assume that individuals will either stop or reduce the risks of drug use provided the right incentives. However, policies do not influence drug use directly, but are taken up in the narrative life-world of drug users and then acted upon. Stories and practices of official agencies are melted with those of (sub) cultures creating the symbolic meaning of drugs that fashion use. Combining a decade of ethnographic studies with insights from narrative criminology, Sandberg reveals how drug use thrive on being oppositional and destructive, hence the sometimes counterintuitive effects of drug policy. Starting with the paradoxes of Nordic drug policy – caught between a harsh punitive approach and a powerful harm-reduction apparatus – this research illuminates how policies are conveyed on the street and in drug-using subcultures.


Saturday, September 5th, 2015

PLENARY SESSION 4 – Empirical and theoretical research integration in security issues

Chair: Frieder Dünkel (University of Greifswald, Germany)

Criminology and the nation state: globalization, migration and sovereignty
Katja Franko (University of Oslo, Norway)

The paper explores how contemporary penal practices and imaginations are shaped by, and shaping, the borders of the nation state, and how the enforcement of immigration control is affecting contemporary European criminal justice systems. It examines the transformations of sovereignty which are unfolding through the progressive intertwining of criminal law and immigration law, security, and humanitarian concerns. It further discusses how the lack of formal citizenship status affects the procedural and substantive standards of justice afforded to non-members.


Photo: Szabolcs Csortos
Security and Pre-Crime Criminology – New Perspectives?
Hans-Jörg Albrecht (Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg, Germany)

Still another turn continues to affect criminology. This turn has origins outside the conventional fields of criminological studies and research, moves security to the center of attention and reflects, as Lucia Zedner has suggested (2007), a change from a post crime to a pre crime society. The turn results evidently in the need for adaptation in the criminological discipline. In fact, security related studies mushroom, not in criminology but in other disciplines, and criminal law becomes increasingly part of general security (and risk containment) policies, security laws (and a new “architecture” of security) which seek to optimize effective and pre-emptive protection against dangerous sexual offenders, school shooters, terrorists and mafia organizations. Political discourses in the field of criminal law reform are dominated by „security gaps“ and how to close perceived security gaps through the increasing use of “endangering offences”, the widening of police powers in the collection of intelligence on threats to security or data mining, streamlining the exchange of information and intelligence between police, law enforcement and security/intelligence forces and the implementation of criminal (and administrative) sanctions and programs guided by the goal of risk containment. The emphasis on security brings with it also changes in perspectives on criminal punishment and the analysis of crime. With security the victim and in particular future victims move to the center of criminal policies. In the analysis of crime threat assessments prevail today. The analysis of the past is replaced by forecasts and the construction of possible future scenarios, in particular prediction of the course of serious crime and the establishment of early warning systems. Various challenges for criminology are the result of these changes. Criminology, moreover, is called to contribute to the generation of ideas on how a secure (or safe) society should look like.

Zedner, L.: Pre-Crime and Post-Criminology? Theoretical Criminology 11(2007), pp. 261-281.