Philip Birch (School of Social Sciences and Psychology, University of Western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.)
Jane L. Ireland (University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK and Ashworth High Secure Hospital, Mersey Care NHS Trust, Maghull, UK)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 9 March 2015



Birch, P. and Ireland, J.L. (2015), "Editorial", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 1 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCRPP-01-2015-0002



Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Volume 1, Issue 1

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice (JCRPP). The journal provides a sound opportunity to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and real-life practice. This represents a core aspiration of JCRPP and the first edition has focused therefore on providing a combination of academic theory papers with research informed practice papers covering criminal justice interventions. The papers are ordered to reflect the value of academic knowledge influencing such delivery and to this aim the first paper provides a comprehensive academic review of policing issues, violent crime and racial equality.

What is particularly positive about this review is the attention it gives not only to a thematic review of the literature but also to the inclusion of more empirically focused data. Thus it adds more than a standard review and reaches some invaluable conclusions concerning how we consider racial composition and its association with violent crime. The findings drawn illustrate this well by noting the importance in using diversity composition of municipal police stations as a means of reflecting how diverse the populations they serve are with regards to race. In doing so the paper takes us beyond the usual population-rate, census-based approaches to determining racial composition and raises the importance of community diversity as opposed to city diversity in understanding violence. The finding that it is community diversity and not city diversity seemingly associated with reduced levels of violence is significant, particularly accounting for the noted relationship with racial diversity in the police units. It suggests that adopting a city approach to understanding the association between violence and racial equality is of no particular value and that it is community approaches that may hold more potential. This would seem to make some logical sense when you consider the differences between the concept of community vs city, with the latter not reflecting the diverse range of groups that can co-exist and share common goals. Perhaps the healthiest communities are those that are diverse in their racial make-up and have this reflected equally in the make-up of public services operating in the domain of public protection, namely police officers. Exploring the functional link between this and the association with offending more broadly is perhaps an area of interest for future research.

The ensuing paper on domestic abuse victim's perception of abuse and support builds on the value of providing more structured reviews into areas of public interest, adding a narrative review here as a specific methodology. This paper indicates potential factors which may promote engagement in an abusive relationship. Two significant factors appear to be the first relationship that an individual engages in, and their vulnerability due to intrinsic factors (e.g. mental health) and/or extrinsic factors (e.g. adverse life circumstances). Whether these two factors (i.e. first relationship, vulnerability) co-exist is unclear but the paper certainly raises the issue of how a first, and perhaps therefore fundamental, relationship may be characterised by one partner's vulnerabilities which then promote the sustainment of what becomes an abusive relationship. This in no way suggests blame on behalf of a victim. Rather, it suggests there is a complexity of factors which could represent an interplay between existing difficulties and the fact the relationship is perhaps their first intimate association with an emotional attachment. The further message from this paper is that of support and not just that available to assist recovery but the absence of the support following recovery; the notion of support continuing is an important once since an individual who is isolated from support networks is known to be vulnerable to the development of an unhealthy intimate relationship.

Readers may also note that the paper does not capture an important group of potential victims of domestic violence, namely men, and nor does it attempt to understand the interaction between partners in the promotion of domestic violence. Such areas are outside the scope of the paper but their narrative review suggests value in replicating this work with a male sample and perhaps also extending it to same-sex couples to allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the factors underpinning abuse and support, and consideration of the interaction between couples in promoting and sustaining domestic abuse.

The edition then moves readers further into the area of support by covering the value of treatment within some of our more complex populations that those working in the Criminal Justice System are likely to come into contact with, namely those with personality disorders and those with a history of trauma. The first of these papers focuses on an under-researched area, namely that of attrition rates for those attending personality disorder therapy in secure services. Little is known of the characteristics of clients who disengage from treatment and yet many assumptions are made. Certainly it is not uncommon for some practitioners to presume that those with elevated levels of psychopathy are likely to either disengage or to “sham” their way through therapy. The study presented starts to question these assumptions and highlights the value in recognising the unique and individual differences that clients have, even if they hold the “label” of “personality disordered” or “psychopathic”. The finding that it was a discrete type of personality disorder, namely narcissistic, that was most associated with attrition highlighted this, as did their finding that antisocial personality had an inverse relationship with drop-out. This, coupled with the absence of any association with psychopathy, supports not only the need to consider personality disorder as a heterogeneous concept but also supports their review of the literature which indicated mixed findings across this limited research base. The next step indicated is a need to understand the reasons for attrition and how these may, or may not be, functionally related to specific personality traits. A focus of this nature would certainly progress the research.

Building on the treatment of complex presentations is the final paper on trauma informed care. This is presented as the final paper to reflect how issues of trauma can be evidenced in all of the populations that the edition has covered thus far. Trauma is best considered, therefore, as a result of challenging and adverse life circumstances which can include exposure to violent crime of a general or domestic nature, and can be closely aligned with what can appear as challenging personality traits which can in some instances represent “scars” of traumatic life experiences. The paper presented is extremely novel in its focus. Practitioners in the Criminal Justice System are likely to come into contact with those with traumatic histories. Equally, he focus within such services can be on the delivery of offence-focused therapy, most commonly via group work. Having direction on recognising and how to manage the emergence of challenging trauma symptoms is thus essential.

Currently there are no trauma-informed therapies available which reflect group work or can be applied in this way. The paper presents the first of its kind in this regard. It also highlights the importance in revisiting our formulation of client presentation by offering alternative, trauma-informed, formulations of presenting difficulties. The paper's value consequently lies not only in providing alternatives to formulation and suggesting adaptations to therapy, but also in informing professionals on how they can minimise the impact of any trauma symptoms during contact sessions. Importantly, this is not about treating trauma and nor does the paper suggest this, rather this is about the recognition of and containment of symptoms, which all professionals can do with increased knowledge and some direction without the need for training on trauma therapies. On a pragmatic level professionals need simply to know what trauma presents like, how to contain or limit the potential emergence of symptoms, and the importance of referring onto a qualified professional for specific trauma-focused therapy, if required. The paper aims to empower criminal justice professionals in this very specific area of complex difficulty. It appears to have successfully achieved its aim.

We hope that the range of topics and methodologies presented in this edition encourage our readers, not only in the application of this work to their own practice but also in considering the submission of papers that will be of interest to the criminal justice professional who aims to apply the most evidence-based literature and research to their practice.

Submit for a future issue

We welcome submissions to Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice.

Topics of particular interest include:

  • Initial and preventative contact.

  • Through-care, resettlement and community based work.

  • Containment (involving police, courts and custody).

Forthcoming special issues include:

  • Forensic evidence and intelligence.

  • Gang membership in prison and community contexts.

  • Vulnerability and the criminal justice system.

  • Terrorism, political violence, and asymmetric conflict.

Papers can be submitted via: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/jcrpp

More information on the journal and special issues is available at: www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/jcrpp.htm

Philip Birch and Jane Ireland

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