Case Study: Black Cannabis Dealers in a White Welfare State Race, Politics, and Street Capital in Norway
An ethnographic study of a group of young black men dealing cannabis at a drug scene called The River in Oslo demonstrates that accumulation and use of street capital can be seen as responses to processes of social and economic exclusion. In Norway, as elsewhere, many immigrant youths are marginalized by ethnic discrimination, racism, lack of education and job opportunities, and immigration policy. Street capital is a means to gain respect, status, and money. The concept is inspired by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and highlights how street culture becomes embodied and emphasizes the practical rationality involved when marginalized youths become involved in crime. Street capital is upheld by and embedded in gangster stories, but the young men also see themselves as victims. There are ongoing shifts between gangster- and oppression discourses; neither represents the “true story” of these men. Ethnographic study of street dealers’ language use demonstrates the complex relationship between street culture and a benevolent Nordic welfare state.
Sara K. Thompson
Most criminological theory and research on the black homicide victimization is grounded in the American context, which raises important generalizability issues given the exceptional level of lethal violence that is used as the standard in this inquiry. This case study examines the social and spatial distribution of black homicide victimization in Toronto, Ontario, Canada between 1988 and 2003. Results suggest that, as in American cities, blacks in Toronto are over-represented as homicide victims and offenders, but there are important differences in the spatial distribution and ecological correlates of this violence. These findings highlight the importance of cross-national research when investigating the generalizability of findings from U.S.-based research on racially disaggregated homicide rates.
Sebastian Roché, Mirta B. Gordon, and Marie-Aude Depuiset
Race and ethnicity are important political issues in France but not important research issues. Even liberals concerned about inequality disagree about the need to study the subject and are reluctant to use racial or ethnic data. Many politicians say they are proud that France ignores matters of race and ethnicity. Whether and to what extent ethnicity is associated with sanctioning for serious crimes by juveniles was investigated in two juvenile courts, in two jurisdictions, over more than 20 years (1984–2005). Logistic regressions were carried out for violent crimes for which juveniles were indicted (“all violent crimes”) and subsequently for two subsets: “nonlethal and nonsexual violence” (acquisitive or not) and “sexual violence” (sexual assaults and rapes). Massive and systematic discrimination based on ethnicity was not found for the overall sample or for the subsamples. The best predictors of severity were the type of crime for which the defendant was indicted and his criminal history. However, there were traces of sentencing discrimination. In one jurisdiction, especially for sexual crimes, race explained a share of sentencing severity.
Colonial processes, indigenous people, and criminal justice systems interact. There are commonalities in the experiences of Indigenous peoples in the white settler societies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. Understanding of the over-representation of Indigenous people in crime and victimization statistics needs to be contextualized within the broader framework of the effects of colonization. These effects include long-term social and economic marginalization, and limited recognition of indigenous law and governance. Current criminal justice processes (including risk assessment) continue to single out indigenous peoples as a “crime-prone” population. Indigenous demands for greater recognition of Aboriginal law and greater control over criminal justice decision-making must be taken seriously. Neo-liberalism and “law and order” politics are likely further to entrench the over-representation of indigenous peoples within western criminal justice systems.
Ethnicity and racism feature at each stage of the criminal justice process in the United Kingdom. Some minority ethnic group people are more likely to be victimized, are more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, and are more likely to be arrested. The cumulative effect of disproportionate treatment of black people throughout the criminal justice process is reflected in high numbers of black people in prison. Patterns of crime vary among minority ethnic groups and between them and the white majority, but not in ways that adequately explain imprisonment patterns. Research findings indicate that racism is levelled towards ethnic minority groups and explain ways in which discrimination occurs. Explanations for variations in group patterns of offending and criminal justice system involvement need to take account of differences between black and Asian groups in experiences at each stage of the criminal justice process, and in the migratory contexts within which minority ethnic groups have settled in Britain. These issues have been complicated by the effects of contemporary concerns about terrorism and counter-terrorism—a contemporary insecurity that affects minority ethnic groups to a disproportionate degree.
France has the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe and a long immigration tradition. Official data do not recognize race, ethnicity, or religion as fundamental characteristics of people. For a long time crime data ignored foreigners and non-French immigrants as distinct groups. They are significantly overrepresented among criminal suspects in custody and in prison, though this varies by offense and according to status; an important proportion have violated immigration laws and are not a threat to society. Their overrepresentation may result from lack of fixed residence and the possibility they will not turn up if summoned by a judge. Research on this issue is scant. It is unclear whether disparities represent invidious bias or result from socio-economic disadvantages or differences in records of past criminality. Xenophobia among the broad French public, after declining substantially, is on the rise again, in great part due to the recent economic crisis.
Godfried Engbersen, Arjen Leerkes, and Erik Snel
The development of research on relations among ethnicity, migration, and crime in the Netherlands reflects the ways migration flows and immigration control policies evolved after World War II. In the 1980s and 1990s, research primarily focused on four immigrant groups that are today established minorities: Surinamese, Turks, Moroccans, and Antilleans. Research later expanded to include criminality among asylum seekers, irregular migrants, and labor migrants from Central and Eastern Europe. The effects of migration management on immigrant crime are also the subject of research; focal topics include the effects of open borders as a result of the European Union enlargements (resulting in mobile banditry), of external border control (the growth of human trafficking organizations), and of internal border control (forms of subsistence crime as a consequence of barring irregular migrants from access to conventional means of acquiring income). Dutch research can be categorized into five themes: differential involvement of ethnic groups in criminality, subcultural explanations for criminality, victimization and fear of crime, social organization of human trafficking, and functioning of the criminal justice system.
Elena Marchetti and Riley Downie
Indigenous people are vastly overrepresented in the criminal justice systems of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Colonization devastated the lives of each country’s First Nations Peoples in ways that left them disproportionately disadvantaged in health, wealth, education, and employment. Socioeconomic disadvantage influences the likelihood of indigenous people coming into contact with the criminal justice system. Other factors such as institutional and systemic bias also play a part. Innovative court practices in each jurisdiction try to redress racial inequality in the criminal justice system and reduce the alarming rate at which indigenous peoples are overrepresented in custody. Quantitative reoffending analyses fail to show that these innovative justice processes have greater success in changing an offender’s behavior than do conventional court processes, but there is evidence that they are exposing indigenous offenders to more meaningful and culturally appropriate court practices.
Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and Scot Wortley
Canada effectively bans systematic collection and dissemination of racially disaggregated criminal justice statistics. A significant proportion of Canada’s racial minority populations perceive bias in the criminal justice system, especially on the part of police. Aboriginal and black Canadians are grossly overrepresented in Canada’s correctional institutions. Some evidence suggests that both Aboriginal and black populations are overrepresented with respect to violent offending and victimization. Social conditions in which Aboriginal and black Canadians live are at least partially to blame for their possibly elevated rates of violent offending. Evidence indicates that racial bias exists in the administration of Canadian criminal justice. At times, this discrimination has been supported by court decisions. Discrimination and disparity are at times acknowledged by government, but they are seldom wholeheartedly addressed. There is a lack of political will to address issues of racial minority overrepresentation in relation to manifestations of racial discrimination or to the societal conditions that lead to criminal offending.