Social Control, Judicialization of Social Problems and Governance of Security in Comparative Perspectives

04 Jul to 05 Jul

Coordinators: Joao Velloso (University of Ottawa), Vivian Paes (Universidade Federal Fluminense, Nitéroi, RJ, Brazil)

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Description of the meeting

The governance of security and social problems has changed substantially in the last decades, both by harshening criminal punishment (punitive turn) and by widening the scope of penalization processes (shadow carceral state, Beckett & Murakawa, 2012). Traditionally, democratic societies tend to manage security-related conflicts and “dangerous” populations through legal institutions anchored in the following liberal triad: legal rules, balanced rights and sanctions, mostly associated to criminal law and trials. While criminalization is still the primary face of social control, an increasing number of scholars are pointing to a variety of forms and processes of judicialization and penalization, either within criminal law regimes (e.g. preventive justice) or relying on regulatory, administrative, civil, and even hybrid legal regimes.

The workshop is composed by empirical studies on the routines and practices of various legal institutions contributing to the judicialization of social problems and the governance of security. Themes include criminalization processes, other forms of judicialization (regulatory, immigration, civil, etc.) and also legal pluralistic forms of conflict resolution. By putting multiple contexts and jurisdictions into conversation, we aim to address a certain void in social control studies in two senses: 1) by emphasizing the judicial aspects of social control processes, rather than the deviance and punishment properties of them; and 2) by moving beyond the frontiers of criminal law in order to explore other forms of judicialization and governance. By doing so, we will open the “black box” (Latour, 1999) of criminalization and social control, illuminating its internal complexity; that is, how Law and particular legal regimes (State-based or not) are mobilized in contemporary security projects. This will help understanding the extent and scope of neo-liberal forms of governance that subverts the traditional liberal triad of legal rules, balanced rights and sanctions, as well as, the consequences and deterioration of rights related to such legal arrangements.

The workshop will be organized in seven sessions and all sessions will cover South American, North American and European contexts in different aspects of social control and judicialization processes. Session 1 will discuss security policies, practices of policing and law reform in Brazil, France, Spain, and Canada, exploring criminal justice, prevention, youth justice and restorative justice initiatives. Session 2 will explore connections among criminal law, immigration law and regulatory law in Argentina, Chili, Canada and Netherlands. Session 3 will examine judicial practices, hearings and Jury trials in Brazil, Mexico and France. Session 4 will cover judicialization, urban control and local governance in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Toronto and Basque Country. Session 5 will discuss administrative control and psychiatrization in Montréal, judicialization of domestic violence against women in Brazil, and the treatment, incarceration and reform of young offenders in Quebec and in France. Session 6 will explore Security and Criminal Justice Policies in Brazil, France and Spain. And Session 7 will discuss access to justice in European intercultural contexts involving Roma population, the differential administration of illegalities in the contexts of State crimes in Colombia, and the governance of legal and illegal drug markets (Brazil and Canada).

Finally, given the diversity of geographical contexts and legal regimes that will be covered, we hope to enrich the understanding of the literatures on social control, judicialization of social problems and the governance of security. In this sense, we anticipate three main kinds of contributions to the socio-legal scholarship in these areas. First, empirical contributions, by describing judicial practices and the political dimensions of law in different contexts. Second, theoretical contributions, by exploring judicialization and social control processes beyond and in addition to criminalization. And third, disciplinary and theoretical contributions, by emphasising law and socio-legal approaches (sociology of law and legal anthropology) in the study of social control, a topic often dealt through sociology of crime/ deviance, sociology of punishment and criminological approaches. The variety of scholarship and the comparative character of the workshop will provide a unique opportunity to build relations, to nuance judicial practices and to contribute to security projects that respect the

Our experience in Oñati

Eighteen international scholars met in Oñati on 4 and 5 July 2019, at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law, for the workshop Social Control, Judicialization of Social Problems and Governance of Security in Comparative Perspectives. The group included legal scholars, political theorists, anthropologists, criminologists and sociologists, coming from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, and sharing their empirical works on how different legal regimes are mobilized to deal with social problems and security projects in these jurisdictions. 

It was a great challenge and an immense reward to organize this workshop. The debate on social control, judicialization and security is usually biased both in terms of the Global North and criminalization. Our plan was to put together scholars from different perspectives and countries that worked with criminal justice aspects, but also beyond criminal law (regulatory regimes, specialized tribunals, administrative law, etc.). The result was two very intensive days of comparative discussion, where we learned a lot with each other by trying to understand how law was mobilized in different contexts. We were not simply comparing criminal law here and there, but criminal law in Brazil and France, with immigration law in Canada, by-laws in the Basque cities, regulations in Netherlands, mental health courts and review boards (for non-criminally responsible offenders) in Quebec and so on. This myriad of judicialization contexts in action created inspiring and vivid debates that never ended after each session. Our discussions would continue during the breaks and even up to late night each day, fueled by pintxos and the unique academic environment that the Institute and Oñati provide. It was more than an workshop, it was a bonding experience for all of us.

None of this would happen without the support offered by the Institute before during and after the workshop. Big thanks to the Oñati IISL staff for their professionalism and dedication.

For more information: 

Workshop Coordination Team

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