The late summer issue of Working Notes, the journal published by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, explores the theme of crime as it relates to contemporary Irish culture and social policy. It has drawn together a range of established and emerging scholars to think about crime from within a prison, from the perspective of fraud, from an environmental point of view, and in terms of how it relates to the concept of sin.
In his article, ‘Why can’t we take economic crime seriously?’, David McIlroy points to economic crime as “a defining vice of the neoliberal age”, giving examples when the poor, weak and the vulnerable are victimised. He states, “The victims of these crimes could be the little old lady who agrees to part with her savings in a telephone scam, the person who is persuaded to transfer their pension into an offshore development scheme, or the business forced to appoint a fraudulent turnaround consultant who proceeds to strip its assets. Each of these types of economic crime raises its own issues.” McIlroy focuses on the reasons why all too often, the most blatant and large-scale frauds go unpunished.
In ‘Theological Reflection: Remembering the Gap Between Crime and Sin’, Kevin Hargaden looks to a more nuanced understanding of crime in the Christian tradition. He says, “When we consider the history of modern penal institutions, and re-consider the Christian account of sin, we find that the older religious language has merits in terms of transparency and complexity that more popular terms lack. Even without any religious commitments, thinking in terms of “sin” allows us to think about penal policy in a reflexive fashion that is unexpected and profoundly timely.”
In her article, ‘Understanding Crime in Prison’, Beth Duane makes a preliminary investigation into the prevalence and forms of crime in Irish prisons. She states, “Such crimes present a considerable challenge for fulfilment of the mission of the Irish Prison Service – to provide ‘safe and secure custody, dignity of care and rehabilitation to prisoners for safer communities.'” She also presents the potential causes of these crimes such as “mental illness, substance misuse, homelessness, poverty and unemployment, chaotic family backgrounds and social marginalisation” and their effects on the prison environment and population.
In ‘Carbon Crimes’, Sadhbh O’Neill asks at what point does a harm become a crime, giving examples such as illegal parking on cycle-lanes or dangerous driving. She refers to the selective attitude of the general public in complying with the law and the similarly selective approach of the Garda Siochána in enforcing it. She says: “When put under public pressure, enforcement activities by the Gardaí increase. Otherwise however, everyday hazards and offences go unpunished. We are used to this way of things. We put up with intolerable congestion and related social and environmental risks because our behavioural norms have not yet shifted to consider car-drivers as ‘deviant’ rather than ‘normal'”.