Author & Researcher Delphine Jamet
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Amazon???s Footprint in the Environment and Economy

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on April 1, 2015 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)



Environmental issues and employee diversity rates of Inc are of concern to both society and stakeholders. The question is whether or not they are fullfilling society’s expectations on how they should operate. Whilst there are areas in need of improvement, it appears that Inc. are quite the revolutionary leaders in their field, ahead of their competitors due to their active nature of addressing key issues and implementing positive change as soon as it is highlighted.




Founded in 1994, Amazon today has 237 million active users and earned more than 214 million in net sales in the fourth quarter of 2014 (Statista 2014). Their mission is to be the largest online bookshop in the world with the largest catalogue, distribution, access to customers, known brand and at the same time, increasing their profit and minimising their costs (Al-Mashari 2002, 184). As a result, Amazon remains in the spotlight with every action and inaction in the public eye, issues such as the environment, human rights and employee diversity examined in much detail, making them the leader in their field charged with the responsibility of setting examples for both society and stakeholders. This essay attempts to examine their successes and failures in regards to their environmental impact in addition to employee diversity.




Through initiatives such as examining the packaging options available to manufacturers, companies and brands, Amazon has certified over 200,000 products and enabled the Amazon Fustration-Free Packaging Certification initiative which has resulted in 100% recyclable packaging and products shipped in their own packages without the need for additional shipping boxes (Amazon 2015). But it isn’t just packaging that is of concern to the stakeholders and consumers of Amazon. A quick search of Google reveals that water conservation, energy savings, renewable energy products and their garden-to-table methods are of equal importance (Nidamarthi 2011). These are further more likely to be reduced with online shopping options over the traditional brick-and-mortal stores (Edwards, McKinnon and Cullinane 2009, 8), particularly with the reliance of having the product delivered to the consumer, which reduces the consumer’s emission factors generated by travelling to shops looking for products (DEFRA 2007).


Although Amazon doesn’t release eBook sales statistics, in 2008, it was reported that $112 million worth of eBooks was sold, with Amazon holding a 45% market share (Ritch, 2009: 5). For the environment, buying eBooks over print books prevents “5.3 billion kg of CO2 in 2012 alone” (ibid) due to not having to process paper and ship books. Although it must be stated that The Cleantech’s Report, in regards to the savings of billions of carbon dioxide, may contain bias due to their serious investment in technology such as Kindle (Callicott 2010, 81).


Books alone in the United States consumed approximately 30 million trees in 2006, equating to a carbon footprint of 12.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (Green Press Initiative 2011:3). In 2013 alone, sales of hardcopy books increased by 10% (Greenfield 2013) with Amazon earning $11 billion in sales compared to their 2006 figure of $3.5 billion (Rosenthal 2014). Once can imagine the effect this would have on the environment, in particularly the consumption of trees. There is nothing to say on the Amazon Website that their books are made of recyclable materials but this would be difficult to gauge in the first place due to millions of different sellers using a variety of printers who don’t share the same recycle policies and missions.


EBook readers are believed to be made out of “lead solder, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium and flame retardants which have been linked to health problems” (Hutsko 2009). Although the European Union limits the use of these materials in the making of these products, they have a policy in place to recycle all electronics but the United States does not have this policy in place and although Amazon offers free recycling of the Kindle product, they have declined revealing how this program works (Callicott 2010, 81). In the making of the Kindle, Amazon utilises the services of an “inefficient coal fired plant” (ibid) and it appears they have made no positive contribution to the environment in the shipping process of the Kindle to their final destination pre-sale. Giant shipping containers use bunker fuel, which can emit “the same amount of cancer- and asthma-causing chemicals as fifty million cars and release as much as 5,000 tons of sulfur oxide into the air annually” (Vidal 2009). There is also nothing on the Amazon website to contest these statements.


Amazon is just as responsible as Barnes and Nobles and the New York Times when it comes to utilising huge computer servers to power eBooks, as “1.5% of the entire electricity usage for all of the United States goes to power data servers” (Callicott 2010, 83). This is compounded upon the realisation that about half of this energy emanates from coal fired energy plants which is “dirty and is responsible for huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions” (ibid).


On a positive note, Amazon’s initiative titled the Kaizen Program is charged with the mission of working together “to implement environmental and energy initiatives across all parts of the company . . . dive deep into every nook and cranny of a process to identify waste and design alternative solutions that are more energy efficient” (Amazon 2015). Whether or not this will benefit every area such as shipping and the power servers in the near future is just something we will have to wait and see.


Employment and equality


Two months after the famed civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson called on Amazon to disclose the makeup up for their employees, Amazon bowed to the pressure and released their figures (Cook 2014). Out of the entire global workforce, 63% are male whilst in the United States, 15% are black, 13% Asian and in terms of Manager positions, 4% are black (Sopher 2014). To increase the Black employee rates, Amazon have introduced a scheme called the Black Employee Network, which aims to “help recruit and contribute to a community for employees of colour” (Amazon 2015b). Employees and interns are paired up with mentors in addition to providing career and personal development workshops throughout the year.


For women, there is the Amazon Women in Engineering scheme which aims to provide a workplace environment for women who are technical minded and trained. It appears to be a success, particularly due to the Women Engineering Magazine naming Amazon as the third most wanted company “for whom they would most like to work or that they believe would provide a positive working environment for women” (Equal Opportunity Publications 2014:1).


Amazon reflected on these statistics and blamed the disparity of minority and women employees on the “lack of science, technology, engineering and mathematics encouragements for these groups in schools” (Mac 2014). As a result of that statement, they have pledged contributions to increase both computer and science learning among children and teens, the next potential generation of Amazonian employees in hope of a more positive employment rate for women and minorities. This is unlikely to make a difference, particularly as it appears that these classes opt of this education pathway by choice, in particularly technology and engineering.


Further criticism has emerged from the lack of detail on employee structure in different levels of the company, so one could only guess that they represent a far worse reflection of these classes as you move higher up the corporate ladder (de Looper 2014).


On a positive note, Amazon’s diverse statistics are quite good when compared to Facebook and Microsoft who employ 31% female, 2% black, and 30% female, 2% black respectively (Cook 2014). It appears that even if Amazon’s employee diversity was stronger for the black community and females, they would still attract criticism particularly as they could not be perfectly equal but this could be difficult as employees are usually recruited for their education, experience and talent and not their colour of their skin or gender. In addition, the fact that they are addressing these issues with relevant in-house programs and school funding show that they are committed to representing the American people.




Amazon is fulfilling society’s expectations by making headway with both their environmental and employee diversity policies. Although these things take time, research already shows that they are a leader in their feed and actively seek out improvements to address areas of concern. Some areas of transport for instance, are difficult to improve, and this includes the giant shipping containers utilising bunker fuel which could be regarded as something out of their hands. It can be seen that Amazon are making a positive environmental effort with a range of implementations such as reducing packaging by offering companies a free examination of their products, being environmentally green and reducing tree resources through the sales of ebooks, which is sure to please both society and stakeholders alike.


Employment diversity is also a difficult issue to tackle due to education, experience and talent on one side of the scale and both gender and skin colour on the other. Whether a company should risk the quality input over hiring unskilled or untalented people who cannot perform the job adequately to ease the concerns of society and stakeholders is an issue of concern. This is being addressed the best way Amazon knows how, by implementing innovative schemes and education funding but already, they are ahead of their competitors in relation to diversity and gender which should satisfy us.


It appears Amazon’s contributions to society is revolutionary, particularly due to their active role in meeting societal and stakeholder standards, addressing environmental issues that arise and implementing innovative schemes, which could be barely said for their competitors. They are a remarkable company with profits in mind, just like any other operation business but they give back almost as much as they take.


Delphine Jamet


Director of Streetkid Industries –


Author of Deep Into Dark – download the first chapter free at 

Director of Streetkid Industries – ;


Twitter: @deepintodark





Al-Mashari, Majed. 2002. “Electronic commerce: A comparative study of organizational experiences.” Benchmarking: An international journal 9(2): 182-189. Inc. 2015. “Amazon’s innovations for our planet.” Inc. Accessed March 27. ie=UTF8 &node=13786321 Inc. 2015b. “Diversity at Amazon.” Inc. Accessed March 27.


Callicott, Burton. B. 2010. “EVT: A comparison of the relative environmental impact of electronic and traditional methods of publication.” Against The Grain 22(3): 81-83.


Cook, John. 2014. “Rev. Jesse Jackson to Amazon: Please, release your diversity numbers.” Geek Wire. Accessed March 27.


Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). 2008. “Passenger transport emissions factors.” Methodology Paper. June 2007. Retrieved 27 March.


De Looper, Christian. 2014. “Diversity not in stock at Amazon as white males dominate company.” Tech Times. Accessed 27 March. articles/ 19390/20141103/diversity-stock-amazon-white-male-dominated-company.htm


Edwards, J. B., McKinnon, A.C., & Cullinane, S.L. 2009. “Carbon auditing the ‘last mile’: modelling the environmental impacts of conventional and online non-food shopping.” Logistics Research Centre. Edinburgh Scotland: Heriot-Watt University,


Equal Opportunity Publications. 2014. “Readers’ Choice Awards.”


Greenfield, Jeremy. 2013. “Hardcover sales growth outpacing ebooks in 2013.”


Forbes. Accessed 27 March. /2013/11/19/ hardcover-sales-growth-outpacing-ebooks-in-2013/


Green Press Initiative. 2011. “Environmental impacts of e-books.” Green Press Intiative. Accessed 27 March.


Hutsko, Joe. 2009. “Are e-readers greener than books?” The New York Times. Assessed 27 March.


Mac, Ryan. 2014. “Amazon releases diversity numbers for the first time and surprise, it’s mostly white and male.” Forbes. Assessed 27 March. ryanmac/2014/10/31/amazon-releases-diversity-numbers-for-first-time-and surprise-its-mostly-male-and-white/


Nidamarthi, Lakshmi. 2011. “Amazon’s purchasing data finds US consumers going green.” GreenBiz. Assessed 27 March. 2011/04/19/amazons-purchasing-data-finds-us-consumers-going-green?page= 0%2C1


Ritch, Emma. 2009. “The environmental impact of Amazon’s Kindle.” San Francisco, California: The Cleantech Group.


Rosenthal, Morris. 2014. “Book Sales Statistics.” Foner Books. Assessed 27 March.


Sopher, Taylor. 2014. “Amazon releases diversity numbers: 75% of managers male, 60% of US employees white.” Geek Wire. Accessed 27 March. 2014/amazon-releases-diversity-numbers/


Statista. 2014. “Amazon’s net income as of 4th quarter 2014.” Statista. Accessed 27 March. income/


Vidal, John. 2009. “Health risks of shipping pollution have been ‘underestimated’.” Guardian. Accessed 27 March. environment /2009/apr/09/ shipping-pollution

Trace Evidence in Forensic Science

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on November 8, 2013 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Trace evidence is created when objects come into contact with each other, whether it is the transfer of paint, fingerprints or gunshot residue. They can be removed from a crime scene with various techniques such as tape lifts and swabs. Although trace evidence can link a person to a crime scene, it doesn’t determine their guilt; therefore other corroborating evidence is required.


A number of techniques can be implemented to remove or analysis the trace evidence sample, some being destructive so photographing and measures that are least harmful are utilised as a primary option.


Omagh Bombing

On Saturday 15 August 1998 in Omagh, Northern Ireland, a splinter group of the former Provisional Irish Republican Army who were opposed to the Good Friday Agreement, planted a bomb in a car that killed 29 people and injured some 220 people (The Queen v Sean Hoey [2007] NICC 49).


Trace evidence containing Sean Hoey’s DNA was found on a number of items at the scene of the Omagh Bombing, in addition to several other bomb scenes, using a Low Carbon Number. This allows for DNA evidence to be recovered from crime scenes when the amount of DNA present is “sometimes as small as a millionth the size of a grain of salt” (Buchanan, 2007: n.p.). The downfall of such a sensitive sample is the greater risk of contamination and it is not as robust as conventional DNA testing (Budowie et al, 2009: 207).


DNA evidence means that investigators can link blood, semen, hair or tissue to a single individual, therefore identifying particulars secured at a crime scene can determine possible suspects. It is generally acknowledged that “the potential for false positive results, erroneous matches, is extremely low” (Freckelton, 2010: 21). This enables investigators to narrow down even further the list of suspects connected to a serious crime.


Operation Bronte

Trace evidence connecting convicted Frank Colledge with the murder of Carolyn Wilden appears to be fairly limited. Shoeprints in blood printed on the mattress stained with Wilden’s blood appears to have been made with thongs found in the rear of the yellow van parked in the backyard’s sleep out. It appears that no fingerprints or DNA of particular interest belonging to Colledge was revealed other than the fact he was a resident of the location in question, which was to later reveal the body of Wilden buried in a shallow grave next to the shed. The case appears to be heavily based on his confession.

To develop footwear impressions in blood, there are 10 techniques that can be used with the more common being Amido Black and Leucocrystal Violet (Saferstein, 2011: 529). The shoe print can be cut out of the fabric and taken to the lab for analysis using either of the two favoured techniques. It can be difficult to prove the offender because the print just shows what type of shoe made the impression and upon finding the shoe, it may be hard to prove the owner, although this may be fairly trivial.


Operation Flint

Pamela Lawrence was murdered in her Mosman Park jewellery store in May 1994 and this led to the false conviction and imprisonment of Andrew Mallard. Upon re-examination of the case file in 2006, trace evidence was found in the way of palm print lifts from the glass top service counter at the crime scene in 1994. This was not taken into account at the trial of Mallard, who was convicted based on unsigned police notes and a suspect video recording.


A person’s fingerprint is unique and does not change in the lifetime of the individual. Careful assessment of the ridge characteristics can enable investigators to identify a suspect and place them at a crime scene, although it cannot in any way determine the guilt of the suspect. For two prints to match, they must “reveal characteristics that not only are identical but have the same relative location to one another in a print” (Saferstein, 2011: 391).


The latent prints found on the glass top service counter may have been caused by “the transfer of body perspiration or oils present on finger ridges to the surface of an object” (Saferstein, 2011: 400). After dusting the print with a fingerprint powders and a fiberglass brush, tape lifts can be used which is a method employed to “lift trace particles, extrinsic materials or sebum deposited on the finger of an individual after recent handling of such materials” (Widjaja, 2008: 769).



Trace evidence was found in all three cases although convictions are not always imminent, as seen in the Omagh Bombing. Forensic evidence may assist investigators to identify suspects who may be involved with a crime but cannot prove the guilt of the offender. At times, wrongful conviction may arise out of proceedings, as was the case with Andrew Mallard. Unfortunately, Simon Rochford’s palm print, found on the service counter, was withheld in the investigation that may have prevented Mallard’s false conviction. Although the forensic evidence to link Frank Colledge personally other than a resident of the crime scene was limited, his testimony appeared to have sealed his conviction.


Trace evidence is an important component of forensic evidence and can assist forensic investigators in many ways, although no type of evidence that is more important than another.




Buchanan, M. (2007). Verdict raises DNA evidence doubt. Retrieved from the BBC News Website:

Budowie, B., Eisenberg, A. J., & van Daal, A. (2009). Validity of low carbon number typing and applications to forensic science. Croatian Medical Journal. 50(3), 207

Freckelton, I. (2010). DNA profiling: Collection, use and effectiveness. Melbourne, Victoria: Monash University.

Queen v Sean Hoey [2007] NICC 49

Saferstein, R. (2011). Criminalistics: An introduction to forensic science. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.

Widjaja, E. (2008). Latent fingerprints analysis using tape-lift, Raman microscopy and multivariate data analysis methods. The Royal Society of Chemistry. 134, 769-775.

Police Discretion 2

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on August 12, 2013 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Like any other industry or organisation, police services around the world experience issues of ethics in the process of conducting their work. Perhaps more than most, police are under an intense spotlight, their everyday behaviour scrutinised through various forms of media, political power and their own hierarchy. Types of police ethics that may arise that should be considered, include behaving honestly in a bid to abstain from corruption, complying with all set policies and guidelines, avoiding conflict of interest where possible, reporting the misconduct of colleagues and most importantly, treating everyone with equal respect and courtesy, elements which may play an important role in the use of discretion.

Discretion is based on decisions police make in their everyday duty as a police officer, whether or not they decide to arrest or caution a particular person or refer them to another agency for further assistance. “Certain rules apply but ultimately; the final decision will be made by the individual officer on the scene” (Hayes & Lauchs, 2009: 87). In many situations, police can do their job without having to invoke their power and even the awareness that the power exists is all that is needed (Stobbs, 2010: 75). The role of policing should be considered to mean more than enforcing the law, it is also to “resolve disputes and to relieve social, interpersonal and cultural tensions” (p. 76). In addition, police are required at times to be “counsellors, social workers, psychiatrists, ministers and even doctors” (Sarre, 1989: 105). The nature of the expanded police role past the point of simple law and order appears to place a weighted importance in the use of discretion for police officers as each situation they are called to is likely to be unique. For example, a suicidal client may require negotiation services rather than a simple arrest, even though they may be wielding a weapon in order to harm themselves.

In considering the types of discretion used on the job, the Western Australia Police Code of Conduct describes the terminology to include “take heed of relevant facts, be honest, impartial and consistent and never act arbitrarily or with malice” (2008: 11). This essay tends to examine what is discretion, how it is applied to various sections of the community and how it is monitored in a way to encourage fairness in regards to decisions that need to be made.

By law, police officers are required to treat everyone equally but their judgement can be based on their personal beliefs and upbringing experiences in addition to police culture, perhaps subconsciously. “In real life, police officers have many opportunities on a daily basis to treat people differently” (Hayes & Lauchs, 2009: 87) as a result of the variety of work they may encounter such as juveniles, victims of domestic violence, indigenous and homeless people. For young people, police have a range of options such as a verbal warning, written caution, arrest or referral to a Juvenile Justice Team. This may depend on whether or not the young person is a first time offender, admits guilt or even communicates positively with the arresting officers. For a person inebriated, a charge may be replaced with supervision in a holding cell until they are sober enough to be released, taken to the hospital for a check-up or referral to a shelter equipped with resources to deal with such a person like The Salvation Army or Bridge House in Western Australia.

Full enforcement of the law may not always be appropriate (Pollock, 2004) as an intervention can be enough to prevent a person from committing another crime or the matter may be trivial. In situations of domestic violence, an officer has the decision to arrest a person or do nothing at all. Officers have been reluctant to intervene within the private sphere until fairly recently, one reason due to “cultural perspectives on gender relations” (Rowe, 2007: 76) enhanced with the mentality ‘what is in the family stays in the family’. It is possible that officers feel that attending to domestic violence is a waste of time particularly due to the victim “being subjected to repeated physical, sexual and/or emotional violence may result in certain behaviours and thoughts which contribute to an increasing inability to leave the batterer” (Thyfault, 1984: 486). The real controversy may emerge when police decide not to make an arrest when they have every right to or enough evidence to present a case (Kocklars, 1985: 96). Instead they may choose to unofficially counsel those involved before leaving the situation, believing that things will settle down or issue a Violent Restraining Order or Misconduct Restraining Order which is valid for 72 hours (Police Orders – Information, 2013).

In a study by Luke and Cuneen, it was found that young Indigenous offenders in New South Wales were more likely to be prosecuted by police than non-Indigenous offenders, even if they had no prior record of court appearances or cautions (1990: 155). “Evidence shows consistently that Indigenous young people will invariably receive the most punitive option available” (Cuneen & White, 2010: 142). Factors to be taken into consideration could include a lack of family stability, offending parents, a past record of willing to attend court or perhaps being a ward of the state in the care of the government. Culminating with police attitudes of trying to clean up the street and eradicate ‘street crime’ the police may fail to use discretion when dealing with Indigenous Australians who appear at risk to themselves as well as the community.

There are many factors that can influence discretion including the officer’s attitude, the offender’s willingness to cooperate, hierarchy decisions to crack down on particular groups of people or anti-social behaviour and the officer’s behavioural influences of elitism. “Moral distance can occur when an individual assumes they are a better person because of inherent characteristics such as race, sex, age or socio-economic background” (Grossman, 1995: 161). There is an expression ‘having a chip on the shoulder’ which tends to refer to someone having a grudge against another person and/or a section of society and that person waits “for someone to say the wrong thing in hopes that they can instantly retaliate with heated vengeance” (Pewewardy, 2003:28). For a police officer, this could strongly influence their use of discretion.

It should be considered that “it is practically impossible for the police to enforce all laws on all occasions” (Reiner, 2000). In addition, the law requires interpretation for it to be carried out, which “inevitably entails a degree of subjectivity on the part of the officer” (Rowe, 2010: 99) and their interpretation could reflect again, a variety of personal characteristics, morals and experience. Police officers may have to prioritise the laws they can enforce which could also reflect a lack of resources (Rowe, 2010: 98). This requires a level of subjectivity to be taken into consideration and the same could be said in many other occupations where employees “are expected to exercise discretion when doing their jobs” (p.99). Health care practitioners may decide on one course of treatment over the other in the same way an officer chooses to enforce one charge over the other, although the conditions differ due to officers exercising “their discretion in conditions of relative invisibility” (p.99). Police officers are in a special category, a “position in that they embody the symbolic power of the sovereign state” (Rowe, 2010: 99). Junior officers, who appear to comprise the bulk of the discretionary powers on the frontline, have fairly little supervision and governance in relation to their decisions, therefore enabling them to make discretions they see as appropriate (Wilson, 1968: 7). Police autonomy is a crucial element which is intertwined with discretion.

There are a few options for members of the public to lodge complaints against police officers, including the Corruption and Crime Commission, Ombudsman and Police Complaints, the latter being a unit attached to the Police Service which is also known as Internal Affairs Unit. Two of the four aims presented by the WA Police Code of Conduct attempts to strengthen ethical culture and “coordinate targeting of areas of corruption risk” (Ethics and Integrity, n.d.) as a result of complaints, largely made by the public. It could be expected that as a result of investigations brought to the attention of these investigatory bodies, improving discretion policy could be a key issue that is the subject of debate.

Discretion is one of the most important police ethics to examine because it is one of the first responses when attending to an offender or young person at risk. By understanding how police officers use this power, we can have a better understanding of how these decisions are made. Unfortunately, there are a wide range of reasons behind discretion ranging from police culture, personal attributes of the officer, hierarchy influences and pressures and even the attitude of the offender being questioned. The hidden natures make it difficult to change or to improve, particularly when policy attempts to do so. This appears to particularly affect certain subgroups of society such as juveniles, victims of domestic violence as well as the Indigenous and homeless populations. Particularly the latter two, who may experience more police attention than the other segments of society, due to the visibility of their presence in public areas. Discretion is exacerbated by the influence of a wide variety of legislation and a lack of resources in place, amongst many other elements that may affect a consistent discretionary result. As this essay attempted to show, there are a multitude of factors that need to be considered when examining the use of discretion.




Cuneen, C., & White, R. (2010). Juvenile justice: Youth and crime in Australia. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Ethics & Integrity. (n.d.). Retrieved from the Western Australia Police Website:

Grossman, D. (1995). On killing. Boston: Back Bay Books.

Hayes, S., & Lauchs, M. (2010). Oversight, integrity and ethics. In Policing in Context. Eds R Broadhurst & S. E. Davies. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Kocklars, C. G. (1985). Selective enforcement. In The Idea of Police. Beverley Hills: Sage.

Luke, G. & Cuneen, C. (1990). Aboriginal over-representation and discretionary decisions in the NSW juvenile justice system. Juvenile Justice Advisory Council of New South Wales, Sydney.

Pewewardy, C. Dr (2003). 100 defensive tactics and attributions: Dodging the dialog on cultural diversity. Multicultural Education, 11(1), p. 23 – 35).

Police Orders – Information. (2013). Retrieved from the Legal Aid Western Australia Website:

Pollock, J. (2004). Ethics in crime and justice: Dilemmas and decisions. Belmont, California: Wadsworth.

Rowe, M. (2007). Who should read your mind? Time, 29 January: 76-9.

Rowe, M. (2010). Introduction to policing. London: Sage Publications.

Sarre, R. (1989). Towards the notion of policing ‘by consent’ and its implications for policy accountability In Australian Policing Contemporary Issues. Eds D. Chappel & P. Wilson. Sydney, New South Wales: Butterworths.

Stobbs, N. (2010). Police power and duties. In Policing in Context. Eds R Broadhurst & S. E. Davies. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Thyfault, R. (1984). Self defence: Battered woman syndrome on trial. California Western Law Review. 20(3), p. 485-510

Western Australia Police Code of Conduct. (2008). Retrieved from the WA Police Website:

Wilson, J. Q. (196:8. Varieties of police behaviour. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Police Ethics - Discretion

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on August 22, 2012 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Police services all around the world have various forms of ethics that govern their behaviour, much like any other agency or organisation. Perhaps more than most, they are under an intense spotlight, their everyday behaviour scrutinised through forms of media, political power and their own hierarchy.  A range of ethics for the police service include behaving honestly in a bid to abstain from forms of corruption, comply with all set policies and guidelines, avoid conflict of interest where possible, report the misconduct of colleagues and most importantly, treat everyone with equal respect and courtesy, which is important for the use of discretion.

In this essay, I intend to examine what is discretion, how it is applied to various sections of the community (in particular, indigenous and migrant populations) and how it is monitored in a way to encourage fairness during decisions that need to be made.


What is discretion?

Discretion is based on decisions police make in their everyday duty as a police officer, whether or not they decide to charge a particular person or refer them to a partner agency for assistance. “Certain rules apply but ultimately, the final decision will be made by the individual officer on the scene” (Broadhurst & Davies, 2009: 87). By law, police officers are required to treat everyone equally but their judgement can be based on their personal beliefs and upbringing experiences in addition to police culture. “In real life, police officers have many opportunities on a daily basis to treat people differently” (Broadhurst & Davies, 2009: 87). For young people for instance, police have a range of options such as cautions, a written warning, and arrest or refer them to a juvenile agency. For a person inebriated, a charge may be replaced with supervision in a holding cell under they are sober enough to be released, a visit to the hospital or referral to a shelter equipped with resources to deal with such a person.

How is it used?

There are various elements that can influence discretion, including the offender’s attitude and willingness to cooperate, hierarchy decisions to crack down on particular groups of people or offending behaviour and the police officer’s behavioural influences of elitism. “Moral distance can occur when an individual assumes they are a better person because of inherent characteristics such as race, sex, age or socio-economic background” (Grossman, 1995: 161). There is an expression ‘having a chip on the shoulder’, which generally describes people who have a grievance that can provoke disputation. It could be a result of an officer not waking up in a good mood or even a minor personal domestic quarrel which could reflect their decisions to enforce anything that comes their way during the day.

On the other hand, “it is practically impossible for the police to enforce all laws on all occasions” (Reiner, 2000). There may be a number of laws that generally mean the same thing but may not be appropriate for a police officer to lay all the charges onto a person at once, which then requires the use of discretion in the form of selection. In addition, the law requires interpretation for it to be carried out, which “inevitably entails a degree of subjectivity on the part of the officer” (Rowe, 2010: 99).

Police discretion at times, appears to be an issue with homosexuals or those of a different race when compared to the ‘mainstream Australian’, as an example. “Police culture has become a convenient label for a range of negative values, attitudes, and practice norms among police officers” (Chan, 1996:110). In an everyday scenario, it could be possible that white female drivers are less likely to be charged with a traffic offence when compared with an Asian male, depending on the attitude of the police officer. This could also be replicated with the contrast of someone driving a flashy Japanese import compared with a subtle car that barely warrants any attention.

Police and indigenous Australians
Australian Indigenous make up 2.4% of the nation’s population yet Indigenous youths represent 54% of those incarcerated in a juvenile institution (Cuneen & White, 2010: 142). There are a wide range of reasons that could contribute to these alarming statistics including colonisation, widespread racism in the Australian community, deep poverty, lack of education, drug & alcohol abuse, family violence and a lack of opportunities. On the other hand, it is possible that the high levels of incarceration can be a result of police officers failing to negotiate discretion appropriately, at least treating them equally to a Caucasian young person from a good family environment. “Aboriginal young people do not receive the benefit of a police caution to the same extent as non-Aboriginal young people (Luke, 1988 ).

An explanation for the high rates of incarcerated Indigenous young people has in the past been attributed to the belief that “they commit a greater number of offences, including more serious offences” (Cuneen & White, 2010: 142). In a number of statistics, indigenous Australians do not attend school as frequently or for as long as the majority of mainstream students, which could make them susceptible to police attention for their mere presence in public at the wrong time.

In a study by Luke and Cuneen, it was found that young Indigenous offenders in New South Wales were more likely to be prosecuted by police than non-Indigenous offenders, even if they had no prior record of court appearances or caution (1990: 155). “Evidence shows consistently that Indigenous young people will invariably receive the most punitive option available” (Cuneen & White, 2010: 142). In addition, they are less likely to receive bail than non-indigenous youths. Factors to be taken into consideration could include a lack of family stability, offending parents, a past record of failing to attend court or perhaps being a ward of the state in the care of the government. Culminating with the police attitudes of trying to clean up the streets and eradicate ‘street crime’, the police may fail to use discretion when dealing with indigenous Australians who appear at risk to themselves as well as to the community.

Police and migrant citizens
More often than not, it appears that groups of young people are identified as ethnic youth gangs with the ‘visible difference’ tending to heighten media attention and moral panics. “Prejudicial stereotyping often leads to the differential policing of a whole population group” (Cuneen & White, 2010: 179). This at times in the past has led to police operations and taskforces to crack down on a particular ethnicity.If ethnic young people are turning to gangs, perhaps it is for protection against widespread racism and the lack of opportunities due to their ‘differentness’. The police culture could also be influenced by seeing ethnic citizens as ‘outsiders’, disabling any tolerance they have, whether or not the person of interest now has an Australian citizenship status or were born in Australia.

In the New South Wales police force in 1994, newly elected Police Commissioner John Avery attempted to reform the policing service with changes to the police culture in order to eliminate, racism, corruption and improving relations with the community, particularly those of an ethnic origin. His changes included altering the command structure, a tougher recruitment criteria to eliminate racist candidates as best as possible and the adaption of new community policing methods. It has been said that the biggest obstacle to ensuring these new changes are a success, is the police culture that is imbedded in the state (Fitzgerald Report, 1989:200).

How is it monitored?
Although discretion is used in many occupations such as the health care profession, police officers are in a special category, a ‘position in that they embody the symbolic power of the sovereign state” (Rowe, 2010: 99). Junior officers, who appear to weld the bulk of the discretionary powers on the frontline, have fairly little supervision and governance in relation to the decisions they make. There are several investigative bodies such as the internal affairs, police ombudsman and the Corruption and Crime Commission (WA) but only if the person in question or a witness has made a complaint.

In cases that are completely investigated into certain aspects of police mentality or conduct, recommendations could be made to policy makers to alter the forms of discretion used in certain areas to improve policing in general.

Discretion is one of the most important police ethics to examine because it is the first response when attending to an offender or young person at risk. By understanding how police officers use this power, we can have a better understanding of how these decisions are made. Unfortunately, there are a wide range of reasons behind discretion ranging from police culture, personal attributes of the officer in question, hierarchy influences and pressures and even the attitude of the person being questioned. It is evident that at times no matter how well the offender is cooperating in assisting police with their inquiries, certain personal characteristics such as nationality, indigenous Australian status or even being homosexual, they may be arrested and charged to the maximum a police officer is able to, despite no warrant for such actions in lieu of behaviour in comparison to say, a well-to-do female Caucasian Australian.

Despite investigatory bodies intent on examining claims and complaints of excessive enforcement that could perhaps have been treated instead with due discretion, there is very little the hierarchies and ombudsman can do to make policing fairer, due to the extreme lax supervision police officers have, in particularly with junior employees. By identifying issues such as migrant and indigenous maltreatment, implementations like community policing focusing on particular sectors and behaviours, may have its greatest positive impact with improving the amount of discretion they receive on contact with police officers.


Broadhurst, R., & Davies, S. (2009). Policing in context: An introduction to police work in Australia. South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Chan, J. (1996). Changing police culture. The British Journal of Criminology. 36(1), p. 109

Fitzgerald Report. (1989). Report of a commission of inquiry pursuant to orders in council. Brisbane: Commission of inquiry into possible illegal activities and associated police misconduct.

Grossman, D. (1995). On Killing. Boston: Back Bay Books.

Luke, G. (1988 ). ‘Gaol as a last resort: The situation for juveniles’, in Findlay, M., & Hogg, R. (eds), Understanding Crime and Criminal Justice. Sydney: Law Book Company.

Luke, G., Cuneen C. (1990). Aboriginal over-representation and discretionary decisions in the NSW juvenile justice system. Juvenile Justice Advisory Council of New South Wales, Sydney.

Reiner, R. (2000). The politics of the police. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rowe, M. (2010). Introduction to policing. London: Sage Publications.


The War on Drugs

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on January 18, 2012 at 4:05 AM Comments comments (0)

The War on Drugs

The war on drugs has motivated authorities to pursue a zero tolerance of illicit drugs being possessed, sold or made in our society. Washington’s approach stems from eliminating drugs from the source of production to seizing them before they reach American soil (Bagley, 1988: 71). This war is one that is impossible to win, due to various reasons including the corruption entrenched in foreign governments and drugs being the crucial funding for guerrilla groups.

Historical interventions of illicit drugs is attributed to xenophobic traits, such as the opium dens of Chinese men (Lang, 2008: 6) or the Asians importing heroin into Cabramatta. The war on drugs has been said to fail because it is “diverting intelligent energy away from how to deal with the problem of addiction, that is wasting our resources, and it is encouraging civil, judicial and penal procedures associated with police states” (Buckley, 2002:30). The impact of the heavy handedness of the law has seen “nearly 50 per cent of the million Americans in jail today” (Buckley, 2002:30) a result of continuous crackdowns on drugs, which appears to have made little headway in impacting the drug trade or amount of users. 

Despite the billions of dollars being wasted to enforce campaigns on the war of drugs, perhaps for the reward of political elections and votes, there seems to be no end in sight to theclosure of the drug trade.


The Columbia drug trade

It has been reported that Columbia earns more from the drug trade than any other country in the western hemisphere (Bagley, 1988: 70), as they produce most of the world’s cocaine, heroin and a large amount of marijuana (Pardo, 2000: 66). As a well organised criminal organisation, they are able to produce the drugs, smuggle and distribute it through their extensive networks, which span much of the globe. America in response, have attempted to “include programs of eradication, crop substitution, interdiction and enhanced law enforcement” on Columbian soil (Bagley, 1988: 71).

“Efforts to combat crime are hampered by corruption and the lack of government institutions in large areas of the national territory” (Bagley, 1988: 72). It is difficult to penetrate the drug trade when various violent guerrilla factions, in particularly the notorious Columbian Revolutionary Armed Forces, “an 18,000-strong drug-financed umbrella group” (Sweig, 2002: 123), have such a strong hold in the industry, as well as a hand in the corrupt governments. Deaths from fighting have exceeded 30,000 in the past ten years (Sweig, 2002: 123), making Columbia the world’s homicide capital.

It is estimated that between 30,000 and 50,000 small farmers depend on the cultivation of marijuana for their livelihoods, in addition to another 50,000 seasonal pickers making a living from it (Winslow, n.d.). If the American government attempt to subside this market for alternative crops, the economy would suffer due to the decrease in profits and availability of employment as a result. The drug trade has proved to “provide the population with income, comforts and a degree of economic stability that they had never before enjoyed” (Winslow, n.d.). Continuing the war on drugs in Columbia may risk the economy to collapse.

America’s determination to address the cartels of Columbia was based on a myth, creating a perception that the drug industry was officially controlled by the one group. In contrary, it has been reported that the drug trade was “simply small, independent groups” (Kenney, 2007: 234) who networked together to get the job done, effectively making it difficult for the American government to penetrate and eradicate. Initially Washington was interested in penetrating the Columbian drug trade due to “financial opportunities or crises” but now sees the country as a security threat (Pardo, 2000: 64).

Intervention into the Columbian trade is important if the right policies and actions are put in place, rather than emphasising heavy handedly “the war on drugs”. Guerrillas and paramilitary forces rely on the financial backing of drug traffickers to keep fighting but American’s interaction could not possibly solve all of Columbia’sdrug problems. (Pardo, 2000: 66). Bolivia has been able to wipe out the drug trade in their country, although the farmers now suffer from unemployment and impoverishment as a result (Sweig, 2002: 128). 


Imprisonment effects

Between 1972 and 2000, the imprisonment rate for young black minority American men has increased sixfold, resulting in 1.3 million incarcerated (Pettit et al, 2004: 151). As a result, America has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, which on average, equates to 690 per 100,000 population with the worlds average being 80 (Shelden, 2004:5). The so-called “land of opportunity” (Boyle, 2011) known as the United States, appears to fail to equip black minority men and immigrants with the opportunities they deserve in line with mainstream society. “Drug arrests for minorities went from 600 per 100,000 population in 1980 to 1,500 in 1990” (Shelden, 2004:6).

“In 1997, 60% of Federal prisoners were serving time for drug crimes, serving an average 40 months” (Pettit et al, 2004: 152). Between 1985 and 1995, the number of prisoners in state institutions for drug offences increased by 478% and for federal institutions, 446% (Shelden, 2004:6). The war on drugs appears to be about zero tolerance, high conviction rates and the lack of rehabilitative opportunities to redeem oneself from abstaining from the cycle of crime and drugs, once they are released from prison.

It is believed that the low social economic status and the lack of employment opportunities of poor urban neighbourhoods have contributed to the drug trade amongst young black men (Pettit et al, 2004: 154). Intensified crackdowns as a result of the war on drugs has increased the amount of Americans incarcerated for drug related crime, increasing the risk of imprisonment as well as the length of time given to serve. According to Shelden, as a result of the war on drugs that actually began in the Nixon administration in the early 1970s, it had the “consequence of filling the prison system beyond capacity, which resulted in a building frenzy unprecedented in American history” (2004: 6). “Street sweeps, undercover operations and other aggressive policing efforts target poor black neighbourhoods” (Pettit et al, 2004: 151), which in turn produce an unescapable cycle. These men are forced to turn to the drug trade to earn a living as a result of the lack of opportunities they suffer, the war on drugs has therefore magnified the risk of imprisonment for this class.

Like the opium dens that were regarded as something the Chinese were responsible for in Australia (Lang, 2008: 5) the American mass media tends to focus on black minorities for the face of violent crime and drug related offences (Shelden, 2004:8). The war on drugs increases the imprisonment risk for this class of minorities when instead, they may be able to solve a lot more of the drug issues if they tackled the social risks that lead to turning to drugs to make a living. Riddled with economic and poverty issues, these slums are a goldmine for drugs and violent crime as a result of not being equipped with the very opportunities that most Americans, or even most Australians, take for granted. To spend the same amount that is currently spent on incarceration and new custodial facilities, towards improving communities, living standards and employment opportunities, one could expect a substantial decrease in drug and crime offences.


The effect of drug laws

Police attention to particular drugs as a result of crackdowns, may cause more harm than good. Prices and the quality of the drug may be substituted as a result, the user may resort to alternating their drug of choice to something more harmful like marijuana to heroin (Kutin et al, 2008: 145). Police laws and tactics implemented that support harm reduction policies, are believed to have the most positive impact. These may include avoiding patrolling near needle exchanges, issuing cautions for minor drug possessions and offering diversion schemes as an alternative to persecutions (Kutin et al, 2008: 146).

It has often been said that it would be more productive to reduce the harm associated with the drug, than reducing the drug use (Weatherburn, 2009: 335). Drug use dates back thousandsof years ago, “for rituals, ceremonies and medicines” (Lang, 2008: 5) and it has been suggested that drug use was previously not as much of a serious issue than it is today. Perhaps with the increasing technology, continuous flow of travellers and transport, in addition to favoured drug environments such as the ‘rave scene’ for ecstasy, drugs appear to be more commonly used than reported in the past few hundred years.

Imprisonment may include the use of methadone or some form of treatment but serving a sentence may not improve their situation upon release. Emphasis has been placed on diversion programs for reasons that include “particular groups of offenders are targeted  . . . and concerns around the potential for net widening” (Kutin et al, 2008: 154).

Other forms of interventions have been introduced, although generally not associated with the war on drugs. Cautions for minor drugs such as cannabis, can prove to be successful, if it means the person at risk is able to abstain from receiving a criminal record and perhaps counselling or some form of treatment. Police are generally equipped with discretion but may be forced to use disciplinary measures during drug operations and street sweeps. South Australia introduced the first cannabis program, known as the “cannabis expiation notice scheme . . . which subjects the possession of small amounts of cannabis to a fine” (Kutin et al, 2008: 150). Although it was thought that there was no increase in the use of cannabis, it was realised that it was net widening, “people who would have been previously let off with an informal warning were now being "formally’processed” (Kutin et al, 2008: 150).

Drug courts were first introduced in the United States and have since now spread to most Australian states to enable drug offenders to seek treatment with or without punishment. Instead of being placed directly in prison, the offender can deal with their drug issues and other aspects that may relate to the reasons of offending. The goal of the drug courts is to “help offenders overcome their drug dependence and thus end their associated criminal behaviour through court enforced and supervised treatment programs” (Freeman et al, 2000, p.1). “The participants who were followed for 12 months, demonstrated improved health, social functioning and reduced drug use” (Kutin et al, 2008: 153) once they had attended drug court.

The war on drugs can assist to increase the amount of people charged with possession of drugs or a related offence. In some circumstances, it has been found that decriminalisation has more positive effects that prosecution, therefore “treating drug issues as health issues rather than as law-enforcement problems” (Van de Wijngaart,1990:11).



The war on drugs appears to have been a failure, leaving widespread damage behind, within the communities it targets. From Columbia to America and even Australia, many users who are smallfish in the drug trade hierarchy, are often targeted and persecuted. Instead of receiving treatment, many are thrown into prison with long sentences, particularly if they are black young men from disadvantaged communities that suffer various lack of opportunities that the rest of society take for granted. Instead of making a slight impact in destroying the drug trade, a simple charge of drug possession may compel the person at risk of becoming entrenched into the cycle of drugs and crime. A criminal record for many people, may be the difference from moving on to the straight and narrow, to continuing to live in a world of unequal opportunity.

Targeting Columbia to attempt to eliminate the amount of drugs from reaching American soil, can have a bigger impact on the country that could lead to a collapse in the economy and more violent crime occurring. Already leading the world with high homicidal rates, Columbia relies on drugs to fund the economy, lives of farmers and the community in addition to guerrilla factions that tend to fight each other more than anything else. As seen in Bolivia, destroying the drug trade to benefit western society has impacted farmers with deep impoverishment and lack of employment, whether this is being tackled to correct, it is hard to know.

Using the money funding the war on drugs, to more appropriate campaigns and programs to prevent the harm of drugs, may appear to have more benefits in the long term. Tackling the deep social issues and lack of opportunities may enable minority people and drug users to refrain from using, selling or making drugs, which has been in existence for thousands of years without any reported abuses.

It appears the war on drugs is a failure because although it is creating plenty of employment for the justiceand prison industries of America, the problem of drugs will not go away as no long term solution has been introduced.



Bagley, B. M. (1988). Colombiaand the war on drugs. Foreign Affairs. 67(1),pp. 70

Buckley, W.F (2002). Ethicsin practice. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell. 

Boyle, J. (2011). Still the land of opportunity – America. Retrievedfrom the Boyle Network Web site:

Freeman, K., Karski, R. L., & Doak, P. (2000). New South Walesdrug court evaluation; program and participant profiles. Contemporary issues in crime and justice, 50. NSW Bureau of CrimeStatistics and Research, Sydney.

Kenney, M. (2007). The architecture of drug trafficking: network formsof organisation in the Columbian cocaine trade. Global crime. 8(3), pp. 233

Kutin, J. J., & Alberti, S. (2008). Law enforcement and harmminimisation. . In Hamilton, M., King, T., & Ritter, A. (Eds), Drug use inAustralia: Preventing harm (2nd ed., pp. 144-158). South Melbourne, Victoria:Oxford University Press.

Lang, E. (2008). Drugs in society: a social history. In Hamilton, M.,King, T., & Ritter, A. (Eds), Drug use in Australia: Preventing harm (2nded., pp. 1-13). South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Pardo, R. (2000). Columbia’s two-front war. Foreign Affairs, 79, pp. 64

Pettit, B., & Western, B. (2004). Mass imprisonment and the lifecourse: race and class inequity in US incaceration. American Sociological Review, 69(2), pp. 151.

Shelden, R. G. (2004). The imprisonment crisis in America: introduction.The review of policy research, 21(1), pp. 5

Sweig, J. (2002). What kind of war for Columbia? Foreign Affairs, 81(5), pp. 122

Van de Wijngaart, G. (1991). Competingperspectives on drug use: the Dutch experience. Amsterdam: Swets &Zeitlinger.

Weatherburn, D. (2009). Dilemmas in harm minimalisation. Addiction, 104(3), pp.335

Winslow, R. (n.d). A comparative criminology tour of the world.Retrieved from the Crime and Society Web site:


Restorative Justice

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on January 11, 2012 at 4:00 AM Comments comments (0)


What is restorative justice?

Restorative justice is a “penalty phase of the criminal process for admitted offenders” (Daly, 2002: 4) and is used in a wide range of settings from both juvenile and adult courts, civil, workplace and school settings. It is largely renown for youth conferencing, which involves all those affected by the offence, committed by the young person. This may include police officers, parents, teachers, siblings and the victim, known as the “primary stakeholders” (McCold & Wachtel, 2003) and promotes the offender in accepting responsibilities for their actions and “repairing the harm caused by crime” (Daly, 2002: 5). The primary stakeholders will determine the outcome themselves. “All primary stakeholders are given an opportunity to express their feelings and have a say in how to repair the harm” (McCold & Wachtel, 2003). The secondary stakeholders are those not connected to the conferencing, in a way of being emotionally involved and instead participate to conduct the conferencing, to support and facilitate it. The professionals do not dominate (Daly, 2002: 15).

Originating in the 1970s, mediation worked with victims and the offender, later growing to include communities in the form of conferencing. Objectives of restorative justice ranges from “victim restoration, shaming and denouncing offenders, citizen involvement  through to community empowerment” (Bazemore, 1997: 339). Some conferencing deals entirely with the needs of the victim, whilst others attempt to deal with the underlying issues that caused the offender to commit the crime in the first place (Cunneen & White, 2020: 339). The republican perspective looks at the view that young people know when they have done something wrong and therefore should be given the opportunity to be fully involved in the discussion regarding the impact of their actions with the victim. This is seen as the most positive and constructive solution to addressing criminal acts (Cunneen & White, 2020: 342).


Repairing the harm

Crime causes harm and justice should focus on repairing that harm (Van Ness, 2009:3). The aim of restorative justice conferencing sessions is to seek out a solution for the offender to pay for their crime. One aspect of conferencing focuses on how the offender can make up for their negative actions and how to encourage future law abiding behaviour (Daly, 2002: 6). The young person then signs an agreement on paper outlining what must be done by what particular time to rectify the situation, including the discussed penalty. This may include a letter of apology, compensation or work for the victim (Daly, 2002:4).

Critics have suggested that a crime against the state requires the participation of the state, rather than the direct victim (Ashworth, 2002: 2). A criminal justice system that doles out punishment instead of attending the emotional and social needs of the offender, therefore fails to address any issues. The consequences of conferencing assists the building of relationships to sustain a positive change in order to reduce both the crime and the impact of crime (McCold & Wachtel, 2003).


Victim participation

The people most affected by crime should be able to participate in its resolution (Van Ness, 2009:3). “It is a process where all parties who have a stake in the particular offence, come together to resolve the situation and how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future” (Braithwaite, 1999:5). This may include the young offender’s teachers, parents, siblings and other family members, coaches as well as the victim. The group may be facilitated by professionals such as police, juvenile justice team member and child protection but may refrain from actively participating.

The victims are welcomed to have “actively participated in making things right” (Umbreit, 1994: 2002), particularly when most victims in the past have felt as if they were ignored by the courts. This gives the victims a chance to speak up and relay how they feel to the offender, explaining the impact of the offender’s actions in addition to assisting in being able to identify the causes of the offending. The victim has a say in the solution which may involve working for the victim, some form of compensation and a contract the young person must sign in order to promise to change their behaviour. This avoids the offender from facing stigmisation and the labelling theory, particularly as those offenders who are forwarded to the conferencing, are those who likely to be first time or minor offenders.


Government responsibility

The responsibility of the government is to maintain order and the community to build peace (Van Ness, 2009:3). Crime is seen as a violation of people and relationships (Zehr, 1990) rather than a violation of the law and gives those people affected by crime the opportunity to be heard. It appears that many victims in the past have felt frustrated in being ignored by the law, particularly with weak penalties issued to the offender when the victim isn’t given the chance to speak up about the harm they have suffered.

“Restorative justice is grounded in traditions of justice” (Braithwaite, 1999: 1) and in such cases of indigenous offending, may include harsh physical punishment and banishment from their communities. In some cases heard in Australia judicial courts, judges tend to forego any punishment if it appears that the indigenous person will face tribal punishment, instead of that person receiving two lots of punishment for the one crime.

Conferencing should be completely voluntary for all participants and the offender needs to accept responsibility for the harm. An offender cannot access the conferencing option if they plead not guilty, as they must be open to admitting to their crime in order to come to a fair solution as discussed by all parties of the conferencing group.


Practice in the criminal justice system

Conferencing was first trialled in New Zealand during the 1980s (Cuneen & White, 2020: 341). Diversion has been used in Australian courts, particularly Youth Courts in attempt to avoid young people from being labelled in order to stem the acts of crime that brought attention to them in the first place. Young people are particularly seen as vulnerable to the social effects of negative labelling (Cuneen & White, 2020: 341) and may take on the behaviours as proscribed. Conferencing is generally reserved for those committing minor offenders and who are not repeat, in order to address the behaviour before it is made worse and attempts to divert them from formal court proceedings and sanctions. South Australia originally used Children’s Aid Panels to deal with young offenders as a warning and to counsel them as an alternative to the Children’s Court but this has since been superseded by the interventions of conferencing (Cunneen & Morrow, 1994: 344).

In Australia, all states and territories have since implemented some form of conferencing particularly in the juvenile courts.



There appears to be an increasing use of conferencing in the criminal justice system in addition to the workplace, schools and family environments. It gives all participating members an opportunity to be involved in the discussion and arrive at a solution that benefits all or at least most. Since its first use in South Australia, it has now been extended to all states and territories in Australia, commonly in the youth court with the full participation of all those involved with the young person who has pled guilty.

Crime is a difficult issue to prevent but utilising the method of conferencing, appears to tackle the causes of the crime instead of just issuing a penalty and moving onto the next offender. There is more chance of a lasting change and possibly attempt to prevent further crimes or harm being committed by the person at risk, by giving them an opportunity to address their issues in a conference environment.

Critics have made mention that the government should be responsible for issuing penalties upon breaches of the law with no mention of curing the issues behind the young person. Others have argued that it is a breach of social relationships rather than specifically the law. Conferencing appears to have not fully been implemented in the adult courts but perhaps this will change in the future as more attention and research is given on conferencing.





Ashworth, A. (2002). Responsibilities, rights and restorative justice. British journal of criminology, 42(3), p. 578

Braithwaite, J. (1999). Restorative justice: assessing, optimistic and pessimistic accounts. Crime and justice: a review of research 25(1), p. 1 - 127

Cunneen, C., & Morrow, J. (1994). Alternative penal sanctions. Australian law and legal thinking in the 1990s. Faculty of Law, University of Sydney, Sydney.

Cunneen, C., & White, R. (2010). Juvenile justice: youth and crime in Australia. Victoria, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Daly, K. (2002). Restorative justice: The real story. Punishment & society 4(1), p. 55

Daly, K. (2002). Mind the gap: restorative justice in theory and practice. Unpublished manuscript: Griffith University, Queensland, Australia.

McCold, P, & Wachtel, T. (2003). In pursuit of paradigm: a theory of restorative justice. XIII World Congress of Criminology, Rio de Janeiro.

Umbreit, M. (1994). Victim meets offender: the impact of restorative justice and mediation. Monsey, New York: Criminal Justice Press.

Van Ness, D.M. (2009). Key principles of restorative justice. Retrieved from the Restorative Justice Web Site:



Singaporean Drug Policies

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on December 12, 2011 at 3:05 AM Comments comments (0)


The purpose of this report is to examine Singapore’s drug laws relating to heroin, both consumption and trafficking. In comparison to Australia, it appears to be extremely severe as Australia fails to enforce drug laws to anywhere near the levels of Singapore. Juxtaposing the situation of these two nations produces two very different impacts on their communities.



Singapore is recognised for their seemingly draconian laws that are enforced for simple crimes such as failing to flush a toilet, selling chewing gum (Criminal Law of Singapore, 2010), to the higher categories of consuming drugs and trafficking. Whilst other countries may choose to distribute fines or a few years of imprisonment as a penalty, Singapore on the other hand, shows the full force of the law with the death penalty as a consequence for what countries like Australia may see as fairly mild.

As a result of this no tolerance policy, Singapore enjoys a reputation of very low crime, drug dealers and users in their country (Criminal Law of Singapore, 2010). Whilst many countries may ignore the consumption of drugs, particularly as it is so widespread, Singapore takes action with imprisonment and caning as punishment for even the smallest amounts of narcotics appearing in drugs tests (Aquino, 2011).

In this report, I will examinethe tough policies of heroin, confronting both the civilians and tourists who visit Singapore and its effect on tackling the issues. It is difficult to separate the drugs laws on heroin from the many types of drug laws, as they all appear to have similar penalties, therefore some generalisations will be made from specific Singaporean laws. I will then juxtapose this with the policies that Australia enforces, specifically Western Australia and New South Wales.


History of penal codes in Singapore

Singapore was originally governed by the Indian Penal Code for most of the 19th century due to being part of the Straits Settlement, which was a group of British territories located in Southeast Asia (Criminal Law of Singapore, 2010). It was then re-enacted into the Straits Settlements Penal Code in 1871 which progressed in the 1980s to include mandatory minimum penalties for certain offences (Criminal law ofSingapore, 2010). The year 2006 saw a major reform in order to “make it more effective in maintaining a safe and secure society in today’s context”(Ministry of Home Affairs, 2006).


Criminalisation of heroin

Heroin was originally created by the Bayer company as a very effective pain killer to treat wounded soldiers and send them back into battle as heroes” (Bolt, 2007:2). Until 1953, it was legally available on prescription in Australia.

Singapore is recognised for enforcing the toughest laws in the world, particularly when it comes to drugs such as heroin. Possessing even the smallest amounts of drugs can result in serious charges with the more severe drug crimes resulting in execution. Contrary to Australian laws, defendants are given the burden of proof, meaning they are presumed guilty before their trial has begun and it is up to them to prove otherwise (Aquino, 2011).

Perhaps this has resulted in an impressively low usage rate in Singapore, with no drug dealers openly dealing on the streets and the usage rates for drugs such as heroin, opium and morphine believed to be as low as 0.005% (Aquino, 2011).

Furthermore, a person can be taken into custody without a warrant for purposes of submitting to a drug test by the Singapore authorities (Aquino, 2011). Consumption appearing in the urine test alone can result in a one year jail term for the first offence, three years for the second and five years with three strokes of the cane for the third time (Aquino, 2011).


What drugs are illegal

Singapore carries heavy penalties for a wide range of controlled drugs that can be found in most countries, particularly cannabis, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines. Whilst experiencing a population of 5.1 million (Kim, 2011), a large number of tourists find themselves at conflict with these laws, which results in Singapore having the lowest levels of illegal drug use in the world (Criminal Law of Singapore, 2010).


Current legislation and policies regarding heroin

According to Singaporean law, any person who is proved to have possession of two grams of diamorphine (heroin), shall be charged with drug trafficking unless it is proved that the possession of the drug was not for that purpose (Singapore Statutes Online, 2011). Possessing 2 grams or more of heroin will see a person branded as a drug trafficker, which carries a minimum of a $20,000 fine or 10 years jail. Possession of between 10 and 15 grams can attract a minimum of 20 years imprisonment and 15 strokes to a maximum of 30 years or life and 15 strokes. Any more than 15 grams of heroin will attract a mandatory death penalty.  “400 people have been hanged for drug trafficking in Singapore between 1991 and 2004” (Aquino, 2011). The deathpenalty was introduced in the Misuse of Drugs Act (Amendment) of 1975 as a response to the surging heroin epidemic during that time (Osman, 2002) and has an important deterrent effect (Ghosh, 2011).


Comparison to Australian policy

The laws of Western Australia that come under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981, tend to be very mild when compared to the stringent controls of Singapore. Two grams of heroin, presumably with an intention to sell or supply, attracts a maximum fine of $3,000 or/and a maximum of three years imprisonment (Misuse of Drugs Act, 2011).

To be labelled a drug trafficker in Western Australia, a person must possess a minimum of 28 grams, which attracts a maximum $100,000 fine or / and a term of imprisonment of up to 25 years (Misuse of Drugs Act, 2011). In contrast, 15 grams of heroin in the Singaporean law would incur the death penalty.

The situation in New South Wales is similar, where possessing three grams of heroin can see a person charged with anything up to $550,000 and given a maximum of 10 years imprisonment to life. “Supplying includes having drugs in your possession for the purpose of supply” (Drug Offences, 2006:2). New South Wales describes possession of five grams of heroin as an indictable offence (two years and six months imprisonment), 250 grams as commercial and more than one kilogram as large commercial (Bolt, 2007:12).

Allowing drugs to be prohibited “results in uncontrolled criminal supply of these dangerous substances” (Halving Crime, 2011) but the same cannot be said with Singapore. Their “tough on drugs policy” has seen the drug scene reduced. It is very difficult to notice any evidence of dealers and users on the streets.

In Australia, “the traditional law enforcement approach has not worked and more importantly, never will” (Hughes, 2007). Hughes suggests that decriminalising the drugs could see some benefits in combating the “war on drugs”.


Advantages and disadvantages of the Singaporean drug policy

Singapore’s tough drug laws have enabled the authorities to control the abuse of drugs (National Council Against Drug Abuse, 1998 ), although it has been reported that the Malay communities, who make up 14% of the Singaporean population, account for more than half of the drug problem (Osman, 2002). The number of addicts arrested in Singapore numbered at 6165 during 1994, successfully decreasing to 3157 in 2000 (Osman, 2002), proving the iron fist methodology an achievement.

Users who test positive upon supplying a urine sample are committed to a treatment and rehabilitation program in one of the country’s seven Drug Rehabilitation Centres for a mandatory term of six to 36 months (Osman, 2002). Once an addict is released after completing their given term, they continue to participate in a two year supervision program. However once they are released, their name is submitted to the Central Narcotics Bureau (Goyder, 2011), which will enable the authorities to enforce a drug test at any given time.

Singapore has influenced the general public to maintain a stigma towards drug users, encouraging users to be treated as outcasts with no social status (Goyder, 2011). This in turn discourages users from seeking help and admitting they have a drug problem.

Tourists entering Singapore Airport may be drug tested upon arrival. Despite “smoking, administering or consuming a controlled or specified drug” in a previous country, they can still be charged with abusing drugs and face a term of imprisonment of up the one year for the first offence (Singapore Statutes Online, 2011). In addition they may not be aware of Singapore’s stringent policies.



Singapore enjoys a reputation of very low rates of crime, drug dealing and users in their country, as a result of their tough policies on drugs such as heroin. The government’s approach to criminalisation with a notolerance approach to drugs has meant that there has been a reported decrease in levels of crime and drug related incidents.

The enforcement and the power of the drug policy can be seen as extreme in some situations. Those who choose to consume narcotics in other countries are targeted, some perhaps not knowing the laws before they arrive and find themselves in trouble with the law. They then find themselves subjected to terms of custody out of proportion with what they would experience in their own country.




Aquino, M. (2011). Drug laws in Singapore. Retrieved from Website: http; //

Aquino, M.(2011). Harsh punishments for drug use in southeast Asia. Retrieved from Website: http: //

Bolt, S.(2007). Drugs and the law. Hot topics: legal issues in plain language. Sydney,Australia: Legal information access centre.

Criminal Law of Singapore. (2010). Retrieved from the WikipediaWebsite: http: //en.

Drug Offences. (2010). Retrieved from The Shopfront Youth Legal CentreWebsite: http;//www.

Ghosh, P. (2011). Singapore: Drug laws and the death penalty.Retrieved from the International Business Times Website: http: //


Goyder, J. (2011). Drug addiction and rehabilitation in draconianSingapore. Retrieved from The Independent Website:http: //

Halving Crime. (2011). Retrieved from the New Australia Website:http: //

Hughes, G. (2007). War on drugs lost? Retrieved from The AustralianWebsite:http: //

Kim, W. W. (2011). Monthly Digest of Statistics Singapore. Singapore: DSS.

Ministry of Home Affairs. (2006). Consultation paper on the proposedpenal code amendments. Paragraph 3.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 (WA).

National Council Against Drug Abuse. (1998 ). Towards a drug-freeSingapore: Strategies, policies and programmes against drugs. Singapore: NCADA.

Osman, M. M. (2002). Drug and alcohol addiction in Singapore: Issuesand challenges in control and treatment strategies. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 2(3), 97.

Singapore Statutes Online. (2011). Misuse of drugs act. Retrieved fromthe Attorney General’s Chambers Website: http: // w3p;page=0;query=CompId%3A8c62e029-a50f-404b-9f6f05106eb34f0a;rec=0;res



Social Classes

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on October 4, 2011 at 4:55 AM Comments comments (0)


This article aims to highlight the social classes more at risk of police intervention. Whether in Australia, America or England, those who are unemployed, uneducated, live in poverty or a poor housing estate, are more likely to be under surveillance of police.

I have attempted to break down the social characteristics that play the largest roles with this issue, explaining why lower class and the underclass are more at risk of intervention. Largely due to a lack of opportunities, they are unable to fulfil the goals of members of the working or middle class.

Using journal articles and published papers, I have examined the role of the issues that play the most importance, in developing an understanding of the causes, that put these classes more at risk of police intervention. The knowledge I have reviewed is nothing new and a long term effect of the industrial revolution.



A large quantity of academic research has reinforced the knowledge that lower classes are more at risk of police intervention and surveillance. These communities tend to make up a large proportion of the justice system and its resulting statistics. Working and middle classes appear to rarely warrant the attention of police unless they become a victim of crime or witness an event occurring. The majority of these upper classes fulfil their lives with employment and don’t experience many of the hardships felt by lower society.

Police tend to stereotype those less fortunate, perhaps partially based on experience and a lack of tolerance, for those who tend to ignore the laws and have no respect for them. They are more likely to issue move on notices to this class, particularly those living on the streets and down on their luck. Upper classes tend to have permanent accommodation for a start and as a result, will not habit the streets or loiter without a valid purpose.

Lower classes, who tend to have less education and skills, find it harder to gain employment as a result. To make ends meet, they are more likely to turn to crime. Although not all lower classes may resort to this, many people will experience this stereotype as a result.



The socialisation of lower class society may play an important role in the interventions of police, whether they are gathering with others of their own class or peer pressure encourages them to engage in some form of antisocial behaviour. It has been said that “deviance arises from inadequate socialisation” (Parsons, 1951).  If the lower classes were to mingle with working and middle society, their attention by police may be considerably minimised. This has been reiterated with “individuals with social bonds to conventional society are more likely to conform” (Hirschi, 1969), decreasing the rates of offending behaviour and producing a more productive lifestyle.

Disintegrative shaming is the labelling of offenders as outsiders, motivating them to turn to deviant subcultures as a result of the feeling of exclusions they may feel (Braithwaite, 1989). A person from the lower class may be confronted with the stereotypes of poverty and lack of employment, that comes with their class and as a result, choose to mingle with others facing the same issues and consequences. It may be neither productive nor counterproductive but they may remain in the same situation for their life course, if they fail to make positive change. When communities are weak, the effects of disintegrative shaming appear to contribute to higher crime rates (Braithwaite, 1989).

The Labelling Theory plays a similar role to the disintegrative shaming, although disadvantaged people don’t generally need to experience the police or juvenile justice system to gain such a label. “The social world is actively made by human beings in their everyday interactions” (Cuneen et al, 2010: 38). Those who live in the so-called slums or poorer neighbourhoods may be tainted with the same brush, labelled as a no hoper if they are unemployed or living in poverty. This may create further issues if the person is trying to avoid police attention but socialising with people of a similar background.


Lack of self-control

Criminals are said to lack self-control as a result of “inadequate child-rearing practices” (Holmes, 2003; 324). The majority of society fails to engage in criminal activities and this is believed to be because they are more likely to experience stable family situations, where the appropriate behaviour is defined and misconduct is punished (Holmes, 2003; 325). Lower class societies may experience difficulties in bringing up children, particularly whilst living in poverty and experiencing family breakdown or a large number of offspring. This may lead to issues of alcohol and drug abuse, in addition to bouts of domestic violence. Police who are called to a scene, may choose to issue some form of punishment or arrest the perpetrator for the sake of being called out or to prevent the situation from escalating, whether or not an offence has been committed.

Working and middle classes may experience similar issues such as domestic violence but possibly not to the same degree or frequency, as they have are believed to have more  discipline and control on a general basis. Studies of victimisation has revealed that lower class communities are more likely to experience serious crime than in mid to upper level class residential areas (Garrett, 1974: p368).


Low skilled and unemployed

The lower class is sometimes known as having a low socioeconomic status, consisting of those who are unskilled, semi-skilled or unemployed, often living below the poverty line. In a review of 46 studies, it was found that higher crime rates existed among adults living in the lower class (Braithwaite, 1981: 4). The police and justice institutions have been described as a control mechanism for the lower classes and protecting the interests of the dominant group (Weitzer, 1999: 3). The deprivation experienced by the lower classes may bring them into greater conflict with the authorities (Weitzer, 1999: 3), this may be exacerbated by stress brought on by lifestyles relying on welfare assistance.




Youths and those who appear to be more at risk of police intervention, are likely to have a poor attitude, show less respect for the law, distrust and hostility (Garrett, 1974: 368). “Police intervention can actually produce deviancy” (Cuneen et al, 2010: 38). This results in an increased occurrence of receiving a severe penalty for their misdemeanour,  such as an arrest over a caution that may be given to someone else who showed a better attitude and placement in society. In turn, this can become a turnstile where the person of interest becomes well known with police and branded as suspicious every time an officer views them hanging around the streets. Police tend to view these ‘dangerous classes’ with more suspicion, ready to target them on face value for a stop and search without due cause.

It was found that emotional and verbal abuse was more common than physical abuse although physical abuse rated higher than other classes (Brown, 1984). This may be exacerbated by childhood abuse and the likeliness of domestic violence which shapes the child into a life of violence, which would summons the attention of police.

It has been suggested that “certain personality types are inadvertently recruited for police work” (Rowe, 2010; 102). Police forces may find that most candidates who apply for the police force, emerge from working class backgrounds and may fit the mainstream stereotype of a police officer. It is possible those from a lower class background may choose to forego applying for the police due to a negative attitude or experience of police. If departments choose to focus more heavily on recruiting those from disadvantaged backgrounds, levels of prejudice may subsequently drop. Their alliance with those who seem more at risk, may result in less arrests and instead, resort to the use of cautions. A positive side effect may see the working relationships between the lower class and police officers subsequently improve.

There is the concept that lower classes are “quick to resort to physical combat as a measure of daring, courage or defence of status” (Brownfield, 1986: 422) when compared with other classes. In addition, a variety of literature on homicide (Wolfgang, 1958) and the subculture of violence (Wolfgang et al, 1967) suggests this class-linked nature of aggression (Brownfield, 1986: 422). Whether it is the possibility of the entertainment quality each class prefers, it may also be impacted by the social values and customs. For instance, lower class people may prefer to drink in pubs which can exacerbate physical violence and manly behaviour, which in turn may promote the use of fighting as seen in wrestling and boxing arenas.



Socialisation of those deemed at risk or disadvantaged may put them at risk of intervention by authorities, particularly police officers who may believe they are up to no good. Reinforced with the labelling theory, they are judged by the criminal neighbourhoods they reside in in addition to living in poverty and facing long-term unemployment. Police officers may constantly use surveillance on these groups without any due cause and this may result in arrests for trivial matters if they appear to be acting suspicious.

Working and middle class citizens are expected to have higher control self-control rates, due to a stereotyped stable background enforcing the difference between right and wrong.

In a review by Braithwaite as reported above, it was stated that those adults from lower classes were responsible for a higher crime rate. It appears that the law is there to be enforced on the disadvantaged at the same time as protecting the working and middle classes.

Police are protected by stop and search legislation which allows them to target any suspicious person for illegal items. This may reflect their prejudicial views, finding that those living in disadvantaged areas may subsequently be more at risk of carrying illegal weapons and drugs. This in turn is made worse by the attitude of those at risk, piled with hostility and lack of distrust at constantly being apprehended or at least the first to be intervened with.

There are a wide range of causes that influence the lower class society becoming apprehended by police and processed through the courts, a larger proportion than working and middle class societies. This is nothing new and appears to be the case since the start of civilisation, nationally and globally. Unless lower societies receive intensive funding and social services to target the particular issues that put them at risk, then the experiences will continue from one generation to the other.








Braithwaite, J. (1981). The myth of social class and criminality recorded. American Sociological Review. 46(1), p. 36-57.

Braithwaite, J. (1989). Crime, shame and reintegration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brown, S. (1984). Social class, child maltreatment and delinquent behaviour. Criminology. 22, p. 259-278.

Brownfield, D. (1986). Social class and violent behaviour. Criminology. 24(3), p.421

Cuneen, C., & White, R. (2010). Juvenile justice: youth crime in Australia. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Garrett, M. (1974). Social class and delinquency: predictions and outcomes of police juvenile encounters. Social problems. Berkeley, California. 22, p. 368.

Hirschi, T. (1969). Causes of delinquency. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.

Holmes, D., Hughes, K., & Julian, R. (2003). Australian sociology: a changing society. Frenchs Forest, Australia: Pearson Education.

Parsons, T. (1951). The social system. New York: The Free Press.

Rowe, M. (2010). Introduction to policing. London: Sage Publications.

Weitzer, R. (1999). Race, class and perceptions of discrimination by the police. Crime and Delinquency. 45(4), p. 494.

Wolfgang, M. (1958). Patterns in criminal homicide. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Wolfgang, M., & Ferracuti, F. (1967). The subculture of violence. London: Tavistock.



Troy Mercanti (Psychology of Criminal Behaviour)

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on September 19, 2011 at 4:35 AM Comments comments (0)


In this paper I attempt to explain the social and psychological behaviour of bikie gang member Troy Mercanti, who’s violent and drug-related counters are constantly mediatised in a sensational manner. This article is divided into three parts: his offending behaviour detailed, the labelling and social learning behaviour is used to examine his lifestyle and thirdly, possible solutions to what works when addressing such offending behaviour. The difficulty in writing an article on a local criminal, let alone a bikie member, is the lack of resources when attempting to understand the underlying causes for his behaviour. There are no peer-reviewed articles covering this individual, merely a handful of Western Australia newspaper articles that tend to reproduce the same information. Many of the journalists that do cover his criminal accounts, tend to write what they want, rather than keeping to any related theories and little is known about his childhood or the start of his criminal career.


Offending Behaviour

Notorious bikie Troy Mercanti is infamous for his violent attacks at pubs and clubs in Perth, Western Australia. Among the 31 offences on his criminal records between 1986 and 2008, four are for assault and five are for disorderly conduct. Recently he was convicted of grievous bodily harm and sentenced to 28 months jail for breaking a 26 year old man’s jaw, knocking him unconscious and toothless. Whilst on bail for this offence, he was fined $2000 for another assault and had shot a rival gang member four times after being stabbed nine times at a nightclub, in which he was acquitted. Because ofMercanti’s notoriety, it was reported that some people would want to take him on to gain a piece of fame themselves (Sapienza, 2008 ) He was sentenced to an extra four months for failing to refuse questions at an Australian Crime Commission inquiry, where he was called to answer ten questions (Finks bikie gang member Troy Mercanti is expected to serve an extra four months in jail, 2010).

Six months before breaking the man’s jaw, he had been arrested in relation to attacking a fisherman in a hotel and stabbed a bouncer in Fremantle, being acquitted on both (Cox, 2010).

It is difficult to find the roots of his behaviour due a lack of information other than various news reports, which tend to repeat coverage of his crimes. His previous affiliation as the Sergeant-of-Arms for the Coffin Cheaters and now member of the Finks bikie gang encourages him to persist with violent actions in order to protect the gang’s name as well as his own. Keeping a gun in his bum bag, the 41 year old is always at the ready for a brawl or a shooting, with his history of violence failing to dwindle. Many of his unprovoked attacks have been on innocent people, emphasising his complete disregard of the law and lack of remorse. Facing the parole board for his 28 month jail sentence, the board found that he had failed to address his offending behaviour, even though he had been assessed  as requiring the Violent Offenders Treatment program. Although undertaking this initiative, the board were less than pleased on hearing that he only participated in seven and a half hours treatment, instead of the suggested six month intensive treatment program (Cox, 2010).

As a result of the lack of powers the government has to assist the change in his behaviour, the Western Australia Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan has sought  a prohibition order from the Liquor Commission. This would see Troy Mercanti banned from pubs and clubs for a period of five years, which will begin upon his prison releasein April 2011. “It is not about punishing the respondent, it is about protecting the public” O’Callaghan said. “Pub and club patrons need to be protected from such people and that is precisely why prohibition orders were introduced” (Cox, 2010).  The Commissioner now has the power to ban any person from entering or bein gemployed at a licensed venue because of their criminal convictions or suspected involvement in serious and organised crime. (Cox, 2010).


Labelling Theory

When describing Mercanti in the media, he is sensationally described as a violent criminal, reinforced as a bikie, which comes with the associated stigma of drugs and violence. Deviance is created by social reaction (Cuneen et al, 2007: p38 ). The public seem to expect nothing less from Mercanti, than to be the violent hero commonly portrayed in films and TV such as Underbelly. The papers are sold on exciting behaviour, greedily inflating his acts of violence and drug offences to the maximum capacity at every chance.“Labelling effects produce future stability or entrenchment in deviant behaviour” (Ulmer, 2000). Now that he is a well-established household name, it is very difficult for Mercanti to change his behaviour and lifestyle. This especially affects his ability to pick up legitimate employment when he is known for drugs and violence with an extensive criminal record.

In recent American research, it was found that the “labelling and defining of youth as gang members puts them at greater risk of police scrutiny and surveillance” (Henry, 2009:10). Numerous accounts of Mercanti’s offending behaviour, much to the annoyance of the authorities, have amounted to nothing more than acquittals. It appears that the police base a fair amount of their intelligence on surveillance work, which may increase with the government pressure of doing something about Mercanti’s notoriety and the power he assumes with it. “People assume and accept the labels that have been placed upon them” (Kontos et al, 2008: 148 ). Society expects him to be a bikie member, something he will find hard to break as he is well accustomed to the fast life on the wrong side of the law. The social image for instance is a form of heroism which may provoke the desire for Mercanti to react in this expected manner.

There is evidence that labelled offenders subsequently associate with other deviant peers “through exclusion of conventional peer groups” (Bernberg, 2006:72). Gangs tend to comprise of members who share similar thoughts and behaviour, which in turn becomes their family. Mercanti may not be accepted by mainstream society for fear they may be tainted with the same brushand suspected of being involved with a bikie member. In addition, the impact of labelling may cause fear and mistrust amongst law abiding members of society, “fearing that social stigma may rub off” (Bernberg, 2006:73). This can tarnish their good reputation and lifestyle, which as a result, may lead to Mercanti preferring to associate with gang members and criminals like himself. Involvement in deviant networks is said to increase the levels of delinquent behaviour (Berberg, 2006:73), which in addition to the labelling impact, makes it more difficult to break out of this cycle as a result.


Social LearningTheory

Television today is programmed with plenty of crime shows, emphasising the heroic escapes and actions of the criminals, who almost alwaysget caught but leave their dramatic mark on viewers. “A gang film is also able to show other potential and current gang members how things are done in different parts of the country” (Przemieniecki, 2005: 58 ). The successful likes of television shows like Underbelly may influence the disadvantaged to turn to drugs and crime in a hope of having a book or film written about them, perhaps an easier tactic than getting a chance in Hollywood, which has “an influential role in fostering images of gang activities” (Przemieniecki, 2005:58 ).

“Risk factors for gang membership can be found in community, family, school and peers” (Valdez, 2000) which makes it hard to break the cycle. For many, particularly those from a disadvantaged background, gang life becomes the only family they know and feel accepted. It comes with “status, prestige and turf protection” (Sheldon et al, 2004) and it becomes a lifestyle that is learnt through copying the behaviour of the most known members. “Behaviour is acquired or conditioned by the effects, outcomes, consequences it has on the person’s environment” (Winfree, 1994:151), the rewards observed of the gang life may entice people from wanting to join and adopting the life that goes with it. The learning becomes reinforced, an expectation of the code of behaviour that goes with the identification of being a gang member. Defending the neighbourhood or gang honour comes with high moral authority (Winfree,1994:151). To back down from a gang initiated action it to show a sign of weakness. As in Mercanti’s case, he is expected to mark his behaviour with extreme levels of violence, actions he would have learnt and copied early in his criminal or gang life career that attains the rewards he has in mind, such as social status and respect.

Social learning theory has been described as motivating and controlling criminal behaviour (Akers, 2009:1). It is an expected and unofficial code of conduct particularly amongst the lower ranks of gangs. The impact of Mercanti’s well publicised behaviour could in fact increase the level of violence in settings such as nightclubs and pubs, where Mercanti tends to outlay his violence. Whether or not this is inflated by behaviours of drinking, it could influence gang members and non-gang members to challenge his authority and notoriety in a bid for fame. The extensive coverage in the media mayencourage people to think this type of behaviour is Australian, manly and okay.

The probability of criminal or conforming behaviour tends to predict future behaviour (Akers, 2009:2). If Mercanti had fostered law-abiding behaviour, he could well have been expected to associate with members of the like, particularly as a youth which is expected to have offset his path inlife. “The socialisation of general religious, moral and other conventional behaviour are unfavourable to committing any criminal acts” (Akers, 2009:2). Social learning theory accounts for structural influences on learning and peer affiliations (Akers, 1998 ) and may not always be negative.


What Works

It has been argued that sentencing offenders to some form of punishment without any sort of rehabilitation, will fail to prevent them from becoming a recidivist. Individualised treatment programs was given negative feedback during the 1970s as something that let hardened criminals go off easily (Andrews et al, 1990) but this returned to its positive status in the1980s.

Many general rehabilitation programs aim to “change anti-social attitudes, feelings and peer associations” (Andrews et al, 1990) in addition to promoting anti criminal role models and increasing self-control. This may prove to be increasingly difficult to alter in someone like Mercanti, who at the age of 41, his behaviour appears to be fairly well set in concrete. Such changes may be more effective in youth or early offenders but rehabilitation which proves to be more rewarding than participating in crime and violent actions may suit offenders like Mercanti better. Treatment that was matched to the learning styles of the offenders was seen to have the greatest result in preventing recidivism (Andrews et al,1990). Although it appears difficult to pinpoint a rehabilitation program that works best overall, it was found “there is reasonably solid clinical and research basis for the political affirmation of rehabilitation (Cullen et al,1982). Counselling for instance on changing his cognitive behaviour related to violence, may prove to be the most effective, understanding the impact his actions have on victims and the community at large.




The behaviour underlying violent bikie criminals is difficult to pinpoint, as very little information is revealed about the background of each offender, particularly due to the secrecy of the bikie world. It appears there is nothing that can stop Mercanti from re-offending in the future, even being barred from public drinking outlets will probably cause his violence to be pushed elsewhere. It would be expected that the challenges of fighting him for fame would continue, unless Mercanti was forced into retirement from the bikie world or hidden away from society.

It is even more difficult to find a solution to curing him of his offending behaviour. There is an abundance of evidence into what works but pinpointing the exact individual treatment required for the one offender is even more difficult. His violence appears to be from psychological and temperament issues, even more under reported is his possible drug use, which could fuel each event. His continuing well-publicized actions may encourage future generations to identify with his image and want to emulate him.



Akers, R.L. (1998 ). Social learningsand social structure: a general theory of crime and deviance. NortheasternUniversity Press.

Akers, R.L. (2009). Empirical statusof social learning theory of crime and deviance: the past, present and future. Taking stock: the status of criminologytheory. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.

Andrews, D.A., Zinger, I., Hope,R.D., Bonta, J., Gendreau, P., & Cullen, F.T. (1990). Does correctionaltreatment work? A clinically relevant and psychologically informed metaanalysis. Criminology, 28(3), p.369-404.

Bernberg, J.G. (2006). Official Labeling, Criminal Embeddedness,and Subsequent Delinquency: A Longitudinal Test of Labeling Theory. The journal of research in crime and delinquency 43(1),  p: 67.

Cox, N. (2010). Bikie Troy Mercantihit with a five-year pub and club ban. Retrieved from the Perth Now Web site: http: //

Cox, N. (2010). Former bikie bossTroy Mercanti ‘a risk to the community’. Retrieved from the Perth Now Web site:http: //

Cullen, F.T., & Gilbert, K.E.(1982). Reaffirming rehabilitation. Cincinnati: Anderson.

Cuneen, C., & White, R. (2007).Juvenile justice: Youth and crime in Australia. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Finks bikie gang member Troy Mercantiis expected to serve an extra four months in jail. (2010). Retrieved from theGangbanger Web site: http: //

Henry, R. D. (2009). Not just anotherthug: The implications of defining youth gangs in a praire city.

Kontos, L., & Brotherton, D.(2008 ). Encyclopedia of gangs. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Przemieniecki,C.J. (2005). Gang Behavior and Movies: Do Hollywood Gang Films InfluenceViolent Gang Behavior? Journal of Gang Research 12(2), p.41-71.

Sapienza, J. (2008 ). Mercanti gets 28months jail for Geisha bar assault. Retrieved from the WA Today Web site: http: //

Sheldon,R.J., Tracy, S.K., & Brown, W.B. (2004) Youth Gangs in American Society.Canada: Thomson Wadsworth.

Ulmer, J. (2000). Commitment,deviance and social theory. SociologicalQuarterly. 41(3), p. 315

Winfree,L. T. (1994).Social Learning Theory, Self-ReportedDelinquency, and Youth Gangs: A New Twist on a General Theory of Crime andDelinquency. Youth & society 26(2), p: 147.









Posted by StreetkidIndustries on September 16, 2011 at 4:25 AM Comments comments (0)


Michael Foucault positioned himself to believe that Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon influenced the hierarchical disciplines in today’s society, including armies, schools, hospitals and factories. It is based on a system of supervision and discipline, subsequently evolving from history, assisting in creating disciplinary careers. “Disciplinary power develops a general code for the transition from student to master” (McHoul et al, 1993). The segments of training resembles the education institution, a hierarchy of learning that aims at inducing the participant to climb further up the ladder of knowledge.

Foucault saw the Panopticon as a revolutionary system of discipline for prisoners. Rather than holding them collectively in cells, they would each be confined to their own space with supervision limited to the centre of the prison. This promoted discipline in the prisoners knowing they could be under constant surveillance by observers who were completely concealed. They would be unaware when they were being watched and were less likely to break the rules as a result. Another benefit is limiting the resources necessary for complete supervision, as the prison guard would be based in the centre of the prison. The aim was to alter the behaviour and to train and correct individuals (McHoul et al, 1993), “permanent visibility that ensures the functioning of power” (Foucault, 1995:4).

The Panopticon was a mechanical experience, adapting new measures and medicines with a focus of improving human behaviour. With no chains, bars or heavy locks, the “animal is replaced by man” (Foucault, 1995:4), supervision able to observe the symptoms of each individual, like a laboratory ready to carry out experiments in attempt to decide what punishment is the most effective.

In addition, the isolation limits the contagious spreading of learning new criminal skills, plotting future crimes and escapes, no negative influences and a prevention of violence against one another (Foucault, 1995:4). . In a normal prison setting, prisoners weren’t separated on the crimes they committed but rather the ‘dispositions’ of the individual offender (McHoul et al, 1993).

Foucault argues that increasing visibility increases the power level on an individualised level. He leads this with an example on how authorities have the power to track members of society throughout their lives. From teachers, social workers and police to list just a few, they are constantly monitor and assess our everyday lives  (Foucault, 1977: 306).

The shift from violent public punishments such as whippings and decapitations was seen as a form of ‘humanisation’ which accompanied the transition into the modern system of punishment. The benefits of the panopticon was to submit the human body to “explore it, break it down and rearrange it” (Foucault, 1977: 138 ).

The Panopticon emphasised discipline, with Foucault breaking this down in four key concepts he believed clearly constituted this field. This comprised of spatial distribution, control of activities, segments or stages of training and coordination (McHoul et al, 1993).



Power, Knowledge and the Human Sciences

Knowledge is central to power and for Foucault, “this is an intimate and internal relationship” (Garland, 1990: 139). He was most concerned with the human sciences and psychiatry, investigating the social effects of these disciplines. (Seidman, 2004: 181). For example, knowledge such as a medical degree leads to wielding such power in a hospital, that enables one to cast judgement on an individual. “Knowledge itself is increasingly part of the play of domination” (Burrell, 1988:225). Workplaces, schools and other institutions maintain careful performance records, which wields knowledge into power.

Some important factors of Foucault’s work includes recognition that power is everywhere, exercised by individuals over others as well as themselves. Those in the lower statuses of society such as a patient, inmate, child or prisoner etc, find their knowledge is discounted and seen as worthless (Shiner, 1982: 389). Those who hold such relevant ranks such as politician or doctor, tend to have their views and judgements held as truth, whether they are or not. Their knowledge places them as important members of society and they tend to impact on law making and the governing of such institutions, hence the ascending order of power in its hierarchy form.

From the moment of our birth, the human sciences play a large role in our lives, affirming the power-knowledge role in society (Shiner, 1982: 393). They judge our medical conditions, assume the treatments we shall receive and hold a high position of confidentiality, in maintaining constant knowledge of how we live our lives. The aim of discipline is a combination of usefulness and obedience (Shiner, 1982: 393), which emphasises the importance of power and knowledge in directing the physical body to be put to use as well as to maintain obedience.

In times of the Revolution, members of society could expect extensive punishment to their physical body in retaliation of being opposed to the power of the sovereign state (Shiner, 1982: 393). As the state of punishment changed, the soul was seen as more of an important target rather than the physical body, enabling the person to alter their behaviour more readily through decisions made by institutions and human sciences such as psychiatry. The aim of power has become increasingly important within psychiatry, psychotherapy and mental health nursing generally (Roberts, 2005). Compulsory admission and treatment has seen the person as powerless, particularly with the emphasis of control and restraint. They can be seen with the use of locked wards and the forcible distribution of medicine, particularly to subdue the patient (Roberts, 2005).


Panoptic Techniques

Bull refers to panoptic techniques when dealing with drug court programs and the need for constant supervision. Without tracking their everyday movement and action, the principal strategies are to “make the behaviour of the participant visible” (Bull, 2006: 2). Orders are put into place, making the offender accountable at all times with the use of urine testing, curfews and participating in relevant programs.

In a NSW program, participants were loaded with a number of restrictions which included the above in addition to abstaining from particular places such as Cabramatta and Kings Cross. The offenders were made to attend regular court sessions and submit to weekly judicial reviews. A key phase of this program was to remain drug free for a period of 12 weeks. The next phase contained objectives to continue remaining drug free, stabilising their domestic and social environment as well as seeking to obtain employment or further education. This enabled the participants to address major issues in their life and learn to tackle obstacles which led to their drug abuse in the first place. They would be monitored for a period of eight or nine months until they were deemed to be independent, depending on their progress.

The Panopticon was about surveillance and altering the behaviour of the person at risk. Drug courts enables the participants to become active in improving their behaviour and abstaining from drugs, which had caused them to front court on offending behaviour in the first place. Appointments were made with health physicians, counsellors and correction officers to monitor and maintain the surveillance of their lives. These methods work in a panoptic way, “regulating individuals enrolled in the program through techniques of surveillance, examination and the normalising judgement” (Bull, 2006: 12). In an assessment of a similar Canadian court project, these processes were described as “holistic disciplining through a corresponding comprehensive and persuasive system of surveillance and correction” (Fischer, 2003: 12). The participant has the responsibility through the support of the surveillance process to main change at an individual level.

In the past, offenders were imprisoned in mainstream institutions with minimal or no drug treatment and expected to go cold turkey in changing their behaviour through limited surveillance.

It has been argued that the traditional punishment regimes have been replaced with “therapeutic techniques of behaviour surveillance and discipline (Fischer, 2003: 12), something Bentham aimed to do as part of his Panopticon but this is not limited to the penitentiary system. It is commonly seen as an aspect of health promotion, education and welfare (Bull, 2006: 12).





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