All contributors to this edited collection have a connection to the Oxford Centre, either as current members of staff or former faculty and students. Hence, the essays demonstrate the breadth and ambition of enquiry characteristic of the research carried out by those at the Centre. They explore the ways in which that research has engaged with, shaped, and been shaped by changes in criminal justice policy over the last half century.
The contributors explore shifts in the scope, dominant concerns, values, and aims of criminal justice. Together their essays reveal a landscape in flux, in which certain issues or institutions have disappeared from view, some remain constant, and a host of new problems, practices, and challenges have arisen. They also hint at the changing contours of the academic habitus, as criminology’s working relationship with the government waxes and wanes, and the academy becomes subject to other institutional demands, not least for demonstrable impact beyond the university. Some developments spring from substantive changes in crime, policy and practice, whereas others owe their origins to innovations in academic thought or the findings of pioneering research.
Just as criminal justice practice has changed significantly, so too has criminal justice scholarship. Topics that are now accepted as central to the study of criminal justice – victims, restorative justice, security, privatization, terrorism, citizenship and migration (to name just a few) – were unknown to the discipline half a century ago. Indeed, most criminologists would once stoutly have denied that they had anything to do with it. Likewise, some central topics of past criminological attention, like probation, have largely receded from academic attention and some central criminal justice institutions, like Borstal and corporal punishment, have, at least in Europe, been abolished. Whereas criminal justice scholarship was once fairly parochial and confined to local, regional or at most national studies, much is now global in its reach.
Although the rapidity and radical nature of change make it quite impossible to predict what criminal justice will look like in fifty years’ time, reflection on its changing contours furnishes a better understanding of how it arrived at its current form and may also hint at what the future holds. Teasing out the complex interactions between academic research, policy development and practice is a daunting task. Taking the Oxford Centre as a microcosm of that interaction permits a closer enquiry into the interface between the work of one founding centre of criminological research and the wider world.
In celebration of the publication of 'Changing Contours of Criminal Justice', the Centre for Criminology will be hosting a day seminar and drinks reception on Monday 5 December in the Law Faculty. To attend please register here as spaces are very limited.