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What is Digital Criminology?

De Montfort University, with support from the British Criminology Society, welcomed four key speakers to talk on 5th March 2018, at the Vijay Patel Building. The speakers talked about how digital technologies could be understood and adopted by correctional services to assist rehabilitation. Whilst we welcome much debate in criminology about the ways digital technology assists in creating crime such as cyber crime our session focused on the ways in which technology could be adopted to facilitate recovery, desistance and rehabilitation.

Dr James Tangen – De Montfort University UK  Cybercrime has become one of the most prominent areas of development in policing in the last twenty years. Early attempts to move beyond the broad media language of ‘cybercrime’ and develop a more rigorous framework for categorizing types of cybercrime still focused on the addition of a computer-related element for otherwise familiar types of criminality. More recently, the term ‘digital criminology’ has emerged from the consideration in Australian criminological scholarship of the potential impact of digital technologies across a broader range of criminal justice practices (Smith et al., 2017; Stratton et al., 2017). James interrogated the opportunities and challenges of digital criminology, including the potential of digital technologies in the fields of procedural justice, policing supporting the process of desistance from offending. However, digital criminology includes the potential to raise new concerns about the structure of society and how criminal justice practitioners and researchers can engage with the digital environment.

Jason Morris- Interventions Team – HMPPS UK spoke about digitally-enabled psychotherapeutic strategies, techniques involved in developing Complementary Digital Media (CDM), and how a digitally-enabled violence reduction service can be implemented within a prison. In this context, the first digitally-enabled rehabilitation service accessed via in-room computer terminals was described in terms of: 1. Its theoretical basis, model of change and the role of Computer Designed Methods within this 2. The methods that put service user voices at the heart of the service through Service User Engagement and Co-Production techniques 3. Its implementation within a psychology-led peer support model.

Dr Victoria Knight – De Montfort University UK and Steven Van De Steene– Smart Corrections Belgium. Their presentation entitled The Smart Prison: Electronic and Emotive reflected on some of Victoria’s own research which explored how mass communications have been adopted in prison settings and how this has impacted on the social, psychological and environmental features of the prison (Knight 2015; 2016) and the general public attitudes to prisoners’ access to technology (Knight & Hadlington 2017. Drawing on the concepts like smart cities (from Knight & Van De Steene’s article The Capacity and Capability of Digital Innovation in Prisons: Smart Prisons published in ICPA’s Advancing Corrections Journal 2017) they reflected on the ethical and moral dimensions of this process in the light of both rehabilitation and punishment. They argue that digization changes the ways in which rehabilitation (and punishment) is conceived. The inevitability of digital transformation in correctional settings brings both light and dark features.

This event follows an on-going research trajectory and all presenters are actively involved in the corrections digital agenda. Our plans involve more research, consultation, publishing and development. We hope to continue this debate in another seminar series. We welcome more contribution from researchers and practitioners. Please do get in touch if you want to know more about the session or would like to collaborate in the future. Steven and Victoria will also be delivering a panel session at the Corrections Research Symposium in May 2018. Steven and Victoria also co-lead the ICPA Technology Solutions Network.

Author: Dr Victoria Knight, ICPA Technology Solutions Network