Riots and unemployment in France

Riots and unemployment in France

Whilst London appeared to bury the memories of last years riots under a tidal wave of Olympic spirit, the same could not be said for the Northern French town of Amiens. From the 13th to the 14th of August seventeen people were badly injured in riots, said to have been sparked by a standoff between local people and police at the memorial service for the 20 year old victim of a recent motorcycle crash. Whilst the community started to clean up the remains of the burnt out nursery school and youth centre, many started to look towards finding the underlying causes of the violence which has plagued Northern France’s low-income housing estates periodically since the 1980s. The conditions that preceded the riots are similar to those seen in parts of London before the UK riots last year, namely: high youth unemployment and poor relations between the public and the police. Those who argue that riots such as those in Amiens and London are perpetrated simply by mindless thugs might argue that these conditions are no cause for sympathy. We might be encouraged to think that the perpetrators of the riots were always violent; hence their inability to find a job or work with the police to build a better community. Alternatively, we can learn to accept that the members of communities where rioting has broken out, need our help. You might have noticed that in the summer of 2011, people who had stable jobs, good career prospects and who rarely, if ever, came into contact with the police, generally didn’t go out and riot. Fundamentally, all that separates these people from...

Female incarceration around the globe: where reality exceeds imagination

In light of recent IARS research on young women in police custody, 99% Journalist, Stefania, discusses the topic of women in prison in the first of a series of blog posts examining the issue.At a first glance, it would be quite strange to think about crowds of women squeezed behind bars- maybe because prison is in the popular conscience somehow associated with violence- and violence is mostly associated with men. Women don’t easily fit in with the brutality and the majority of prison connotations. Women don’t play around with guns, women don’t do so many drugs, women cannot easily become criminals, women are not physically brutal and violent and so on. What if the perceptions we have as a society sometimes go against reality, evidence and numbers? We tend to create stories in our head, classify people in different categories, have an opinion on everything. But it seems that reality can easily escape from our perception, often in painful ways- and when we realise that reality is often much harder than we can bear we get frustrated and angry and desperate. In the case of women behind bars, the crude reality is that the rate of women incarcerated around the globe is certainly much bigger than most of us have ever imagined. It would make much more sense if the majority of those women had committed serious crimes- but no. The majority of the female population in prisons are convicted for non-violent offences. Some of them are pregnant, some are drug addicts, some are mothers and some are extremely poor. In other words, in many cases of imprisoned women,...

Girls’ mental health needs are overlooked in police custody, new IARS research shows

New research released today by social policy think tank IARS, shows that procedures for assessing and dealing with girls and women’s mental health issues in police custody, need to be improved to ensure their safety. The report, called Listening to Women in Police Custody, is due to be officially launched at IARS’ Annual Conference (#IARS2012) called Community-led Solutions to Crime on 26 September 2012.The year-long study, which was informed by a substantive literature review and in-depth interviews with 24 girls, revealed that underlying mental health issues, likely a cause of offending behaviour, can go unnoticed and undiagnosed by officers. The 24 research participants, who were aged 16 – 25, were often victims of abuse and violence, suffered symptoms of depression and had a history of self-harming. This is common amongst the wider female offender population as the government commissioned 2007 Corston Inquiry report on women in the criminal justice system also showed. Despite progress made, the research highlights inconsistencies in questions being asked to young women about their mental health needs and varying levels of support being provided. The research participants expressed the need to have appropriate opportunities to disclose their mental health problems in confidence to female as opposed to male officers as soon as possible, whilst in police custody. Further, girls who ended up in custody for a second time rarely had their mental health needs checked. A research participant, 18 years old said “I was actually harming myself in there… but because I was there for so long and it was stressing me out, I had to do something” Academic research reviewed by the report found...

Volunteer or Volunteered? Youth and the labour market.

The government has recently announced another scheme intended to combat what it sees as persistent idleness amongst the unemployed (in particular young people) and a ‘something for nothing culture’[1], whilst simultaneously providing young people with work experience. The scheme, which resembles an earlier policy of getting the unemployed to work for companies for free, involves targeting those under 25 and compelling them to work for charities by threatening to remove their unemployment benefits. By limiting employers to the charitable sector, it at least avoids the previous debacle of the state effectively subsidising private enterprise and in the process actually depriving people of jobs by providing companies with a cheaper alternative. Surely if people are working for charities it’s different? Not entirely.  No matter what the organisation, it is still open to accusations of ‘slave labour’, in the sense that it is not directly paid and that those who partake are compelled to do so.  That it is paid for by the state, can be equally countered by the assertion that it is state sponsored slave labour and as the payment is the same as standard unemployment benefit it isn’t really payment. This argument over whether it is paid or not then falls into one of technicality and tweaking; for example, if they were to be paid a premium JSA for the duration.  Equally the issue of compulsion could be applied to any job – we have to work in order to get money to pay for things we need.  Instead, it is best if the debate shifts onto that of experience. As was revealed at Chris Grayling’s announcement it...