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CJCCJ/Volume 63.3 (2021)

Crime Prevention and Justice in 2030: the UN and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Helmut Kury and Sławomir Redo (Eds.)
Springer International. 2021. 768 p.

Crime Prevention and Justice in 2030: The UN and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides a fulsome account of the state of crime prevention and justice “until 2030 and beyond” (p. 2). The year 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations (UN). As such, this book represents a well-timed contribution that allows readers to learn about the past, question the present, and become inspired to attain future goals. The collected texts in this edited book address a wide array of issues, including the rule-of-law, poverty, human rights, the environment, and universal peace and freedoms; moreover, they do so with a serious awareness of contextual factors like migration, climate change, technological developments, mass surveillance and now, the coronavirus pandemic. Editors Helmut Kury and Sławomir Redo are internationally accomplished in psychology, criminology, and law and well-positioned to have developed this edited book. Crime Prevention and Justice in 2030 gives us a detailed and empirically informed look into what the UN “has done and should still do to change the world” as it becomes increasingly globalized (p. 2).

The book includes a prologue, eight (VIII) parts containing 32 chapters, and an epilogue. Based on the content and format, the book appears ideally suited for an academic audience. Although its level of accessibility is relatively consistent with that target audience, the texts provide an excellent contextualization of the issues they discuss. Those who do not work in academic settings and may not be familiar with United Nations-literature can benefit from the information and build an understanding based on the book’s details. Still, the language level is higher and seems less accessible to those not used to reading academic literature.

In the prologue, Kury and Redo discuss various international democratic developments and point to ambiguities from mixed accounts and gaps in available data. While Kury and Redo attempt to discuss the UN’s positive impacts as an organization and the progress that has made in the last century they have done so critically, drawing out evidenced weaknesses of the organization and acknowledging the non-linear nature of global progress.

In Part I, the contributors explore laws, norms, and standardized practices, albeit with different (inter)national and contextual backdrops. Each text critically discusses the limitations in respective regions and the resulting contemporary realities that disproportionally affect marginalized populations leading to exclusion, unequal treatment, and various forms of violence. Collectively, the chapters make contributions to improving such conditions in the future. For example, in addressing SDG 16 with her study on hate crime and nationalism in India, Sashita outlines the need for more public awareness and education so that all people, and young people can critically view the risks that come with re-constructing history to overemphasize religious contributions to the “glory of the nation”… such overemphasis serves to produce hatred and division (p. 66).

In Part II (Chapters 4-10), we are provided with rich discussions on intergenerational vulnerability and education for justice. From Kratcoski and Edelbacher’s “perspectives on elderly crime and victimization in the future” (p. 85) to Kury and Heße’s empirical research on mental illness and violence in youth prisons, the texts provide key recommendations that “[leave] no one [generation] behind” which aligns well with the book’s broader framework (p. 84).

The book moves on to examine the state of the environment, past, present, and future, from various criminological perspectives in Part III (Chapters 11-14).  Like other parts in the book, the section opens with a more general overview that effectively provides a clear context of the chapters included in Part III.  White’s (Chapter 11) review offers an overview of the nature and dynamics of environmental crime and the UN’s role in preventing it. Following this, other contributors explore a range of environmental issues that provide a balanced understanding of environmental criminology from global and regional contexts. Collectively they suggest that environmental understandings of crime are beneficial not only for the environment but also for its stakeholders. Part IV addresses ethical issues of surveillance, artificial intelligence, forensics, and the rule of law, respectively. Despite the different focus of each of the chapters, they come together to highlight a broader gap in crime-countering fields and initiatives that have significant ethical implications.

Authors worldwide discuss topics related to research and promote peaceful and inclusive societies in Part V (Chapters 19 to 23) to present a rich analysis of varying issues. The chapters differ significantly from one another in this section, especially compared to other sections in the book, but this is understandable given the broad implications of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies. Nevertheless, they make clear the relevance of their topics to the broader goal of social inclusion.

Although they each explore vastly different themes, Parts VII and VIII align well with the book’s overarching purpose: to provide the reader with a holistic, balanced overview of crime prevention as a whole and not just the well-known and oft-discussed issues. By discussing the prevention of art crime and violence in VII and focusing on philosophical issues related to contemporary legal realities in VIII, the book meets its goals mentioned above. Moreover, the philosophical discussions in the last section are carried out by a diverse array of contributors from Canada, Austria, China, and Poland (as are the discussions in the rest of the book that include perspectives from Argentina, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, and the USA). The variety of contributions adds immense value to the book. Readers will be provided with a deeper understanding of other regions and, as a result, their regions as well.

The book concludes with an epilogue that (implicitly) implores the reader to consider what justice in the United Nations looks like based on what they have read and the opinions they have formed. The book considers a wide array of justice philosophies in multiple contexts, including in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic at its closing, which is an important and timely addition in 2020.

A limitation of this book, which is more evident in some chapters than others, is the lack of engagement with a critical criminological perspective. Although critical considerations will vary somewhat based on the subject matter of the texts and the locations of the authors, there does seem to be some noticeable gaps where certain authors do not question or even acknowledge the embedded assumptions that exist when using certain language in their arguments—language that has been socially and legally constructed to benefit certain populations and to disadvantage others. Terms like ‘crime’ and ‘criminal’ emerge from a long history of oppression, which continues today in criminal justice systems and others. In North America, the overrepresentation of racialized populations in criminal justice systems is evidence of past and current oppression and harmful treatment. The authors come from various international backgrounds, so a richer contextualization of these critical issues would have been beneficial in specific texts.

For example, how the key focus in Kratcoski and Edelbacher’s chapter (Ch. 4) on elderly crime and victimization, largely surrounds the types of crimes for which “older criminals […] have been convicted of” (p. 102). Although the authors discuss such factors related to criminalized acts as decreased income and explain that such criminal behaviour cannot be addressed by punishment, there is a lack of sociological discussion related to colonialism that must exist when discussing criminality in a regional context. Also, in Chapter 6, there is a notable omission of any reference to penal abolition, which, whether or not the author is willing to entertain such a perspective,  important to discuss. The omission is perhaps more forgivable due to the European focus of the chapter, and Kury does mention the “enormously high incarceration rate” in the United States and the private prison industry (p. 141). Still, the text neglects the stark inequalities that disproportionality impact racialized and marginalized persons in the United States. Such a discussion is as relevant when discussing women and children as it would be with other population groups.

While this is a shortcoming in some of the chapters, fortunately, many authors do utilize more critical perspectives. Spapens is one such example—he applies a broader perspective that takes as its starting point the social construction of deviance and addresses the consequences of such a construction while still considering the UN SDGs. Edgar also discusses the potentially problematic nature of the rule of law initiatives because of their inextricable link with political and economic interests. By having critical chapters to supplement the narrower focus of others, the limitation regarding a gap in critical perspectives is minimal; additionally, with both mainstream and critical criminology woven throughout the book, readers can have a more holistic understanding of the issues within it.

As a whole, Crime Prevention and Justice in 2030 provides a wealth of data, rich analyses, and pertinent histories that are otherwise contextually situated and based on well-developed arguments from contributors worldwide. It is a well-timed and detailed contribution to criminology and all fields, whether they are based in social sciences, or not. Collectively, the collection articulates humanity’s progress and the United Nations’ impact on that progress, sometimes for better and other times for worse. It reminds us all that we have further to go and must work together to meet the goals set out by the UN for 2030 and beyond.

DANIKA DECARLO-SLOBODNIK
GRADUATE STUDENT (M.A.), CRIMINOLOGY
UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA

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