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A third year Sociology Dissertation Study THE TREATMENT OF PEOPLE WITH LEARNING DIFFICULTIES AND MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS IN UK CRIMINAL AND CIVIL COURTS.

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Presentation on theme: "A third year Sociology Dissertation Study THE TREATMENT OF PEOPLE WITH LEARNING DIFFICULTIES AND MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS IN UK CRIMINAL AND CIVIL COURTS."— Presentation transcript:

1 A third year Sociology Dissertation Study THE TREATMENT OF PEOPLE WITH LEARNING DIFFICULTIES AND MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS IN UK CRIMINAL AND CIVIL COURTS.

2 Presentation Overview Methods and Ethics Theory The Social Model of Disability Foucault Qualitative Interviews Preliminary Research Findings Questions

3 Beginning the Research Process Picking a topic and maintaining reflexivity Contacting organisations – making your research matter Discussing Research with others Peer Discussion Groups Disability Studies Discussion List/other research lists

4 Methods and Ethics Primary Research Qualitative Semi-Structured Interviews with 2-4 people with learning difficulties and/or mental health problems who have been in the court, either as a witness, offender or parent who had been a subject of the court Pilot interviews Conducted with two friends who had been arrested. Interviews on their experience of police stations (Glesne, Becoming Qualitative Researchers: An Introduction). Ethical Clearance (My research proposal was accepted in February 2011) Only can interview people who have the ‘legal capacity’ to consent – excluding people with severe learning difficulties (i.e. nonverbal people) Secondary Research – Library Work

5 Disability Theory

6 Michel Foucault on Disciplinary Power Transforming the view of Power: (Foucault, 1984 The History of Sexuality Vol.1) power not as a possession, but rather power as productive and intrinsic to all social relations and knowledge. fluid and exercised through contested ‘bottom-up’ practices; ‘where there is power, there is resistance’ Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Foucault, 1975) The genealogy of punishment starting from medieval torture to the 18 th Century prisons, where punishment moves from punishing the body and towards calculating the punishment of the soul (the mind) How the subject of the ‘prisoner’ is historically produced by relations of power and through discourse Disciplinary power – attempting to ‘cure’ people or discipline them to conform to a particular norm Critical Disability Studies often employs a Foucualdian or postmodern approach Situating people’s individual experiences of impairments as products of wider political context of power relations

7 Analysing Disciplinary Power in Courtrooms Focus: How disciplinary power is exercised through court procedures. People are regulated and controlled in every part of the court (Rock, 1993) The court process is not only exclusionary (only legal professionals observe and judge), but it also regulates what is possible to know about a person or case The professionalisation of courts leads ‘to a situation where the suspect or defendant is the only one who is not part of the routine, is mystified by the language, bureaucracy, and processes of justice.’ (McBarnet, 1981 p. 4) ‘I felt like I just had to sit there and... they were all surrounding me, I were scared to ask a question’ (Julia). Court as Theatre - Calculated Performance of Rationality (constructed through disciplinary power) People ‘don’t go to court every day, they don’t know court etiquette, whereas the professionals do’ (Andrea).

8 Qualitative Research: Interviews Studying the theories behind interviewing (See Holstein and Jaber Inside Interviewing) Participants as active subjects who create meaning and methods of understanding their experiences (see Holstein and Gubrium 1995 – The Active Interview) Forming the Interview Questions: I used Charmaz’s (2003, p ) basic framework for grounded theory research in formulating and structuring the question in two parts Conducting the interviews Write a quick memo as soon as possible after the interview Transcribing the interview (Kind and Horrocks, 2010 Interviews in Qualitative Research) Write a separate document of your ideas and emerging themes as you transcribe the interviews

9 Analysis/ Preliminary Conclusions Professionals should listen to the people they are working to support More opportunities to speak in court; but also taking the stand is quite intimidating (Julia and Phil interviews) Everyone should receive support during the court process because it is difficult to understand Challenging the imposed identities of disability/ mental health and processes of normalisation Julia: ‘when social services got with me, they labeled me with EVERYTHING, absolutely everything under the sun –’ But Julia has not actually have any permanent mental health condition or learning difficulty. … ‘It always seems to be the person with mental health problems is the one that gets locked away and that should stop! And it has to stop! The police can’t just say, well he’s got a problem, so we’ll lock him up, and let the other person off’ (Phil). Rights Theme Phil: ‘They should inform you of your rights and they don’t – should be explained before or during court.’ Julia: ‘Well, me solicitor was there doing most of the rights for me, because I was so upset and crying that (pause) I didn’t feel like my rights were heard by the judge, the judge never asked me how I feel, or spoke to me’

10 Questions and Comments?


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