Anarchy 101/Institutional correction
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In these articles, Ian Taylor and I have looked at two of the types of questions that sociologists and others (like anarchists and socialists) who have a sceptical concern about society, might like to ask about our institutions which deal with juvenile offenders. The first question—one that can only be answered by personal experience and the sort of intensive observation he was able to employ—is dealt with by Ian in regard to Approved Schools: just what does it look like and how does it feel to the boys inside? No one really interested in the system can understand it without such a perspective. The second question—one that can be answered by very superficial methods such as reading documents—is one that I deal with in regard to Detention Centres: how do the spokesmen of the system explain it and justify themselves to us? I have done this rather selectively and this analysis would need to be supplemented by a more detailed account of the ideology—preferably in the words of those involved in the system.
There are obvious points at which these areas of interest overlap and we would have liked to spend much more time in looking at the correspondence, or lack of correspondence between the official statements of what is happening and the perception from the inside of what is happening.The anarchy issue on Libertarian Criminology (No. 98) showed how difficult it is to define what would be a libertarian approach to crime and delinquency. Both of us to some extent identify with this vaguely specified approach and have tried (in my case more crudely and polemically) to indicate its relevance to these two institutions. Our friends who contributed to that issue of anarchy will excuse us for saying that they dealt with the more “glamorous” sides of the debate—for example, questions about political deviance. The day to day happenings in Approved Schools and Detention Centres are the bread and butter side and it’s hard to say anything very exciting about them. We only hope that the response of our political comrades will not be like one eminent politico who after reading the issue on Libertarian Criminology asked one of the contributors why he wasted his time writing about criminals and delinquents, they should just be kindly dealt with by putting them somewhere out of the way.