British Society of Criminology
Outstanding Achievement Award
This award is intended to celebrate outstanding contributions made to the discipline.
British Society of Criminology Outstanding Achievement Award 2018
This year the award was made to Professor Frances Heidensohn. She was nominated by Marisa Silvestri and Rachel Condry.
It’s that time of year again when we come together as a group to celebrate our achievements and this certainly looks set to be an impressive year. For those of us lucky enough to have ever won anything these awards recognise a snapshot of our accomplishments, be it for the best paper or for the best book. But the Outstanding Achievement award is so much more than this – so much more than an individual piece of work. This award recognises the production over time of a significant body of work which amounts to an outstanding and sustained contribution to enhancing the discipline’s interests on the national or international stage. We are absolutely delighted to announce Professor Frances Heidensohn as this year’s winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award. Frances has made an outstanding contribution to the discipline itself and to those who work within it – these are distinct things. Being an outstanding academic both in intellectual terms and on a personal level is a rare combination indeed and when we find this, we should celebrate it.
If we turn attention to Frances’ contributions to the discipline, her expansive body of work is both national and international in reach, influence and impact. Her seminal paper, some fifty years ago now in 1968, ‘The deviance of women: a critique and an enquiry’, shone a critical light on the lack of investigation and the theoretical neglect of women’s deviance. The growth in feminist criminological scholarship, changes to the criminological curriculum, journals and networks devoted to the study of gender, crime and social control that have emerged over the last five decades is extraordinary; and in all of these endeavours, Frances has played a key role in their initiation.
Her work has forced the academe to consider what we study, how and why we study them and has since been taken up and addressed by feminist scholars and has inspired generations of feminist criminologists. And we would certainly count ourselves amongst those whose career has been inspired by her work. Her body of work has also impacted on those scholars that do not identify as feminist but are still convinced by the inherent logic that gender is one of the most basic organizing structures within and across societies, and as such her work has broad import for our understanding of crime and social control.
Frances’ book Women and Crime (1985) firmly established her as a major criminological thinker and continues to be a key text for contemporary scholars and students of criminology. Building on her interest in women’s deviance, her work has over the last twenty-five years broadened out to consider international and comparative perspectives and the role of women in law enforcement. In doing so, again she critically challenged the frame of feminist criminology through extending its gaze, incorporating an analysis of women with power as criminal justice agents.
As a pioneering scholar within criminology, Frances’ work remains as important today as it was fifty years ago. Being an outstanding academic however goes beyond our scholarly activity and our published work and lies at a much more personal level – this is where the invisible work that outstanding academics do can be found. Frances’ achievements here are visible in the huge number of colleagues that she has supported in their careers and there are many of us in this room, ourselves included, and beyond who have benefitted immeasurably from her support, guidance, care and kindness – all given with a healthy dose realism and great humour – and for that we thank her. So, without further ado, we are absolutely delighted to present the BSC 2018 Outstanding Achievement Award to Professor Frances Heidensohn.
Marisa Silvestri & Rachel Condry
In accepting this prestigious award Professor Heidensohn gave the following speech:
Thank you so very much. I am most grateful to the BSC Executive for selecting me for this award, to my proposers, Marisa Silvestri and Rachel Condry, to Charlotte and Helen from the BSC who have been extremely helpful in organising my presence here, and for inviting my family and my friend Jan Jordan from New Zealand to join me & support me tonight.
It is great to see so many friends & colleagues are here too.
It is especially appropriate to receive this award in Birmingham, my home city, where I was born and grew up. lndeed, l lived on the east side of the city and took the 56 bus past the BCU campus and on to school in Edgbaston.
But this isn’t the time for anecdotes nor too much reminiscence but for some reflection on the two themes bringing us together tonight: careers & conferences and particularly the theme of this 2018 conference `Transforming Criminology’.
So what should one say in an acceptance speech? My previous experiences were in the USA where one has to be grateful, glowing and remember you are a foreigner (that was so a few years ago, nowadays?). As everyone does these days,I googled ‘awards acceptance speeches’ to see if named websites offered any helpful advice. You won’t be surprised to learn that they are almost all US-based (in assumptions and culture). Their main advice seems to be look your best. They are contradictory too – don’t thank too many people says one, thank everyone in case you offend some one advises a second.
You decide which one I followed.
Inevitably, I found a site which offered to write the speech for me at a price! They charge £365 for the luxury service, although only £45 for the streamlined one. Does that mean no frills, like flying with Ryanair? I didn’t wait to discover, but decided to write my own and to show how my own career in criminology is reflected in a series of conferences.
And that is quite a neat segue into my own speech as it is how my career started – by following my own template. Briefly, as a young researcher at the LSE I became interested in two key questions: why were the rates of recorded crimes committed by women so low when compared with men’s, and further, why was there such indifference to this issue among academic criminologists & policy makers, otherwise usually engaged by topics of such significance?
You can thus discern that the first aim in my academic life was to change, indeed transform, the subject so that key questions I saw as important would be addressed.
My first published article voicing these concerns appeared exactly 50 years ago in June 1968, to enormous indifference. That summer I also attended my first criminology conference, at Cambridge, where equally no one showed any interest in the topics which fascinated me. What did then cause much discussion were the stirrings which lead to the first of the York Deviancy Symposia, the first manifestation of major shifts in criminology in Britain.
However, all the lively debates were fascinating but irrelevant as to the queries I had raised. Reaction, indeed any discussion, emerged slowly, although I did meet the marvellous Carol Smart at one of the Symposia. The 1980s did see some networking and key figures appeared – Pat Carlen, Betsy Stanko, Mary Eaton – and so did important work, as did Allison Morris and Loraine Gelsthorpe. I extended my own research projects into policing and international comparative criminology.
The 1991 Mt Gabriel Conference for me, and I am sure many of who us were there, was the most vital step forward in the development of Feminist perspectives in criminology as it brought together, in an out-of-season ski resort in the Laurentian mountains, scholars and practitioners from around the world. It was there I forged a friendship with the wonderful, much-missed Nicky Rafter and we went on to edit and publish the Conference papers together.
All criminologists have their war stories and I have my share of tales of being locked in cells when interviewing in prisons, of being on patrol in downtown Dallas where the officers I was with were always just about to raid a crack house. Some episodes were very poignant and stay with me: even after 50 years, the sad spectacle of the girls’ borstal wing at Exeter which housed young mothers and their babies and where a solitary inmate walked up and down in the rain rocking the prams of crying babies. We certainly raised issues and put them on public and academic agendas. Every criminology text book now has sections on women and crime, feminist criminology, gender and crime.
That memory and many more leads to the inevitable question: what was it all for ? Was there any point to the research, the papers, the debates? Did any of it matter?
Criminology was, I would argue, transformed by feminist perspectives which were first applied to the study of women and crime, and to related issues in law enforcement, CJS policy etc: but the longer lasting effects have been much wider – the entire victims agenda, the focus on the personal as political in violence in our understandings of coercive control, of domestic abuse, these are all products of the signal changes in criminology.
We are still seeing outcomes.
But have there been improvements in justice and penal policies? There have certainly been many enquiries, committees and reports but myriad problems remain.
One of the first pieces of activism I was ever involved with was the opposition to the rebuilding of the (old) Holloway prison. It was of course rebuilt, was deemed a disaster and was closed in 2016. Is that a good thing? New centres are promised but is there enough funding?
Carol Smart warned in ‘Women, Crime & Criminology‘ of the potential dangers of a Pandora problem drawing attention to questions about women, gender and crime might cause more harm than neglect. Some US scholars have argued that a rise in the female share of arrests and offending is due to a form of ‘severe equity ‘which takes females far more seriously: this view is contested by others, but it could be an unintended consequence.
Feminist perspectives have grown, changed, developed and appear in many new guises, dare I say, even in the vocabulary of ‘Me Too‘. But there is still much to do.
My final example of an important conference is from this year – on 30 April the WCCJ held a very successful event, supported by the BSC, at City University. Mainly younger scholars presented excellent, scholarly and engaged work . It was truly inspiring.
Are there lessons about transforming Criminology?
I’d suggest a few:
- Start with a good idea or concept
- Having an ‘open’ discipline is crucial – criminology has never been based on a single formula, unlike, say economics, where after the banking crises which hardly any of them predicted, the new movements which seek to alter the rigid mindset of economy’s models have not gained wider acceptance
- Seek allies, partners and support: criminology was very slow, compared with sociology to take feminism on board
- Be lucky
The sites offering speech writing templates are very keen on giving advice for the young, most of it about persevering against the odds, but that sounds ‘dull and worthy’ for a conference dinner.
Young criminologists seem to be doing very well and not in need of much advice, but maybe some encouragement?
- I’d say attend conferences and that now covers virtual ones via social media.
- Network as much as possible so that your frame of reference and impact are as wide as you can make them.
- Attend to history – some of the topics which look novel have been looked at before.
- Celebrate ourselves, our colleagues and our subject.
- Think about being public criminologists? This is a tentative suggestion, very much against the ethos of many.
How to sum up: there are many achievements in which I have, I hope, a share together with many friends and colleagues. Women are now interesting, know themselves to be so and engage with exploring those aspects of themselves (NB: ‘woman’ = as inclusionary a term as possible). We have voices and have shown how these can be effectively used. We may not have answered the questions began with, but the discussions continue, are much better informed and are central to our field.
If I have contributed in some way to these developments and you, my peers, consider this worthy of an award, I am most grateful and am delighted to accept it. Thank you.
2017: John Braithwaite – The British Society of Criminology’s Outstanding Achievement Award was presented to Professor John Braithwaite at the British Society of Criminology’s annual conference, which this year took place in Sheffield, on July 4-7 2017.
2016: Dick Hobbs – President of the British Society of Criminology Professor Peter Squires FAcSS said: “I am delighted that Dick Hobbs is our outstanding achievement award-winner for 2016, for many years he has pioneered an approach to criminology that we ignore at our peril, meticulously studying crime, criminality and law enforcement at the ‘sharp end’. Without the valuable insights he has provided, our criminological imagination would be that much poorer”.
2015: John Lea – I see criminology as a healthily eclectic discipline drawing together people from a variety of academic disciplines and practitioner backgrounds. The British Society of Criminology is important for maintaining a common set of values and professional identity.
John Lea is now an honorary member of the BSC.
2014: Sandra Walklate – I was honoured to receive the society’s award for outstanding achievement.
Sandra Walklate is now an honorary member of the BSC.
2013: Joanna Shapland – The need to provide spaces and a forum for researchers, practitioners and policy makers to get together and explore what research can do is still vital, particularly in these times of austerity. Long may the BSC thrive!
Joanna Shapland is now an honorary member of the BSC.
2012: Jock Young died in 2013. He was Distinguished Professor of Criminal Justice and Sociology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, Visiting Professor at the University of Kent, UK and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Read the BSC Newsletter tribute to Jock Young published in 2013 and written by Keith Hayward and Roger Matthews.
2011: Robert Reiner is Emeritus Professor of Criminology in the Law Department, London School of Economics. He is now an honorary member of the BSC.
2010: Pat Carlen – In my view the British Society of Criminology’s main value is as the guardian of professional ethics and academic values within criminology. Pat Carlen is now an honorary member of the BSC.
2009: Stanley Cohen died in 2013. He was the Martin White Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics