The Notion of Harm Reveal the Entangled Relationships Between Social Welfare and Crime Control Essay

How does the notion of harm reveal the entangled relationships between social welfare and crime control? Illustrate your answer with reference to at least TWO chapters from Book 1.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary of law describes harm as injury, loss of, or damage to a persons right, property or physical or mental well-being. Harm may be associated with an individual or potentially society as a whole known as social harm. For the purposes of revealing how social welfare and crime control are entangled we will focus on social harm. Social harm focuses on particular actions within society that may cause unrest such racism, discrimination, inequality or poverty because these actions produce social exclusion for certain groups. Social harm has led to cries for social justice over time which have, “shaped both social welfare and crime control policies.” (Newman ; Yeates, 2008, p.26) Social welfare is mainly aimed at creating social well being by producing social supports, increasing social inclusion and social equality whereas crime control aims mainly at creating social stability, order and security by addressing those seen as a threat. (Newman ; Yeates, 2008, p.12) Social welfare and crime control are said to be entangled because, although on the surface they seem to be two separate functions in practice they are actually connected and work hand in hand. This relationship causes entanglements because there is a fine line between social welfare and crime control policies. Using the notion of harm, mainly discrimination, the following essay will reveal the entanglements between social welfare and crime control.

One of the greatest social harms that has plagued the history of man has been discrimination, mainly racism. Only recently have some countries introduced laws to tackle violent displays of prejudice including indecent behavior linked to racism, known as hate crimes. (Clarke,2008, p.51) Before the term ‘hate crimes’ was coined, racism seemed to be acceptable in many countries but only to those who were not being discriminated against. Almost 58 years ago Jim Crow laws existed in America that included racist rules such as, ‘black people could not sit on white seats in a bus’. Those that broke these laws were given criminal records which would affect their lives till death. The laws reflected how the white populations views of what was just or unjust but did not reflect the views of the black population. In this example it seems that social welfare was being maintained for one group and not the other. Racism caused the black population to be socially excluded and to live in fear of being charged by the police. For those who were had a criminal record for breaking the evidently racist laws, they had to go through life with what seemed to be diminished social welfare. They had difficulty getting work, mortgages and they were not allowed to vote till 2006. It seems the crime control policies here were more about maintaining the position the white population had been used to during times of slavery when they were masters.

A similar history was lived by the people in South Africa during apartheid. Like the black Americans the black South Africans had a degree of social welfare but not the same extent as the white population. Black people were educated but only to a certain level, they could work but only in certain jobs or areas, and they could socialise but they had curfews to follow. According to the government, the tight restrictions were a means of maintaining low crime levels, as the poor black people were seen as a threat to the security of the nation. It would seem that the crime control policies were a means to justify keeping the black population in a lower position than the whites so the lifestyle the whites were accustomed to would not be changed. Crime control policies are meant to maintain social stability but the laws in America and South Africa caused unrest and division. There was no equality amongst the people which means the black populations social welfare was not being maintained as they were not equal and, “equality is one of the founding principles of most statements about what might make a socially just society.” (Newman ; Yeates,2008, p.15) It would seem that crime control was targeted at the black populations and social welfare was being maintained for the white populations. One might ask, are social harms such as moral crimes an issue to be solved within crime control policies or social welfare policies?

In 2006, natural disaster called hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans causing one of the greatest disasters of our time, not just on the landscape but also amongst the people. The hurricane brought about questions of crime control and social welfare that left America in quite a predicament. In any disaster the governments main aims should be to maintain crime control and ensure the peoples well being, by providing shelter, food, security and maintain education. After Katrina hit the government was unable to supply the people with what their needs and there was an increase in violence, looting, rapes and murders. (Mooney, G,2008, p.101) The police then became callous and hostile in an attempt to retain order. An eye witness account stated that while approaching a bridge to get to a safer and more affluent part of New Orleans the police fired their weapons and, “sent the crowds fleeing”. Bradshaw ; Slonsky, reported that the police had said they did not want the west bank to become New Orleans which was code for, “if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River” (Bradshaw ; Slonsky quoted in Mooney,G, 2008,p.104)

The law enforcers became the criminals to society by refusing to help those in need to protect the welfare of those who were not affected. We have to remember that those people reporting these facts were the victims and would therefore have not considered the welfare of those who were in the protected areas. It would be wrong to imply that crime was not a concern, because it was. Neumayr believes that Katrina just exposed the extent of the crimes that were already occurring in New Orleans. (Neumayr quoted in Mooney,G,2008,p.107) Were the people to blame for not having social services available to them? US government policy seemed to blame the poor for their situation and it showed through their budget cuts on social services to construct the, “vast homeland security and anti-terror drive” (Graham, 2006, pp.109) Although anti terror drives were important and seen as a means of social welfare especially after 9/11, theses crime control policies to maintain the peoples well being actually stole from the resources the people needed at the time Katrina hit. The key institutions of social welfare including health, security, shelter and education were not available and thus a social divide was formed.

A key question to ask oneself is, whose welfare is important and how do we determine where social welfare ends and crime control begins? By looking at the social harm of eco-crime we may be able to reveal a little more about the entanglements between social welfare and crime control policies.

In Kenya, lake Naivasha which was once the livelihood of a small community has dropped to a maximum depth of just 3.7m. Flower farms that supply the Western World line the valley and use the lakes water to keep their crops alive. Although the farms brought job opportunities for locals, with it came an influx of people increasing crime, reducing the natural habitat and increasing poverty. Ogodo ; Vidal state that Naivasha has more, “rape cases and sexual assaults”, than other towns. (Ogodo ; Vidal quoted in Cochrane ; Walter, 2008, pp.150) It seems the social welfare of the locals has deteriorated, even though they had jobs, education, shelter and housing, they had no security and the rush for jobs meant low wages and thus harder lifestyles. Kenya’s locals seem to be on the losing end as their government got money they never saw and the multi-corporations made profits as well. “The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that all member states and their subjects have a right to a safe environment”, but how is this enforced and what would happen to states that were not members? (Cochrane & Walter, 2008 pp.151)

As in the example used to do with racism, the social welfare of those in richer areas was maintained whereas those in poverty were not so lucky. The flowers grown in Kenya are shipped to the West to maintain occasions such as Valentines or Mothers day which maintain the lifestyle people are accustomed to but at what expense? Meeting the social needs of consumer consumption in Western

society is being achieved through moral criminal activity in the countries being exploited for their goods. 12 red roses in London would cost £10 and the workers who harvest the flowers in Kenya earn £23 a month. Is this the level of social justice we live with in the 21st Century?

It is common for corporate activity to, “violate laws in one country while operating legally in another.” (Cochrane and Walters, pp.150-3) In the UK the government will give up to £50.94/week to an individual on jobseekers allowance as they say it is a sufficient amount to live on. This amount would maintain the welfare of the individual, and yet the workers in Kenya do not even get a weeks allowance for the whole month. There should be crime control policies in place that ensure multi corporations are paying decent wages to maintain the welfare of the workers but the companies bring in too much income to the government so the locals suffer for it.

Part of crime control is to maintain justice through courts of law and transnational justice has been created but debates about how to manage it are still going on. Until laws do exist concerning international justice, crimes will continue and the welfare of the poor will be overlooked to keep the rich satisfied. The difficulty of having a world environmental court would be how to enforce decisions especially since the most powerful agencies worldwide would be the least likely to support it as it would affect their profits. Would international crime controls prevent the harms that societies may be facing now such as eco-crime or increase them?

We are able to come to the conclusion that social welfare and crime control are entangled and will always be as they attempt to address the same problems in society but in different ways. Social welfare focuses on the creating of social well being by addressing the inequalities in society as well as social harms. On the other hand crime control is meant to create social security and stability by enforcing order in society. The above essay focused more on the fact that social welfare seemed to be maintained for the better off in society and crime control was more evident amongst the poor as they were seen as a threat to society. Apartheid showed how entangled social welfare and crime control really are. The government maintained the social welfare of everybody but enforced hard crime controls on the black population to maintain “order”. This showed how mixed up the policies were- crime control policies were meant to maintain order and keep people safe and yet they created social division, exclusion and fear for the black population. Social welfare and crime control should work hand in hand but they don’t and instead they are entangled in a web that makes them contradict what their aims should be.


Clarke, J. (2008) ‘Looking for social justice:welfare states and beyond’, pp.51, in Clarke, J. (eds) Social Justice: Welfare, Crime and Society. Maidenhead, Open University Press.

Cochrane, A. and Walters, R. (2008) ‘ The globalisatiton of social justice’, pp. 150-3, in Cochrane, A. and Walters, R. (eds) Social Justice: Welfare, Crime and Society. Maidenhead, Open University Press.

Graham, S (2006) ‘Cities under seige: Katrina and the politics of metropolitan America’ [online], 11 June; available at ‘Understanding Katrina:perspectives from the social sciences’ [SSRC online forum], (Accessed 3 May 2007)

Mooney, G. (2008) ‘ Problem populations, problem places’, pp. 101-7, in Mooney, G. (eds) Social Justice: Welfare, Crime and Society. Maidenhead, Open University Press.

Newman, J. and Yeates, N. (2008) ‘Making social justice:ideas,struggles and responses’ , pp.12,15,26, in Newman, J. and Yeates, N. (eds) Social Justice: Welfare, Crime and Society. Maidenhead, Open University Press.