I am now coming to the end of my PhD journey and it’s time to think what steps should be taken next. One of them for sure will be to identify different audiences and continue disseminating the findings of my research. I therefore dedicate my 2017 blogging time to presenting the most interesting parts of my doctorate in the form of short and succinct blog posts.
In brief, the purpose of this intellectual journey was to bring to light the Polish context of a post-socialist, post-transformation society of peasant roots and high religiosity – and explore how a small number of Polish people understand punishment and justice, and how their narratives inform the viability of restorative approaches to justice. In non-academic language, I wanted to find out what my participants think of the Polish criminal justice system, the Polish police, as well as of a variety of different sanctions, to see what chances of success victim-offender mediation has in the Polish context.
The philosophy of a traditional criminal justice system (also defined as conventional, retributive) is that the state acts on behalf of victims and communities and the state responds to crime through deterrence of and retribution against perpetrators. This approach to justice was challenged by the emergence of restorative justice, and its continuing popularity. The philosophy of restorative justice can be better explained as creating an out-of-court space where offender, victim, and their respective communities (such as families, friends) can address what happened and discuss how the offender could make amends. This fascinating, but difficult to achieve, conflict resolution was the point of departure for my study.
In so doing, I decided to ask lay Polish people about their views, and I decided to do it by way of group discussions and face-to-face conversations. As a result of a period of 6 months fieldwork, which comprised of 10 focus groups, 51 in-depth interviews with lay people, and 4 interviews with mediators, I gathered my data into three substantive chapters. These chapters, built upon participants accounts, tell a three-stage story on the understandings of justice, punishment and victim-offender mediation (as a restorative justice solution) in a specific socio-political context. And I hope that it is a story rich in nuanced and engaging observations that will serve as an interesting read on this blog.
Ending on a high note, in my writing here I will be guided by the concept of ‘so what criminology?’, introduced by prof. Roger Matthews, who says that:
From a realist perspective there is a growing body of criminology that can be classified as ‘So What?’ criminology in that it involves a low level of theorisation, thin, inconsistent or vague concepts and categories, embodies a dubious methodology or has little or no policy relevance. The notion of “So What?” criminology also embraces those studies that employ inadequate or inconsistent categories, present purely descriptive accounts, focus on the trivial or inconsequential or present the material in an unintelligible form. There are also those studies that are purely theoreticist, essentially speculative and opinionated, that use limited and selective evidence as well as those who fail to follow through the implications of their analysis and typically call for more research.
The end of my doctorate also makes me think of what type of criminological route I would like to take, or what is the relevance and contribution of my study. Thus, my intention is not only to simply disseminate the selected parts of my thesis but also test them with Matthews’ ‘so what?’ question. I hope you will enjoy this process too.
Matthews, R.A. (2010) The construction of ’So What?’ criminology: a realist analysis. Crime, Law and Social Change, 54 (2), pp.125-140.