How Does the Notion of Harm Reveal Entangled Relationships Between Social Welfare and Crime Control?

How does the notion of harm reveal entangled relationships between social welfare and crime control? The concept of harm is a complex one, The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines the term as “hurt, damage, cause harm to” (Allen,1990,P. 539). In a physical sense harm can be defined and characterised by damage caused from a war or a natural phenomenon that inflicts considerable damage upon an individual, community or nation. The notion of harm has characterised humanity since the dawn of its existence, ranging from famine and disease to war and conflict.

From a Sociological perspective Harm and more specifically Well-Being are concepts that have extremely far reaching definitions, that range between the relationships between ourselves and families; having enough money to fulfil the needs of ourselves and our dependents and protection from entities such as crime, abuse, discrimination and oppression (Widdowson, 2008, p64). We also cannot ignore the physical concepts of harm that occur from such natural phenomena as Earthquakes for example the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake in San Francisco and Hurricanes such as the more recent Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

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The concept of Entanglement like that of harm has a number of different meanings the dictionary defines it as “the act or condition of entangling or being entangled” (The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1990, P. 390) in a Sociological context the concept of entanglement is a complex one, predominately it characterises “relationships between different policies, practices and processes” (Newman and Yeates, 2008, p168).

Often these work with and against each other in both positive and negative ways resulting in both positive and negative outcomes and results. It is through Harm that this essay will investigate the entanglement between social welfare and crime control. One concept of harm and the subsequent entanglement between social welfare and crime control is through our occupations and employment. Occupational related health and any subsequent injury or death relating to employment has far reaching consequences for a number of different entities.

In the United Kingdom companies may be investigated by the Social Institute and Government regulated Health & Safety Executive (HSE) for injuries and deaths occurring on their premises, these investigations may lead to fines, prosecution of both the company and individuals and may even result in the closures of companies for breach of health and safety regulations. These are enshrined not just in UK Law but also in International Law as per a number of different treaties, conventions and protocols founded and promoted by global organizations such as the United Nations International Labour Organization.

As Widdowson details in Chapter 3, the welfare of people in the workplace goes further than Health & Safety in a physical sense, the international organizations listed above promote the welfare of workers in a psychological and social sense. Arguing that a lack of paid employment for an individual can lead to a negative effect on a person’s life leading to social inequality and poverty such as drug and alcohol abuse, financial hardship, depression and even suicide. Widdowson, 2008, p64). In the UK whilst each individual in employment has obligations to protect and promote their own Health & Safety, company management also have an obligation to promote Health and Safety through provision of Health and Safety related training and equipment specific to the job being untaken failure to make and promote theses provisions will result in a breach of the law and will have various wider social impacts not just the legal implications detailed above.

It is these social implications that reveal the entanglement in an employment and occupational sense between social welfare, corporate crime control and wider social harmony the entanglement is a negative one and the consequences and outcomes upon both the individual and the group are equally negative. For the individual personal injury sustained through employment depending on the severity and breach of the law can result in loss of employment, long term disability, financial hardship and domestic problems.

For the company in question the implications can range from loss of earnings, fines, individual managerial prosecution and forced closure of the company in question by law. Depending on the breach of the law and seriousness of the situation it is not just the individual that is threatened with harm, for example in the aftermath of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in the Ukraine not only have thousands perished both directly and indirectly hundreds of thousands more have been evacuated and relocated in the immediate vicinity.

It is expected that many more will be affected and will ultimately perish from illnesses such as Cancer brought on by the disaster’s radioactive fallout. It should also be born in mind the economic cost of the disaster, in total some five million residents of the contaminated areas in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine where affected and harmed by the incident. (Balonov, 2007, P1) this entanglement whilst on an extreme and global scale highlights the entanglement between social welfare and corporate crime control.

It should be noted here that there is also a wider underlying entanglement here one that cannot be ignored, this being that whilst Government’s particularly in the west do their best to protect citizens in the work place from injury the very notion of any sort of paid work has wider very positive implications on society. The notion of paid employment reduces a populaces dependency on state welfare systems and the benefits they provide, it also reduces crime as individuals have no reason to commit criminal acts such as theft.

Paid Employment particularly employment whereby individuals are happy doing the jobs they are tasked has another distinct positive advantage on society in general, happy workers invariably are healthy workers meaning they work for longer. (Widdowson, 2008, P66-71) As highlighted the Entanglement is a positive one the Social Welfare policy of getting people into paid employment through various different schemes has a positive effect on both life expectancy and crime control within Society.

Previously harm through the entanglement between Social Welfare and Corporate Crime Control was examined, Another example of Harm is the issue of “Slums” in increasingly Urbanized cities. Slums are defined by the United Nations as “characterized by overcrowding, poor, or informal housing, inadequate access to safe water and sanitation and insecurity of tenure” slums have become a powerful and somewhat dark symbol of the negative consequences of Globalization and Urbanization often characteristic of cities in the developing countries.

According United Nations Statistics “one out of every three city dwellers- nearly one billion people lives in a slum” (Cochrane and Walters, 2008, P134). Often ripe with unemployment, crime, overcrowding, street children, poverty, violence and prostitution. The entanglement here is that certain social welfare policies to reduce overcrowding and to provide safe water and good sanitation by the provision of affordable substitute housing for a few may potentially exacerbate poverty and increase the social inequalities within the slum itself by estroying what little infrastructure there was in place for the masses. Furthermore the arrival of good housing for a few causes tension amongst the slum’s populace leading to an increase in crime and violence. In all whilst the problems of poor housing, sanitation, and hygiene may to a limited extent been resolved, the problems of overcrowding, crime, violence and the wider issue of social inequality still remain within the slum.

The provision of substitute housing within the Slum is only one strand of an internationally coordinated effort to support and help people in the slums. Another means of helping the world’s slum dwelling populace is the “Slum Upgrading” program launched by the Cities Alliance in 1999 and endorsed by the UN’s Millennium Summit one year later. The program involves upgrading the slum to provide communal amenities for all rather than demolishing the slum as a whole to replace with substitute housing. Cochrane and Walters, 2008, P139) The entanglement here with Crime Control is a positive one by providing facilities and amenities the whole slum can utilize not only minimizes the destruction to communities in the slum through destruction of the slum itself it also to an extent strengthens and promotes “community spirit” and indirectly results in a reduction of crime.

By providing communal amenities, crime control policies are far more easily accepted and implemented leading to a sustainable solution to the problems of the slum, in essence “helping the poor to become integrated into the fabric of urban society is the only lasting and sustainable solution to the growing urbanization of poverty” (Cochrane and Walters, 2008, P139). To conclude Harm is all around us; it comes in a variety of different forms from conflict, disease and general social inequality.

International organizations, National Governments and various social institutes do lots to tackle these harms and to reduce and prevent it. Whether it is to prevent injury within the work place or tackling social inequality within the Slums of urbanized cities within the developing world Social Welfare policies are closely intertwined with Crime Control policies. As demonstrated within the Slums, well thought out Social Welfare policies that benefit all and promote social inclusion and well being of the community often have a very positive impact on the implementation of and success of Crime Control policies.

Furthermore injuries sustained within the work place can have a negative impact ultimately on a international scale as highlighted in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. However it should also be remembered the very notion of paid employment has an effect on both Social Welfare and Crime Control Policies through a lack of dependency on state welfare systems and a general distraction from committing criminal acts when in employment.

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