chapter
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ACTUARIAL JUSTICE

The concept of ‘actuarial justice’ was developed by Jonathan Simon (1988) and expanded on by Feeley and Simon (1992, 1994) in their work on the ‘new penology’. Actuarialism refers to ‘techniques that use statistics to represent the distribution of variables in a population’ and consists in ‘circuits of testing and questioning, comparing and ranking’ (Simon, 1988: 771). The crux of the argument is that actuarialism represents a new form of criminal justice; one that has emerged alongside and is partner to a changed political culture underpinned by neo-liberal politics and a global concern with security. Unlike earlier criminologies, suggests Reiner (2006), actuarialism ‘is not interested in the causes of offending other than as diagnostic indicators of risk’. The goal of actuarial criminal justice policy is not to ‘cure’ crime but to predict and manage it. Thus, the proposition that justice has become actuarial is based on an analysis of the extent towhich criminal justice agencies (and criminologists) are now more concerned with calculating and reducing the risk of crime than with understanding its underlying causes or with questions of social reform and social rights – although the alleged newness of these strategies has been disputed by some (see Zedner, 2004). At the same time, the professional status of the criminal justice practitioner is said to have diminished since ‘the locus of decision-making is shifted from judgments based on professional training and experience to judgments derived from the risk model’ (Silver, 1998: 130). Here, it is the statistical model and its aggregate probability scores that determine criminal justice practice, rather than the experience, wisdom or local knowledge of the practitioner. There is undoubtedly an element of actuarialism in recent criminology and criminal justice – although quite how much is open to considerable debate. However, there are many other strands of criminology and criminal justice that are not dependent on statistical risk analyses, and it is unlikely that actuarialism could ever displace all of these diverse approaches to the study of crime.

‘Administrative criminology’ is a catch-all term covering a variety of theoretical perspectives and research enterprises. It is most closely

associated with the Home Office Research Unit which, as Lodge (1974: 22) put it, always had the difficult task of maintaining ‘scientific integrity while acting as a servant of the secretary of state’. The goal of administrative criminology is to supply useful information and practical guidelines to the criminal justice system to enable its agencies to manage and control crime. In a speech to Parliament on 13 March 1957 urging the establishment of the Research Unit, the home secretary, Rab Butler, claimed that the government needed to