Knife ASBOs: Standardised Marginalisation?

Source: ProfImages (via Flickr)

By Hannah Newberry

This week, knife crime prevention orders have been deliberated on TV, and it’s safe to say that it is one of the most socially unjust and nonsensical debates that I have seen this year. Sajid Javid’s idea that ‘knife ASBOs’ are pragmatic is a thorough endorsement of criminalising children that lack the education to process their emotions effectively in relation to crime, and disregards the reasons why knife breeds so eminently in Britain.

It’s well known that knife crime is often committed not by people who intend to harm with malice aforethought and intent, but by vulnerable youths who haven’t had access to any form of educational deterrent. They are often bred into hostile environments, where crime and violence sits at the apex of home life, and are not offered alternative methods of exertion, nor an opportunity to understand the legal redress that would follow.

Research concurs with the idea that knife crime often stems from neighbourhoods where people who feel disenfranchised reside, and so heavily depend on self-taught methods of coping with anger. Javid’s idea fails to ameliorate the issue, and adds fuel to the fire by legally marginalising neighbourhoods that already exacerbate high levels of crime for this very reason.

Targeting children in this policy was a point for discussion, and while I don’t deny that it’s important to intervene with people at a young age as they can be easily influenced, this approach is nothing if not malignant. None of our twelve year old selves would make consistently rational decisions, and any of us would rather be educated rather than have a constant reminder that we are further outcast from normal society.

Javid’s argument is conclusive proof that our politicians are extremely emotionally detached from problems that hit the working class the hardest. Proposed tactics involved curfews and disbarring potential ‘gang’ meetings. This fails to countermand the problem as the youth justice system is already tyrannical in Britain – we simply fail to be concerned enough to push for better education and less marginalisation in an inclusive and non-judgmental environment where violence and crime are not deemed the norm. Labour MPs delivered credible arguments that these policies are completely disproportionate and legislation that seeks to undermine the ‘reasonable doubt’ that police require could lead to youths who live in poorer environments being criminalised for even possessing weapons out of fear for their personal safety.

If the government dedicated more of their time to looking at other policies that aggravate the knife crime epidemic, such as de-industrialisation and slating of the school curriculum (for example, art classes that encourage expression), we may not even have to consider more rigid solutions. ASBOs are the only publicised tactic possible where we admit no fault of our own for people who are victims of corrupt politics and circumstance. Tackle affordable housing and the underfunded school curriculum before you start asking why kids with convoluted emotional issues are lashing out instead of resolving their problems healthily and legally.

This in no way intends to lessen the legal implications for people who believe that knife crime is morally and socially acceptable, but there are logical ways to address this issue without breeding further marginalisation and thus endorsing a hateful systematic cycle. If we want to dismantle knife crime, let’s stop endorsing the cultural and economic hardships that make violence a perfect solution.

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