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“Community in German Criminal Justice: a Significant Absence ?”

Lacey, Nicola
June 4, 2015

Source: (1998) Social & Legal Studies. 7(1):7-25.

The article is prompted by an apparent paradox. In Germany, working relations
between state criminal justice agencies and non-state institutions within a locality are
often extremely close, relying upon networks of communication and a degree of
mutual reliance, which in Britain would undoubtedly invoke reference to the idea of
’community’. In Germany, however, criminal justice professionals rarely describe this
in terms of community. Though the emergence of locally based criminal justice initiatives
has been later and less extensive in Germany than in Britain, there have been
significant institutional developments in this direction over the last decade, particularly
in the fields of crime prevention and victim-offender mediation. Yet even those
organizations working closely with local people or reliant upon the efforts of individual
volunteers or charitable bodies do not appear to perceive their work as community-
orientated. This is the ’significant absence’ of our title. By reflecting on why
it is that in Germany the vocabularies in which local or informal criminal justice initiatives
have been framed rarely make reference to the idea of ’community’, we may
hope to gain some insight also about the conditions under which the appeal to community
becomes powerful in societies such as Britain.


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