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Crime versus criminalisation

The translation of the word »criminality« (lat.: crimen), which comes from Latin, reflects the problems that seem to make (or make impossible) the use of the term as a fixed category. Accusation and guilt, are two of the translations. Both refer to one and the same term, but start from two different facts and perspectives. Crime as a fixed category to describe various »offences« is too short and abstract a category to describe the phenomena behind actions. People and their actions that are described as criminal are criminalised. An attribution is often made on the basis of characteristics that do not describe the facts of the crime and shorten it. Thus, responsibility is pushed solely into the care of the person who committed the act.

»Social knowledge about ‘crime and punishment’ is also about removing certain phenomena from comprehensibility. It is easiest to punish and exclude when as little as possible is known about the people and the actions at stake. The event or the person is thus made incomprehensible and unintelligible, but can be ›explained‹.«

Therefore, it is inevitable to question the norms by which we define “criminal” behaviour. The control bodies that define behaviour as criminal must also be critically examined in order to make it possible to experience the background of this definition as non-fixed categories.For »law« and »justice« are also categories whose interpretations are in a state of flux and which relate to social changes.What was defined as punishable until a few years ago is no longer in the catalogue of acts that are defined as criminal.

Source: Cf. Steinert, Heinz and Cremer-Schäfer, Helga: »Straflust und Repression: Zur Kritik der populistischen Kriminologie« (1998).