Art and Criminal Justice Interventions

Since returning from Chile I have been working through the pictures I took, the memories I made and the field notes I wrote. I have begun to compare my experience examining street art in Valparaiso to the ethnography I completed here, locally in Stoke-on-Trent, for my final year dissertation. A reoccurring theme in my notes centres around the idea of graffiti as community action.


When we imagine community, we often think of neighbourhood watch, coffee mornings and summer fetes. Such visual cues associated with the concept of community are linked to official interventions rather than organic, community initiatives.Graffiti is not included within these visual cues, its seen as an anti-community image; traditionally a sign that the community is broken and in need or beyond  repair.

This has certainly been the case in Stoke-on-Trent, major regeneration works have continued to demolish many of the yards frequented by graffiti writers and replaced them with private housing or commercial residences that restrict access to the general public, using alley gates, defensive architecture and CCTV.

Graffiti is the town planners enemy, and  graffiti writers are viewed by institutions as vandals and criminals. However, in recent years there has been a move towards utilizing graffiti as a criminal justice intervention. This appropriates the cultural ‘cool’ of the graffiti subculture, utilising it to attract future potential deviants in to projects that can then record their information as a surveillance exercise.

I have an issue with any intervention that makes the Illegal, legal under temporary and ‘special’ licence when organised by the state. But when this temporary condition ends, the engaged public become deviant and illegal.  This is a line of future inquiry that I hope to pursue and will be blogging more about over the coming year.

Picture 1 –

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