Justice on trial: Security and safety in court spaces (RGS-IBG 2012)

David Tait and Emma Rowden of the University of Western Sydney, Australia, have put together this great session for the RGS-IBG conference in Edinburgh in July.

Sponsored by the Geographies of Justice Research Group, and entitled ‘Justice on trial; Security and safety in court spaces’, the session responds to the ‘security’ theme of the conference this year by arguing that the geography of the courthouse has become a battleground for different philosophies of security.

The three papers in the session provide three Australian case studies of issues that have also been hotly debated in Europe: placing defendants in glass cages in the courtroom, providing sanctuaries for vulnerable witnesses through video links, and the use of screening, CCTV and intelligence to manage risk. These studies contrast overt physical barriers to contain people with the soft power of surveillance and customer services; security as a set of techniques for managing danger with psychological safety as a goal for supporting victims of violence and other vulnerable justice participants.

David and Emma are part of the Justice Research Group at Western Sydney. The Group’s key research focus is the courts and other justice processes and they generate multidisciplinary evidence-based research projects that address practical policy questions while engaging with a range of theoretical literatures from psychology, sociology, media studies, architecture, forensic science and law. David Tait has a background in criminology and sociology, social statistics, guardianship and mental health, sentencing, jury research and urban sociology, and Emma Rowden’s background is in media, performance and architecture. Her particular interest is in the role of the built environment in shaping experiences of inclusion, safety, comfort, fairness and respect in public institutions.

Given the unusually interdisciplinary nature of this session, I was excited to be invited to act as discussant, and encourage colleagues attending the RGS-IBG to come along to enjoy the papers.