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About HERC

Our core focus can be summarised by the theme: “Harmful Evidence and Evidencing Harm”. Such a focus emphasises the theme of evidence, encompassing, for example, evidence used in criminal justice processes.

We address questions such as:

  • how is this evidence mobilised, gathered, assessed, prioritised and by what agencies and institutions?
  • how does evidence relate, or does not relate, to policy, for example through the long-term focus on ‘what works’ or via the distinction between policy led-evidence and evidence-led policy?

These questions raise other issues about the nature and use of evidence in the form of research:

  • what and who counts as sources of research data and why?
  • what methods tend to be prioritised over others and why?
  • what research gets funded and how this relates to the relative legitimacy of such research, and so on?

In short, we are concerned with how do various forms of evidence generate or potentially mitigate harm?

As part of this, we emphasise the significance of harm (rather than simply think about crime) and thereby questions such as:

  • how we measure, categorise, conceptualise and theorise harms
  • how do we prioritise amongst these;
  • how might harms be more effectively treated through public and social policy rather than criminal justice policy;
  • how can we document the nature, scale and impacts of the harms of crime, criminalisation and criminal justice systems and processes.

In short, we ask how do we generate evidence of harm?

These critical perspectives and aims that come under HERC – and capitalise fully on our interdisciplinarity, our staff base, and our relationship with CCJS - place us uniquely within British critical criminology. Moreover, when taken together, critical explorations within these two themes also allow a third, related aspect of our work to be developed, namely ‘working outside the CJS’. That is, we explore the systematic nature in which evidence, in the broadest sense, is used to bolster a criminal justice system which creates significant forms of harm – physical, psychological, social and economic. We explore alternatives to criminal justice and criminalisation as responses to personal and social problems. HERC is committed to exploring these alternatives through social, public and economic policy whilst seeking to reduce reliance on criminal justice and criminalisation.