MHDCD Project

3.3.3 Social Conceptualisations of Disability and Offending

Embedded in the project also is a social conceptualisation of disability. Here the distinction is drawn between ‘impairment’ as a condition of the individual body or mind (such as experiencing schizophrenia, intellectual disability or brain injury) and ‘disability’ as the social experience flowing from the presence of impairment, including the range of barriers to full participation that exist in a society (Oliver and Barnes 1998; Baldry 2014). Critical disability studies has built on the social approach to understanding disability by bringing a closer examination of the dynamic interaction of social, political, cultural and economic factors to the analysis, and by exploring the ways that they define disability and shape personal and collective responses to difference. Critical disability studies problematises the relegation of impairment to the domain of the medical, rehabilitative, private and personal and questions its dislocation from the social (Dowse et al 2009, 38). Similarly the critical criminological approach locates and understands the reasons for crime within wider structural and institutional contexts, with crime and social responses to it seen as deeply political and cultural matters. These contexts may be conceived of in various ways, including socioeconomic, class-based, cultural, racialised and gendered forms (Anthony and Cunneen 2008; Baldry 2014). 

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