Liquid legitimacy: negotiating compliance with community sanctions

McNeill, Fergus and Robinson, G. (2009) Liquid legitimacy: negotiating compliance with community sanctions. In: International Symposium on Legitimacy and Compliance and Criminal Justice, 2009-06-25 - 2009-06-26. (Unpublished)

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Paper examines how compliance with community sanctions has been theorised and discussed hitherto and explore the limited extent to which questions about the legitimacy of such penalties have been addressed. Drawing on our own 'dynamic' model of compliance with community sanctions developed elsewhere (Robinson & McNeill 2008), we focus in this chapter on the ways in which legitimacy might ebb and flow during the life of a community sanction, and the associated implications for compliance. We focus in particular on the problems presented both by the perennially contested purposes of such sanctions and from the inherent tensions that exist between the pursuit of what Bottoms (2003) has referred to as 'external' and 'internal' legitimacy. Our analysis, which focuses primarily on the latter (that is, legitimacy vis-a-vis the subject group rather than external audiences), suggests that from the ourview of offenders subject to community sanctions, legitimacy is highly fluid or 'liquid'. The notion of 'liquid legitimacy' in our title is thus intended as a fairly straightforward metaphor. However it also recalls Bauman's (2000a) discussion of 'liquid modernity' because, like Bauman, we are concerned with how the object of our analysis (in our case, legitimacy) changes its forms and shapes as a community sanction is negotiated, constructed, contested and reconstructed by the various actors and audiences involved - all of them navigating uncertainties, risks and problems of trust. Our central argument is that, to the extent that community sanctions are oriented to purposes beyond the purely retributive, and to the extent that they seek to encourage active engagement or what we call substantive compliance on the part of offenders, attention to legitimacy is crucial.