International Centre for Comparative Criminology (ICCC)
The International Centre for Comparative Criminology (ICCC) was founded in 1969 to bring together researchers seeking a multi-disciplinary understanding of the processes by which criminal behaviour is regulated and the control mechanisms put in place by public, private and community institutions. It is the largest francophone body of researchers in the field of criminal phenomena, control and security, and one the leading centres worldwide.
The ICCC is comprised of 41 regular researchers from six Quebec universities (University of Montreal, University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières, Laval University, University of Quebec in Montreal, McGill University, University of Sherbrooke) and six public and parapublic organizations, as well as 83 collaborators from Quebec, Canada and other countries (France, Switzerland, United Kingdom, etc.) that participate in our studies and the dissemination of findings. Researchers and collaborators are from such disciplinary fields as criminology, psychology, sociology, law, philosophy and political science.
Three Canada Research Chairs are also affiliated to the ICCC. The Canada Research Chair for Security, Identity and Technology, held by Benoit Dupont, studies the impact of technology on the security of individuals. The Canada Research Chair in Surveillance and the Social Construction of Risk, led by Stéphane Leman-Langlois at Laval University, evaluates various practices of social control through surveillance. The Canada Research Chair on Conflicts and Terrorism, led by Aurélie Campana at Laval University, seeks to understand why individuals serving a cause are ready to commit terrorists acts to defend it.
In 2003, the ICCC and the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières formed a group of four researchers (six in 2008), all of whom are psychoeducation professors at UQTR. Led by Natacha Brunelle until September 2007, then by Chantal Plourde and finally Sylvie Hamel, the group receives funding from the UQTR and the University of Montreal via the Quebec government’s ICCC Strategic Alliance Grant. In 2011, in recognition of UQTR’s growing role, the ICCC will change status to become an interuniversity centre attached to the University of Montreal and the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières.
The ICCC’s regular members are researchers whose research work is conducted mainly within the Centre or research teams whose funding is administered or co-administered by the Centre. Collaborators are researchers that participate in the Centre’s research on an ad hoc basis.
The Centre was born 40 years ago from a scientific partnership between the University of Montreal and the International Society for Criminology. To uphold this heritage and further its influence, the ICCC operates within a network of 19 centres and organizations across five continents that participate in each other’s core activities and researcher exchange programs, allowing for various scientific activities to take place.
The scientific leadership of ICCC researchers and their contribution to the advancement of knowledge is reflected not only by their productivity in terms of publications, but also by their involvement in applied settings, which provide opportunities for valuable data collection, information sharing and transfer of knowledge activities. Over the last few years, we have contributed to reshaping the theoretical and applied model for sexual delinquency and its treatment, internal security and its governance, criminal networks and their organization, young offender interventions, criminal technology regulation and the street gang phenomenon.
The ICCC’s primary mission is to conduct advanced research on the processes by which criminal behaviour is regulated and the control mechanisms put in place by public, private and community institutions. The research is done in association with students from undergraduate and graduate levels as a means to enhance their education. The research findings help promote concrete measures aimed at improving quality of life and the protection of rights and liberties. Finally, the ICCC serves as a hub for research conducted in different countries and languages.
Through its size, the quality of its researchers and their ability to express themselves in different languages, the ICCC strives to be one of the leading research and education centres focused on criminal phenomena, control and security. The Centre also aims to provide a rallying point for French-language research while joining together various national research traditions. To achieve its goals, the ICCC operates within a network of centres and organizations in several countries that share collaboration protocols for researcher exchange programs and participation in each organization's core activities. These agreements allow for various scientific and educational activities to take place nationally and internationally.
Axes and Areas of Research
The Centre's scientific program was updated in 2010 in favour of a research community consultation process initiated in 2008. The new program has been streamlined in order to emphasize the question that has garnered the most success for ICCC researchers over the past forty years, i.e. diverse and effective ways of controlling crime. The term "control" as it is used here must be taken in the broadest sense of the word, that is, control exercised over oneself or by society according to configurations where the degree of coercion varies widely. Two axes have emerged naturally when taking into account the micro and macro approaches to a problem such as this.
The first axis focuses on intervention, referring to the practice implemented by those who are active in the field. It favours a psychological and micro-sociological approach to criminal problems and is divided into three areas, clinical management, security activities and community initiatives.
The second axis examines regulation, i.e. the legal, polycentric and extra-legal conditions involved in establishing standards and policies that influence individual and collective behaviours and largely define intervention practices. This second axis uses a macro-sociological and political approach to study responses to delinquency.
The program enables the Centre to clarify its position regarding the top research trends it has contributed to developing over the past few years, such as social learning theory, the developmental approach, psychocriminology, penology, constructivist inspired critical criminology, security governance and social network analysis.
Axis 1- Intervention
Area 1. Clinical
Various psychologically inspired therapeutic approaches
Area 2. Security
The preventive and repressive strategies of public and private security players
Area 3. Community
Social control initiatives through/implemented by or for vulnerable or marginalized groups
Axis 2- Regulation
Area 4. Legal
Regulation standards and policies issued by criminal justice system players
Area 5. Polycentric
Regulation standards and policies issued by various inconsistently coordinated institutional players
Area 6. Extra-Legal
Standards issued by players who have no jurisdiction or are illegal
Axis on Intervention
The axis on intervention focuses specifically on research into the effectiveness and accountability of social control. The area devoted to clinical intervention (directed by Franca Cortoni) also includes research projects that focus on the success factors of treatments intended for young offenders, for sexual offenders or for drug addicts, but which also investigate the risks linked to the adoption of assessment methods taken directly from the field of medicine or the abusive prescription of psychotropic medications for those who are incarcerated. The area devoted to intervention in a security context (directed by Stéphane Leman-Langlois) encompasses projects that analyze the effectiveness of police operations in specific contexts such as delinquent networks, cybercrime or police peacekeeping operations. Also under examination is the role of private operators in critical infrastructure protection as part of the fight against terrorism. As for accountability, certain projects are studying the undesirable effects of omnipresent surveillance on social interaction or the practice of marketing police services to private interests, which currently benefits from very little oversight. The area that focuses on community intervention (directed by Danny Dessureault) investigates alternative practices and programs designed for vulnerable populations: It includes projects that focus on the offer of restorative justice for victims of violent crimes, on the most promising approaches to reduce the conjugal violence experienced by Aboriginal women and on outreach strategies for runaway minors living on the street. In this area, the issue of accountability is addressed through the study of alternative citizenship practices as a response to the social inequalities and the discrimination experienced by certain marginalized groups.
Axis on Regulation
The axis on regulation places issues relating to definition and pluralism at the heart of its projects. In the area pertaining to legal regulation (directed by Marion Vacheret), the issue of definition is addressed mainly through the status of young offenders which is being transformed in Quebec under the pressure of increasingly repressive federal policies. The notion of justice is also being examined through projects that study sentencing choice or pre-trial detention. Of course, polycentric regulation (directed by Marc Alain) is the area where the issue of pluralism is examined with the greatest acuity. Research projects study how poorly structured institutional networks are able to define common problems such as "identity theft", "homelessness" or "street gangs". The projects mentioned above also analyze the emergence of joint or concurrent modalities to deal with these problems. The area of extra-legal regulation (directed by Carlo Morselli) takes an offbeat approach to understanding how marginalized or illicit groups may act as regulators under certain conditions. Research projects are studying how isolated Aboriginal communities are attempting to restore methods of conflict regulation that are more consistent with traditional values (and defining crimes very differently than the "white" justice system), how organized crime groups provide arbitration services in certain illegal markets, or how street gangs maintain a type of order that is conducive to the development of illegal activities in the neighbourhoods they control. Of course, pluralism and the issue of defining what constitutes deviant behaviour take on a very particular dimension.
An Original Program
The program's originality comes from its comprehensive approach that enables researchers to address the continuum of regulation and intervention in a decompartmentalized and systematic way. Traditionally, these two spheres of social control have been studied separately, in response to a disciplinary segmentation that saw clinical intervention with delinquents mainly come under the field of psychology while regulation concerned mainly the fields of sociology, law or economics. Although this fragmentation has enabled each discipline to acquire new insights into criminal phenomena and proposed ways to respond to them, it does not provide a global understanding of how interactions between various levels of implementation lead to (or do not lead to) order, security and justice. The best therapeutic treatment programs may never go beyond the experimental stage because of insurmountable budget constraints or opposing political directions. There is also significant distortion between the principles of regulation as they are publicly stated and the reality of implementation by those who are active in the field and who benefit from an often-underestimated level of autonomy and flexibility. Vulnerable and marginalized groups are often absent from deliberations on policies and practices despite the fact that these people are disproportionately exposed to their effects and that consulting with them or inviting their participation would contribute greatly to the improvement of adopted measures. Likewise, the regulation functions of illegal players remain largely ignored by conventional criminology. Thus, the program enables researchers who are interested in different yet intimately linked and complementary facets of social control to confront these methods and ideas in an environment that is conducive to knowledge hybridization. For example, researchers who study child sex offenders from a psychological perspective and those who map the polycentric regulation of technological crimes combine their micro and macro approaches in order to understand and prevent the online traffic of child pornography.
The Impact of the Program
The impacts of the program are concurrently theoretical, methodological and applied. Theoretically speaking, the program not only facilitates the pursuit of existing knowledge in the six main areas, but also effects the emergence of integrative models adapted to the complexity of contemporary societies. The program promotes methodological innovations. Current capacity for data collection and treatment facilitates the analysis of much broader samples, including entire populations, and allows us to shed light on behaviours or trends that would have been impossible to study in such detail. This "computational" evolution of the social sciences applies naturally to a network-based study of criminal phenomena, in which the ICCC can benefit from international expertise. Finally, the application by police, the justice system, and correctional or community institutions of the knowledge introduced by the Centre's researchers is capable of generating significant societal change in terms of reducing recurrence rates of sexual offenders, preventing the recruitment of high-risk youth by street gangs or dealing more appropriately with victims, to name but a few examples. Thus, the program's relevance is closely linked to its impact, as the knowledge introduced by researchers aims to protect individuals and communities from the widest range of criminal risks while minimizing the negative impacts frequently associated with social control activities such as exclusion, marginalization or the erosion of individual freedoms.