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Criminology

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mask.of.sanity writes "Criminals have stolen millions from three unnamed U.S. banks by launching slow and stealthy denial of service attacks as a distraction before attacking wire payment switches. The switches manage and execute wire transfers and could have coughed up much more cash should the attackers have pressed on. RSA researcher Limor Kessem said, 'The service portal is down, the bank is losing money and reliability, and the security team is juggling the priorities of what to fix first. That's when the switch attack – which is very rare because those systems are not easily compromised [and require] high-privilege level in a more advanced persistent threat style case – takes place.'"

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LightBox presents an exclusive look at an interactive, narrative documentary about gang violence in Guatemala told through the story of Alma, a young former gang member.

“In an isolated house, there was a girl older than me. Blond, begging to be spared…my whole body was telling me not to, but in the end I killed her. I knew I would get killed myself is I did not obey.” —Alma

Alma was only 15 years old the first time she took a life. As a member of one of the most violent gangs in Guatemala, the Mara 18, Alma spent eight years of her young life in a world ruled by violence. After a brutal beating caused her to suffer a miscarriage, Alma had enough, but her effort to leave the gang was met with an assassination attempt that left her a paraplegic. Today, at 26, Alma hopes to help stop the kind of violence that ruled her life for so long.

Gang violence is an enormous problem in Guatemala—a country of just 14 million people with one of the highest murder rates in the world. Alma’s story is indicative of a pattern that has affected a generation of disenfranchised youth in her country. She grew up in a cardboard and plastic shack in one of the most dangerous slums in Guatemala City. With a largely absent mother and an alcoholic father, gang life appealed to a 15-year-old girl looking for protection and comfort.

“I feel I have never received love from anyone,” Alma said. “I looked for another family in a gang, in which all members were like me, undergoing lack of love…for the first time in my life I felt loved and respected. ”

Miquel Dewever-Plana—Agence VU

At the age of 22, Alma told her “homies” (the members of her gang) that she wanted to leave. The retaliation came on the same day when two of them attempted to murder her. She survived, but is now paraplegic.

In 2008, Alma met photographer Miquel Dewever-Plana, who has been photographing the violence in Guatemala since 2007. Intrigued by Alma’s beauty and candor, amid such a cruel environment, Plana stayed in touch with the young woman, eventually realizing her story could be a powerful way-in to explain the larger tale of violence in Guatemala.

“I became convinced that her intelligence and forceful nature made her the icon I was looking for,” Plana said in an interview with Le Pelerin weekly’s Catherine Lalanne. “She was the key to understanding the most secretive twists and turns of the gang phenomenon.”

After a year-and-a-half of consideration, Alma agreed to collaborate with Plana and writer Isabelle Fougere. Her story is at the center of a new, multi-platform project centered around an interactive web documentary that presents Alma’s narration in a straight-forward confessional format. Plana’s photographs of her Guatemalan neighborhood and its gangs help to visualize the violent world in which she lived and powerful drawings by Hugues Micol illustrate troubling scenes from Alma’s life.

Working with a team of designers at the French creative studio Upian, Plana and Fougere, say they intended to create a final product—with a sensitive and innovative approach to a narrative— that would be interactive and accessible. The final product, which took two years to develop, is incredibly in-depth—allowing its audience to explore the story through the innovative web piece, two books and a film, all available in four languages. Supplemental materials were also designed for classroom use.

“This combination of media communicates Alma’s reality in the most effective way,” Plana said. “The web documentary was designed to inform young people about the dangers of gang life. That was my ultimate goal.”

Plana and Fougere recognize the confusing emotions that came as their relationship with Alma developed. “I see Alma as a friend,” Plana said. “But I never forget what she did, and it is impossible for me to justify her deeds.”

Plana has worked and studied in Guatemala’s since 1995 and has documented the country’s gang violence since 2007. It was this experience—which included extensive interviews with mareros in prison—that prepared him to understand and contextualize Alma’s situation.

Despite the risk of exposure and the discomfort of reliving such painful experiences, for Alma, the project was an opportunity to bear witness to her past and to attempt to prevent other youth from choosing the same fate.

“It was very painful for Alma to talk without feeling judged, to empty her haunted conscience of all these gruesome memories and guilt,” Fougere said. “This web-documentary is her path to redemption.”

Watching Alma speak on screen, it is difficult to connect the words with the woman. Soft-spoken, with long black hair and soft features, Alma slowly describes in brutal detail taking the life of another woman and enduring beatings at the hands of her “homies.” But it is precisely in this disconnect that the power of this project lies—it emphasizes that Guatemala’s gang violence is not the result of a few crazed individuals, but a tragic consequence of social problems so endemic that they can turn a young girl into a brutal criminal.

“Alma’s extremely violent story seemed emblematic of the desperation of youths from shanty town, totally abandoned by a society rife with corruption and impunity,” said Fougere. “[she is] Both victim and perpetrator of this endemic violence.”

Today, Alma lives a quiet life. Confined to a wheelchair, she works as a gift-wrapper  in a shop and lives with her boyfriend, Wilson, in a rented room. Further retaliation from her former gang is a constant threat, but she focuses on her dream of going to college to study psychology.

“I hope that [one]day I have the means to help these young people fascinated by the world of gangs,” she said. “And to finally break this chain of violence which only leads to a certain death.”

Miquel Dewever-Plana is a photographer represented by VU’. See more of his work here.

Isabelle Fougere is a French journalist, writer and director focused on human rights.

Alma: A Tale of Violence was released on arte.tv on Oct. 25, 2012. It was produced by Upian, a French creative studio that has won numerous awards for their web documentaries including First Prize in World Press Photo 2011.

All quotes by Miquel Dewever-Plana and Isabelle Fougere are from an interview with Le Pelerin weekly’s Catherine Lalanne, which is a component of the Alma project.

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Space, Crime, and Architecture

Space Crime and Architecture

The most recent issue of Plat, an independent architectural journal published by students at Rice School of Architecture, features an essay I wrote with two of my fellow M.E.D. classmates. “Space, Crime, and Architecture” elaborates on some of the issues we discussed in our 2011 Yale School of Architecture research colloquium of the same name. It’s also a deeper, more academic exploration of my own personal interests in the relationship between architecture and crime – particularly the notion of crime as a critical tool or transgressive criticism. Plat 2.0: If You See Something Say Something investigates the gap “between architectural representation and the buildings it produces.” Here’s a brief excerpt from “Space, Crime, and Architecture,” slightly edited and sans footnotes:

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Space, Crime & Architecture is an ongoing investigation of the failure of architecture when confronted with a criminal act. This failure is not that of an unrealized utopic ambition, but rather that of an apparatus unable to account for potential failure with the same precision it represents presumed success. The intent of this project is to theorize the conceptual dissonance between the criminal violation of a space and the intended use of a space as programmed by the architect.

The primary representation of crime typically comes from newspapers and other news media outlets. Such representations are necessarily rudimentary, and oftentimes manipulative. While the newspaper is, by its nature, obliged to convey information, it is also beholden to its readership: as a popular media outlet, it is equally obliged to be “popular.” As a shared source of information, the news media plays a central role in the construction of a culture’s perception of reality. As crime reports became nearly ubiquitous in the newspapers of the modern metropolis, fictional narratives depicting crime not only became a popular phenomenon, they contributed to the formation of both a taxonomy and a geography of criminal space. Following from Walter Benjamin’s writings on the flâneur, the crowd, and the metropolis, one can attribute the popularity of the detective story in the nineteenth century to the era’s social concerns and the anxiety of the bourgeoisie who, through newspaper stories and detective fiction, could experience the dangers of the city from the ostensible safety and comfort of their elaborately decorated interiors. In fact, it was the traces left by the criminal violation of the bourgeois interior that first made it necessary to invoke the detective in such novels. While crime fiction and true-crime narratives continued as a popular form of entertainment through the twentieth century, they have once again come to dominate the cultural zeitgeist. Television series like CSI, with its myriad spinoffs and imitators, present elaborate crime scenes and extravagant, high-tech investigations. Perhaps the current popularity of the genre can be explained by a new anxiety underlying life in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

In recounting criminal acts, the media not only constructs a cognitive map of places associated with crime, it exploits the collective consciousness to sensationalize the transgression of convention. The fictionalization of crime trains the public to identify crime as a moment of disruption, a discontinuity in the social order. Crime is both confronted by and pursued from its physical traces. And yet, despite these remains – which can be measured, documented, and reconstructed – the relationship between crime and norm is not strictly empirical. If crime and norm are two distinct notions, it follows that any value judgment of material evidence will rely on our understanding of the relationship between crime and norm. This prompts a surprisingly simple question: how can crime change the way we think of architecture? In this regard, there are two distinct, if not opposing, hypotheses from which our investigation begins.

1. The criminal act introduces a completely foreign element into an otherwise stable program; it employs logics or tools that differ substantially from the norm.

2. Crime is an organic function within the norm; it is a latent quality manifested by a catalyst (the criminal) that deploys logics or tools compatible with the norm.

The distinction is important because the relationship between crime and norm influences not only its social meaning, it also raises the architectural issue of programmatic/technical/spatial determinism. Writing about the culmination of this determinism as an assumption of architecture in modernity, Theo Van Doesburg anticipated the current trend of algorithmic design in 1924 when he described the potential for architecture to become merely the sum of a precise mathematics:

In architecture’s next phase of development the ground-plan must disappear completely. The two-dimensional spatial composition “fixed” in a ground-plan will be replaced by an exact “constructional calculation” – a calculation by means of which the supporting capacity is restricted to the simplest but strongest supporting points. For this purpose Euclidean mathematics will be of no further use – but with the aid of calculation that is non-Euclidean and takes into account the four dimensions everything will be very easy.

This investigation questions the social relations assumed by the production of architecture, and consequently whether architects are victims of the criminal act or accomplices to the crime. Is crime a complete deviation from the ideal “constructional calculation,” understood as both a programmatic strategy and as an architectural form, or an inherent variable in this calculation?

In the first of the above hypotheses, crime is understood as external to the established norm. As an unanticipated transgression of boundaries – legal, spatial, social – crime reveals the weakness of the implicit formal and programmatic optimism in any “plan” by subverting the conventional readings of the designed environment. When such conditions are made manifest, architecture becomes a crime scene.

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To read the rest, check out Plat 2.0.

Life Without Buildings

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Ebrahim Noroozi has been photographing executions in Iran, where roaring crowds gather to watch the spectacle. He said he hopes his pictures will one day be part of a broader debate: "I want to show the reality in a way that hits you in the face and threatens you severely."

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A neighborhood of around one hundred buildings with more than 800 small rooms is one of 14 official brothels of Bangladesh; in essence a prison for around 900 sex workers. The young sex workers of Kandapara brothel in Tangail must serve at least 10-15 customers each day. Being a “Chukri’ or bonded girl, they are bound to follow the orders of their Sardarni (House owners, who were previously prostitutes and purchase girls to run their business). Photographer Andrew Biraj documents the underworld of teenage prostitution in this gallery and personal account.

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by Dana Farrington

This 10-year-old, R., was brought in from school by a police officer. He had stabbed a schoolmate, but it was unclear what tool he'd used. He was waiting to be picked up by his mom, who couldn't get him until she got off work, for fear of losing her job.
Richard Ross/Juvenile-In-Justice

This 10-year-old, R., was brought in from school by a police officer. He had stabbed a schoolmate, but it was unclear what tool he'd used. He was waiting to be picked up by his mom, who couldn't get him until she got off work, for fear of losing her job.

In the confines of jail cells, photographer Richard Ross documents children's experiences. He snaps pictures without revealing his subjects' faces, aiming to "give them a voice."

The Juvenile-In-Justice project includes photographs of more than 100 facilities in 30 states. The project's website has numerous images and quotes from incarcerated children.

Shooting compelling images in a bare, 8-by-10-foot cell is not an easy task, the veteran photographer tells The Picture Show in an email. Neither is "coming up with a new solution that respects the juveniles' privacy, identity and still gives a feel of what the space is, without being boring or predictable."

His images highlight scarred arms, bright jumpsuits and angular, empty cells. They show a variety of facility conditions and inmates of different genders and ages.

One photograph shows a small 12-year-old looking over papers in his cell. He says he was sent to the facility for fighting with another boy.

Ross argues in a caption that "institutionalizing juveniles and branding this as criminal behavior rather than dealing with it as normal behavior wrongly places juveniles in places they should not be."

 

The online galleries feature testimonies with the children's ages and other background information, which add more context to the faceless bodies. But Ross says the act of hiding identities sends a message of its own.

"By not showing the faces, I can imply shame or a sense of universality," he says.

The goal, Ross says, is to hand over the photographs to "organizations that have better data and more skills at advocating for policy change than I do. I hope this will better arm them to show a human side to their statistics."

Juvenile-In-Justice has required a high level of perseverance and negotiation, Ross says.

"I had to try and convince many, many people I was working with them in a spirit of bonhomie," he says. "Yet, I still had to allow the images to be critical or comment on the situation, while not violating the trust of the people I was dealing with."

The photographer has a forthcoming book featuring his photos of the juvenile justice system.

"After the years and years of work I have done in many fields on many assignments," Ross says, "this is the one that has been the most rewarding."

PBS NewsHour also interviewed Ross and produced a video about his work.


PBS NewsHour/YouTube

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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A two part recording of a “60 Minutes” segment aired in 1978 with Dan Rather on the scene with some of the gangs of East Los Angeles. This is probably the first time that the West Coast gang culture recieved in depth exposure on national TV.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGVXzsTf-U0

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At first the inmates were too busy getting their asses kicked to notice me. They were experiencing the first day of the Colorado Corrections Alternative Program boot camp, a program aimed at reducing recidivism using military-style structure and discipline. Some of them quit on the first day. The rest struggled and adapted. I drove to Buena Vista once or twice a week when I had time, photographing their progress through the three-month program in late 2008.

It was one of the only programs of its kind. First-time offenders with nonviolent crimes were eligible.  The rewards were substantial if you finished. You had a chance see your wife or your baby sooner. You could get on with your life. Along the way you could earn a G.E.D.

The thing was, it didn’t work. The program closed in June 2010 as the state cut prison funding. A troubling statistic was the nail in the coffin: nearly the same percentage of inmates from the program were returning to prison as those who had not completed it. Graduates weren’t any more likely to stay out.

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