1st Edition

Delivering Justice to Non-Citizens How Criminal Courts Create Borders and Boundaries

By Eleonora Di Molfetta Copyright 2024

    How does justice for non-citizens look like? This book provides a nuanced cross-section of how criminal courts deliver justice to non-citizens, investigating rationales and purposes of penal power directed at foreign defendants. It examines how lack of citizenship alters the contours of justice, creating a different system oriented at control and exclusion of non-members. Drawing on ethnographic research in an Italian criminal court, the book details how citizenship and national belonging not only matter, but are matters reproduced, elaborated, and negotiated throughout the judicial process, exploring the implications of this development for the understanding of penal power and the role of criminal courts.

    Set in the context of the growing intersection between migration control and penal power, Delivering Justice to Non-Citizens explores whether and how instances of border control have seeped into judicial practices. In doing so, it fills a significant gap in the scholarship on border criminology by considering a rather unexplored actor in the field of migration studies: criminal courts. Based on a year of courtroom ethnography in Turin, Delivering Justice to Non-Citizens relies on interviews with courtroom actors, courthouse observations, analysis of court files, together with local media analysis, to provide a vivid image of judicial practices towards foreign defendants in a medium-size criminal court. It considers and balances the distinctive traits of the local context with ongoing global processes and transformations and adds much needed insights into how global processes impact local realities and how the local, in turn, adjusts to global challenges. Through instances of everyday justice, the book calls attention to how migration control has silently seeped into the judicial realm.

    The book will be of interest to students and academics in sociology, criminology, law, penology, and migration studies. It will also be an important reading for legal practitioners, magistrates, and other law enforcement authorities.

    Introduction  1.Tracing social changes: the court and its community  2.Bordering practices at the front door  3.Constructing otherness  4.Degradation ceremonies and the moral boundaries of citizenship  5.Patrolling the internal border through banishment  6.Conclusion


    Eleonora Di Molfetta is a Research Fellow at the Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy.

    'Eleonora Di Molfetta has accomplished a painstaking work of courtroom research in an urban industrial setting in Northern Italy, to shed light on the travesties of justice which are often delivered to migrants. A carefully crafted, superb analysis, in the time-honored tradition of studies on justice negotiation and bargaining, for the first time applied to a Southern European case. A must read for sociologists of law, migration lawyers, and criminologists.'

    Dario MelossiAlma Mater Professor, University of Bologna, and Distinguished Affiliated Scholar, Center for the Study of Law & Society, University of California, Berkeley

    'In a fascinating ethnography of criminal courts in Italy, Eleonora Di Molfetta takes readers inside hearing room n. 59 for a close look at how justice is delivered to non-citizens. Through detailed observation, interviews with key actors, and thick description of local and global life of the city, readers get a sense of the sights and sounds of the court that together produce what Di Molfetta calls everyday justice. Everyday justice is not only about the mundane, the work flow, the problem-solving aspects of criminal courts, but captures the very profound nature of justice itself exposed in what are often relatively minor cases. Delivering Justice to Non-Citizens shows us how face to face interaction in a criminal court can become a major site of citizenship production as it reproduces and reaffirms the moral boundaries of belonging. This book will be of great interest to scholars of criminal law, migration, sociolegal studies, border criminologies, and public policy.'

    Vanessa Barker, Professor of Sociology, Stockholm University

    'Eleonora Di Molfetta has clearly depicted the nefarious spiral that leads migrants into the judicial system. The author's attentive gaze forces us to reflect on how judicial and law enforcement authorities' attitudes are capable of devaluing foreign defendants, making them feel mocked and isolated, on occasion at the expense of procedural safeguards. Providing an authentic portrayal of the court, this compelling and incisive book is invaluable for legal practitioners to raise the bar of professionalism and humanise court rituals.'

    Mariafrancesca AbenavoliJudge for the Preliminary Investigations at the Criminal Court of Turin, and Judicial Member of the Italian High Council of the Judiciary