“In one of our robberies, we had to tie people up. That wasn’t fun, man. We didn’t want to hurt them at all, we just wanted the money!” Guest lecturer Martin Miles of Team Enkelband, a reintegration agency for ex-convicts, sits on a desk in a lecture hall in the Theil building. In front of him, over a hundred criminology students are listening intently.
Lecture: Criminal career (Wednesday, 13:00 in the Theil building, CB-2)
Lecturer: Abdessamad Bouabid
Subject: The first part covers theories on criminal life courses, after which guest lecturer Martin Miles talks about his criminal past (the lecture lasts four hours – a long session, but absolutely worth the time).
Audience: Over a hundred curious second-year Criminology students.
Reason to attend: You are introduced to the world of crime. With an ex-convict as a guest lecturer telling his La Casa de Papel life story, who wouldn’t want to grab a seat and listen?
The ex-convict recounts colourful stories from his criminal career. Miles was born and raised in the ‘Katendrecht of old’: a deprived and crime-ridden port area. Miles’ close friend’s grandmother was a drug trafficker. After entering secondary school, Miles started working on the side as a dealer. “Every morning before going to school, I dealt cocaine in Slinge”, he says.
Over the years, Miles built a reputation. His clients were scattered ‘from Groningen to Den Bosch’. “Together with friends, I travelled back and forth by train to sell drugs”, he remembers. Business was good on the train as well. “Between Rotterdam and Den Bosch alone, I would sell at least 10 grams of cocaine.”
At fifteen, Miles worked as a ‘delivery boy’ – a drug courier – for a drug empire. “I was paid reasonably well, about 1,500 euros a month, but my boss obviously made millions. His customers were also super rich”, he says. This gave rise to the idea of robbing his boss’s customers. He earned thousands of euros each robbery, which he committed with a few friends. “Robberies were crazy. Violence was a part of it, of course”, he recalls. “But we didn’t kill anyone or anything, we just wanted the money and nothing else.”
After robbing all the customers, he and his friends came up with a new way to earn ‘easy money’: robbing people coming out of casinos. “That was wild, man”, he marvels. “We followed people who had won big in casinos and robbed them.”
“How many robberies did you commit in total?” a student asks.
“I don’t know, man!”, Miles replies. “But it was a lot.”
Until then, Miles had managed to stay out of the limelight. His criminal record was spotless until a friend betrayed him. “He committed a robbery and got arrested. During the interrogation, he mentioned my name”, Miles remembers. As a result, he was arrested and, at nineteen, received an eight-year prison sentence.
Miles is an example of an ‘adolescence-limited offender’, a concept that lecturer Abdessamad Bouabid introduced in the first part of the lecture. This is someone whose criminal career builds rapidly in early adolescence and ends when they become an adult.
“According to various researchers, there are two reasons why such a person commits crimes: a maturity gap and social mimicry”, explains lecturer Bouabid. A maturity gap means that there is a gap between biological and sociological maturity. “Physically, you’re an adult, but your social environment still treats you like a child. You’re given more and more responsibilities, but you don’t have access to privileges like driving a car or drinking alcohol. This creates tension, and tension leads to crime.” With social mimicry, peer pressure is strong. “You copy your friends to be accepted into the group.” Especially among teenagers who grew up in a criminal environment, this leads to criminal behaviour.
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Nothing but praise
The students have nothing but praise for the lecture and the guest lecturer. According to student Sanne, the structure is well thought out. “We have tutorials, lectures and guest lectures. They complement each other: the theories in the lectures offer depth, which you can apply in the tutorial. And the guest lectures put the course in the context of the real world.” Student Michelle agrees. “The lecture is interactive, so there’s always room for questions and discussions”, she adds.
What about lecturer Bouabid? “He’s definitely the best lecturer in Criminology”, student Esmee says. “He’s a very evocative lecturer, and his explanations are always clear.” Student Isa: “He’s good at putting himself in the students’ shoes: he doesn’t use difficult words and makes funny jokes. Besides making it really fun to listen to his lectures, this makes it easy to absorb the subject matter.” Student Renee adds: “He’s very nuanced and teaches us to think critically about theories. As he always says: it’s about people, not what’s in the book.”
It is 16:40. Guest lecturer Miles needs to finish his story within five minutes, but curious students are still raising their hands: how long was he locked up? What moment caused him to ‘go straight’? When was the last time he committed a crime?
Out of an eight-year sentence, Miles ended up spending five and a half years in prison, after which he walked around with an ankle monitor for a year and a half. “When I was in prison, I kept seeing repeat offenders coming back after getting out a few months earlier. Only once I got out did I understand the reason: ex-convicts don’t receive any counselling at all, making it easy for them to return to crime”, he says. So in 2012, he founded Team Enkelband, a mediation agency that assists ex-convicts and school leavers while they reintegrate into society.
Students Casper and Florian are on the edge of their seats all afternoon. “Miles’ story is super interesting. You find out more about how such a person ends up in the criminal world. This allows you to look at their whole career in a more nuanced way”, says Florian. Casper agrees with his fellow student: “As a criminologist, it’s important to recognise criminal signs and address them early, so that the crimes don’t get worse.”
Editor Feba Sukmana and illustrator Pauline Wiersema follow a college every month. Together, they describe and depict how teaching is done, what happens in the lecture hall and what students think of the lecture.
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