Sunday, August 24, 2008

Crime and Economic Conditions

The goal of this paper is to decide whether there is a relationship between crime and economic conditions. To further expand upon that idea, I will discuss the relationship between crime and the economic conditions. The argument is that crime is being caused by people’s lack of economic resources, meaning that the theory states that crime is caused by poverty.

From the reading, it appears that research is inconclusive. Some research would agree that there is a relationship between crime and economic conditions. Other research says that there is no relationship between the two and that they are two factors that do not affect each other.

The first study on this topic was performed in France in which the researchers wanted to compare rich areas of the nation with areas of the nation that were poor. They were hoping to find that the poor areas of the nation would have more crime than the rich areas. However, the research showed them that wasn’t the truth. From the data they gathered, they found out that the rich areas had a higher amount of crime against property. The conclusion is that since the rich individuals have more money, they have nicer possessions, so there are more situations in which other people can steal these material goods.

There have been numerous studies on whether or not there is a relationship between unemployment and crime among adults. The results from these studies seem to be inconclusive, as well. Some of these studies say there is a relationship, others say there isn’t, and some say there is a relationship between the two but that it is an insignificant one. However, it appears that “increased hourly wages, higher quality jobs, and jobs that last for longer periods of time are associated with decreased property crime” (Vold and Bernard and Snipes, 2002: 89).

A possible reason for the inconclusiveness of a lot of these studies may lie in how the studies define poverty. Different studies use different economic values for what they are going to define as poverty, so that makes it difficult for there to be conclusive evidence when one study uses one numerical figure and another study uses a completely different numerical figure to define the parameters of poverty.

Even though there is some conflicting evidence on whether or not the two factors have a relationship, “at the present time, a reasonably strong case can be made that the economic inequality in a society – i.e., the gap between the richest and the poorest – has a causal impact on the level of violence in that society” (Vold and Bernard and Snipes, 2002: 98). This means that individuals who don’t have the economic resources are more likely to commit criminal actions against those individuals who have a higher income and thus higher social class than the offender does. This seems to be apparent from the first study about this topic that was performed in France. The poor individuals that lived within the wealthy areas were more likely to commit crimes than the other poor individuals with similar conditions but only living in a poor area of the country.

Crime doesn’t appear to rise and fall along with the rising and falling of the number of poor individuals. It isn’t simply just poverty that causes crime, there are other factors that are involved within the situation, such as unemployment, that may increase the likelihood of crimes increasing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Scared Straight Programs

The goal of this paper is to discover whether or not the scared straight programs are deterrents to juvenile delinquency. “The underlying theory of programs like Scared Straight is deterrence. Program advocates and others believe that realistic depictions of life in prison and presentations by inmates will deter juvenile offenders (or children at risk of becoming delinquent) from further involvement with crime” (Petrosino and Turpin-Petrosino and Buehler, 2003: 42).

“A randomized controlled trial of the New Jersey program in 1982, however, reported no effect on the criminal behavior of participants in comparison with a no-treatment control group. In fact, Finckenauer reported that participants in the experimental group were more likely to be arrested (Petrosino and Turpin-Petrosino and Buehler, 2003: 43). The thought was that with these programs, juvenile delinquents or possible offenders would see the situation with prisons and be socialized into having a mindset that they did not want to be involved within the situation. However, it appears that the exact opposite happened. Individuals were socialized into a role of committing crimes, they learned from the criminals that were in jail how to perform criminal activities and basically how to become like them.

“Consistent with these findings, reviewers of research on the effects of crime prevention programs have not found deterrence-oriented programs like Scared Straight effective” (Petrosino and Turpin-Petrosino and Buehler, 2003: 43). A study performed by the University of Maryland that examined more than five-hundred programs that attempt to prevent crime stated that Scared Straight was one of the programs that didn’t work for its intended mission.

There was a film in 1979 and one released 20 years after the initial film that both stated the Scared Straight programs to be effective at deterring crime. However, these films only looked at small numbers of cases, and did not use control groups to compare the data. “They [Petrosino and his colleagues] found that Scared Straight and like interventions generally increased crime between one and twenty-eight percent when compared to a no-intervention control group” (Petrosino and Turpin-Petrosino and Buehler, 2003: 44).

The individuals writing this journal article examined nine Scared Straight programs throughout the nation. While examining these programs, they concluded that “whether relying on the actual data reported or measures of statistical significance, the nine trials do not yield evidence for a positive effect for Scared Straight and other juvenile awareness programs on subsequent delinquency” (Petrosino and Turpin-Petrosino and Buehler, 2003: 52). The journal article also concludes that “despite the variability in the type of intervention used, on average these programs result in an increase in criminality in the experimental group when compared to a no-treatment control. According to these experiments, doing nothing would have been better than exposing juvenile to the program” (Petrosino and Turpin-Petrosino and Buehler, 2003: 53).

On paper, the Scared Straight programs appear to be a possible answer to lowering juvenile crime rates. However, research states that the juveniles are actually more likely to commit crimes because of having being involved within the program. It appears that the individuals who participate in these kind of programs are socialized into committing more crimes because of the actions that they witness.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Theories of Deterrence

The three theories of deterrence are the deterrence theory, routine activities theory, and rational choice theory, and with each theory having ideas for how to lower the crime rate.

The first theory is the deterrence theory which arose from the classical criminology approach states “punishments should be proportional to the seriousness of offenses so that the cost of crime always exceeds its reward. Potential offenders then would be deterred – i.e., rational calculation would lead them to avoid committing crime” (Vold and Bernard and Snipes, 2002:176). This theory was commonly held as the method to follow for early criminologists, then another theory, positivism emerged as the leading method. However, the positivist theory died out and a contemporary classical approach theory came to the front of the methods to be used to examine crime. The reemergence of the theory came with deterrence being the focus on the theory.

In the late 1970s, a new approach was proposed, the routine activities theory. This theory states “rationally-calculating potential offenders respond to opportunities to commit crimes, and that these opportunities are systematically related to the ‘routine activities’ by which people live their lives” (Vold and Bernard and Snipes, 2002:176). This theory argues that individuals act differently from person to person, and some lifestyles are more likely to put an individual into situations that may cause them risk. This relates to modern times with individuals spending more time away from home, whether it is working longer hours or doing leisure activities, putting them at a higher risk of being the individual who is targeted for a robbery. This comes about since many individuals perform the same daily activities one day to the next. It provides potential offenders with more targets since so many individuals are spending more time away from their homes.

In the mid-1980s, the rational choice approach theory arose. This theory “developed a more complex view of how offenders in particular situations calculate their costs and benefits” (Vold and Bernard and Snipes, 2002:176-177). This theory assumes that offenders take into the consideration the risks and rewards of their actions. The rational choice theory assumes that there are always potential offenders that are willing to commit crimes when the rewards are higher than the risks. This theory proposes that raising the level of possible cost to the offender and lowering the chance of possible rewards of the criminal will make the situation less desirable to be committed.

The common theme of these three theories of deterrence is that they are all based on a human’s decision to choose. They all assume that individual’s will look at a given situation and decide whether or not to commit crimes. These theories assume that criminals are rationally thinking people which is not always the situation. These theories don’t take into consideration that individuals may get caught in situations that cause them to get extremely angered which may lessen the possibilities of thinking in a rational sense.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Biological Theory of Crime

The common assumptions of the biological theories of crime are that physical attributes can lead an individual to criminal activities. Generally, the thought was that certain physical attributes were passed down from parent to child, making the child more at risk of committing crimes. These earlier theories of crime focused on heredity, and were quick to make assumptions about the findings of the research.

Johan Caspar Lavater believed that the shape of the skull and other facial features impacted human conduct. Cesare Lombroso took these ideas to a new level and began examining other parts of the body and not just the facial features and skull shape. Lombroso wanted to look at other characteristics, such as ear size, amount of hair, length of hair, etc. to compare the characteristics of criminals to other animals that were considered to be more primitive.

Charles Goring attempted to expand upon Cesare Lombroso’s research to discover if it held any truth. Goring developed a study that compared prisoners with members of the Royal Engineers of London and found no differences in facial features or skull sizes between the two groups. However, Goring did conclude that he prisoners tended to have “inferiority in stature and in body weight” (Vold and Bernard and Snipes, 2002:34-35). However, modern criminologists tend to disregard the research stating that it was enough of a difference between stature and body weight to be significant. These previous biological theories generally did not take social factors into consideration when conducting their research, which results in many individuals feeling as if the data is flawed.

More recent research into the biological theories of crime examine neurotransmitters, hormones, the central nervous system, and the autonomic nervous system. These theories do accept some social factors into the given thoughts. However, these theories still focus on the biological aspect of why crimes are committed. For neurotransmitters, there is the belief that those with lower levels of specific kinds of neurotransmitters are more likely to be anti-social.

There is a belief that when certain hormones are released it makes the individual more likely to act in an aggressive way. Some individuals believe that problems can occur in the central nervous system, specifically in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. It is believed that problems within the frontal lobe can lead the individual to be more violent, whereas irregularities within the temporal lobe can lead an individual to be more sexual offending.

Others believe that the “fight or flight” response in the autonomic nervous system may not work properly in some individuals making them more likely to be involved in criminal behavior.
I thought that the most surprising aspect of the chapter was that individuals were so quick to follow the earlier biological theories of crime when the research was broad, difficult to reproduce, and didn’t examine sociological manners in any detail. I think that these individuals wanted a quick an easy answer to why crime occurs, and this was the easiest answer for people to believe.
However, in my opinion, criminal behavior is a vast topic that doesn’t just have one simple answer to why it occurs. It has many different possible answers and outcomes, and each situation may have a different reason for the actions occurring.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Book Review of Why Americans Still Don't Vote

There are three main thoughts to why individuals do not vote. There are two thoughts derived from political science that suggest differing factors within the political atmosphere to be reasons for individuals lack of voting. The other viewpoint is a sociological viewpoint that suggests the individuals who do not vote do not have the same access to resources as others thus they do not receive a proper education.

One of the political science thoughts suggests there to be a lack of voter turnout because of the decreasing competition between the two parties. Even though the parties are often at the throats of one another, the two parties have fairly similar beliefs on certain issues. Once the parties began to have more similar viewpoints, it provided fewer viewpoints for the average individual to be able to vote on. This causes individuals to feel as if there isn’t a candidate who represents them.

The other thought that is derived from political science suggests that it is the law requirements and ballot form that cause there to be declines in voting. The authors suggest that the laws for how to register to vote, when the last days to register to vote before elections, and the way the ballot is set up as causes of declines in voting. There was research performed that suggested the way a ballot was organized would make it more or less likely for individuals to vote straight ticket or split ticket. There were states that had ballots in which all the voter had to do was check one box to vote straight ticket for the specific party.

The sociological perspective on why individuals don’t vote is rooted in the social structure, mainly that they do not receive the same access to resources such as education. This results in individuals not developing an interest in politics and can cause them to feel as if voting doesn’t matter one way or the other. With the lack of education, it makes it more difficult for these individuals to go through information about candidates and decide which one would better represent them. If they received a poor education, they may not understand forms that need to be filled out, or how to meet proper time restraints on when to register.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Book Review of Regulating the Poor

The goal of this part of the paper is to discuss the main thesis of this book, and to give examples of this thesis. The main thesis of the area of this book that I read would be that the governmental power doesn’t provide relief for poverty because there is a sincere care about the individual, but because those that had power feared if there wasn’t anything done in times of high levels of poverty that there would be great political turmoil and individuals of lower classes would rise up and revolt against the government. Once the government provided aid to those individuals in poverty in these times of high dissentment, the average individual would be able to gain a job and somewhat get back on their feet. When this occurred, the government would slowly discontinue the amount of aid given to individuals. So even though individuals still may have been in poverty, the amount was less, and since the government had tried to fix the problem, the amount of political dissatisfaction had decreased.

A main example of this situation is during the Great Depression when there were large amounts of people that were unemployed. If individuals were lucky enough to have jobs, they weren’t paid very well and still suffered in the life of poverty. The government began doing work projects to provide individuals with jobs. The New Deal was an attempt to greatly affect the problems of poverty.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Book Review of Global Networks

Mark Lombardi termed his art “Narrative Structures” which were an extension of art known as history art. This form of art generally represented historic events or political actions that affected the world. Mark Lombardi’s art wasn’t nearly as detailed in the sense of artwork, but was greatly more detailed in the research that he performed and the connections he made from corporate individual to other corporate individual.

Lombardi had great interest in the topic of globalism, and wanted to show this through his art. This is why he made the connections of many different corporate individuals to each other, even when they appeared on the surface to possibly have no connections at all. He was very involved in his work and wanted to show the connections that individuals had to one another even when they were from different parts of the world.

I believe that Lombardi’s art is an example of Conflict Theory. It shows that there are individuals who have a great amount of power, and these individuals are often connected in various forms to other individuals who have similar levels of power. This shows that there are individuals with the resources, the haves, that use their power to maintain the resources that have and make it more difficult for others to gain power and or resources.