The history of American crime and drugs situation, as well as strategies of managing crime rates, is full of contradictions. As positions of authors regarding the effectiveness of crime policies and the roots of the problems vary, it is quite difficult to find out the nature of increasing quality of prisons, growth of crime and violence rates as well as associated issues. This paper is purposed to analyze the reasons of American crime drop, evaluate the effectiveness of crime policies, reveal the contradiction between crime drop and raising incarceration and provide analysis of the war on drugs and crime and its consequences. Drugs and crime are tightly connected. Thus, to solve this problem, it is necessary to rethink crime and to consider other social problems that require a complex approach.
American Crime Drop
As crime and violence have always been the most crucial and topical issues for the U.S., the decline in crime and violence rates interests the researches. Regarding the roots of such an unexpected decline, it is worth separating those who believe that crime drop is temporal and those who think that it is genuine. However, Walker claims that this question is no longer valid: crime drop is real because evidence demonstrates that previous crime rates have not returned. Among the factors that confirm that crime drop is genuine, it is worth mentioning the statistics, namely, the results of NCVS report that proves a decline in crime, which is considered to be very reliable. A decline in crime has been lasting for 15 years, it allows to conclude that this drop is not temporal. FBI Uniform Crime Report confirmed the results of the NCVS report and demonstrated that significant crime drop for the last 15-20 years took place. The decline in crime is confirmed by other social phenomena such as the decline of teenage pregnancy and infant mortality, which demonstrate positive changes in American criminal behavior, even though the unemployment rate has recently risen.
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The reasons for this situation include incarceration, community policing, reduction of crack and cocaine use and positive shifts in the economy. In order to find out the reasons of crime drop, Zimring compared the decline in crime in the U.S. to other countries. Canada has also experienced a decline of violent crimes, even though the policy directed towards solving the problems was opposite to the U.S. policy. For instance, the U.S. increased incarceration, while Canada reduced it. Moreover, the quantity of police officers in Canada has reduced, whereas the police in the U.S. has increased in numbers. Zimring argues that it is difficult to explore the roots of these contradictions, which requires comparing not only visible social factors but also a broad cultural situation in the U.S. and Canada concerning the behavior of the population.
Effectiveness of Crime Policies
Among the factors that affect criminal behavior in the U.S., the authors distinguish contextual factors and policy factors. Contextual factors include demographic factors: “the rise and fall of the crack cocaine epidemic, and changes in labor markets”. The criminal justice policies that influence violent crimes rate are gun control policies, increased incarceration, consequent anticipation of offenders and some innovations in policies. None of these dimensions alone is considered to reduce violent crimes. Walker offers a sensible approach, according to which interplay of different policies and factors affects the decline in violent crimes. In order to measure the effectiveness of crime policies, it is necessary to analyze communities in which consequences of criminal justice policies are visible.
Evidence-Based Crime Policy.
In order to evaluate the effectiveness of specific crime policies, a new standard called evidence-based crime policy was created. This approach is a good point to start rethinking of current policies and strategies to improve public health and safety. This is a scientific standard that is used in criminology and health care policies. It gets evidence from the valid research, while the quality of evidence determines the effectiveness of policies. The contribution of the evidence-based approach is that of scientific rigor for policy debates. The application of this approach means that a new vision on the reliability of judgments has been constituted. Specifically, intuition and assumption are no longer sufficient arguments for or against certain policymaking. Instead, scientific methods are declared to be the only ways to determine the worthiness of certain crime policies. In order to understand to what extent evidence-based crime policy is effective, it is necessary to recognize that many of previous crime policies were found to be not only ineffective but also even harmful. For instance, Cambridge-Somerville Youths Study, Volunteers in Probation Program, Scared Straight Program, and some others were found to cause harm. The specific of evidence-based policymaking is that it suggests evaluation of a certain program according to scientific standards before implementation.
When it comes to the evaluation of policies against crime, Walker states that most current crime control proposals are nonsense. The author argues that failure to create adequate crime evaluation programs is caused by a misunderstanding of the problem of criminal behavior in the U.S. Two main problems affect this situation. Race, or ethnicity, and income determine individual risk of being involved in criminal behaviors. Community-focused crime policy that considers social factors should be taken into account while measuring the effectiveness of certain crime policies. Many analysts assume that two severe problems in American crime and criminal justice are: one that affects most white, middle-class Americans and another that affects people of color, the poor, and the young people of color in particular.
Community-focused programs allow a number of benefits, as they include planning carefully, involving outside experts, working with community groups, developing a partnership with criminal justice and noncriminal justice agencies, using non-traditional responses, and conducting rigorous evaluations to assess effectiveness. The community-focused program has many advantages, as they were developed with the consideration of limitations of traditional programs.
Crime Drop and Imprisonment
As it was mentioned above, when imprisonment increased, the crime rate dropped, whereas in Canada the crime rate declined despite the reduction of incarceration. This is a very debatable phenomenon that raises many questions that are answered differently by different authors. For example, Walker writes that American war on crime and drugs has resulted in the increase of prisoners over eightfold, which has led to the imprisonment orgy. The incarceration rate in 2006 rose to 738 per 100,000, though in Canada it is about 106 per 100, 000, and in Japan - 62 per 100,000. As prisons are overcrowded, the offenders are frequently sent to jails. The increase in the imprisonment rate is provoked by the increase of drug-related arrest and mandatory imprisonment laws. Many researchers confirm that the wars on drugs and crime are directed against young African American men who have lost the right to vote due to incarceration. Thus, discrimination and perceived unfairness towards African Americans are seen to be the cause of the growing incarceration rate. The matter is that the crime drops because individuals who are likely to keep on violating laws are imprisoned. This proves that the system has serious structural problems and the problem of crime has not been solved at all. In Canada, the crime rate decline is followed by incarceration rate decline, which witnesses deep shifts in understanding the nature of the crime.
The Consequences of the War on Drugs and Crime
There are different opinions on the war on crime, but most of the authors agree that they have been rather ineffective. For example, Walker claimed that wagging ‘war’ is the wrong way to fight crime. The matter is that the course directed on ‘war’ with a crime is wrong because war is the wrong metaphor for crime policy. First of all, the decision to fight crime proves to misunderstand of the roots of crime and deep structural problems in American society that affect the violent crime rate. It is impossible to fight crime, as it cannot be eradicated, but can be reduced to an adequate and manageable level. Then, war on crime will lead to demonizing criminals and treating them as if they are foreign criminals. Instead, Walker suggests that community policing should be implemented as a more democratic approach that allows coordinating the efforts of the police and civilian population, whereas fighting with own citizens and problems is useless and ridiculous. War on crime is found to be absolutely ineffective and harmful by Walker, as the problem of crime is more likely to be lolled by long-term changes of own behavior and habits. Although the U.S. stated that a “drug-free world” is a realistic plan, it will never be achieved in the same way as an alcohol-free world. This rhetoric can drive society to accept collateral causalities. The problem is that the officials confused disease control and drug control with the purpose to eliminate drugs from the Earth.
The decision to fight drugs and crime is harmful to ethnic minorities and the poor population, though this aspect is usually ignored by the authorities. During decision making for or against a crime decline program, the consequences of war on drugs, such as incarceration, are harmful to the families of the offenders whose children frequently have mental health problems. In addition, criminal justice and correctional system have negative effects on the economy, which involves cutting budgets for education and health care in order to maintain criminal justice and correctional systems.
Although drugs and crime are inseparable, publicity usually has a wrong understanding of its connection because of politicians’ desire to get political support instead of implementing social reforms. Even though many criminals use drugs, it is necessary for the society to distinguish these social problems to stop demonizing population with addiction and imprisoned individuals. As many Americans report, fear and frustration concerning crime lead to irrational thinking, and there is a need for changing public opinion concerning crime and its reasons. In order to change the public perception of crime and drug connection, it is necessary to set the ground rules that would create a basis for optimistic and adequate attitudes towards crimes. The first one is crime control policy, in which it is important not to reach effectiveness by any means, but to follow the principles of humanism and fairness to provide equality in the criminal justice system. Then, limited focus helps to manage certain types of crimes, such as robbery or burglary. Next, it is worth considering crime prevention as a priority compared to punishing the offenders. The quality of life of neighborhoods is considered to be the goal of crime prevention that would help to create a favorable environment for the entire population instead of discriminating ethnic minorities. The opportunity to prevent crimes depends on the efficacy of communities, which determines the neighborhood’s crime rate. The community-focused approach may be applied, as it is constructed with the consideration of the weaknesses of traditional policies.
Gaines and Kremling provide an alternative view of the drugs and crime relationship. These phenomena are considered to represent such deep social problems as poverty, crime, hunger, diseases, lack of educational opportunities and joblessness. As all of the above-mentioned problems are tightly connected, it is worth discussing complex reforms that will ‘cure’ the criminal justice system for a long-term period. Contemporary crime allows viewing how the criminal justice system works, so the lesson should be learned. The answer to the problems is difficult to be found, but every part of the U.S. social situation should be analyzed with the purpose to reach the most topical problem by keeping in mind that interplay of social factors or social problems leads to crime.
Although the statistics witness the Great American Crime Drop, crime still remains one of the key American problems, as the violent crime rate is much higher here than in other countries. It is difficult to ding the best option to fight crimes, but among numerous factors and tendencies that affect crime, it is important to realize that drug and crime problems are inseparable from other social problems and, therefore, should not be seen as standing alone. The researchers have developed a variety of crime-control policies, but contemporary researches that take the evidence-based approach and community-focused program into account face ineffectiveness and harmfulness of some drug control policies. As the issues of drug and crime correlate, efforts directed towards drug reduction are likely to contribute to crime decline, but it is not enough to solve the problem completely. Public opinion about the connection between drugs and crime should be changed so that the public can have a clear vision of the roots of the problem and perspectives. Contemporary crime demonstrates that while there are deep structural problems and misunderstanding of crime in American society, fighting drugs is a useless idea.