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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Public Perception of the War on Drugs, White-Collar Crime, And Organized Crime: Recommendations for the Criminal Justice System Response

Public Perception of the War on Drugs, White-Collar Crime, And Organized Crime: Recommendations for the Criminal Justice System Response

"I say that you cannot administer a wicked law impartially. You can only destroy. You can only punish. I warn you that a wicked law, like cholera, destroys everyone it touches — its upholders as well as its defilers."
- Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee (Inherit the Wind)

A common worry that the public shares in regards to crime, is that of those crimes that may affect them personally, such as being the victim of a burglary, robbery, or assault. In contrast to this focus, the criminal justice system spends much of it's resources on crime that is not seen on the street or on the neighborhood corner. These battles are the "War on Drugs", investigating white-collar crime, and fighting organized crime. Are these resources being applied properly? Or are there better ways of utilizing the criminal justice system? To answer these questions, we will need to examine each one of these battles as related to how the public views the battle. We will also need to examine these battles in light if the effects these crimes have on the community. In addition, we need to examine whether it is feasible for the criminal justice system to attempt to change the public perception of this kind of crime. Finally, we need to address ow have these efforts affected the criminal justice system itself.
I. Public Perception
A. What is the public perception of the "War on Drugs", on organized crime, and of white-collar crime? The public itself seems to demand outlaw heroes. Maura Kelley in The Atlantic gives two examples in the figures of Cool Hand Luke and John Wojtowicz of how the public lionized criminals on the big-screen (2012). Obviously, the media creates a "TV" version of the outlaw hero, but how much of that is just giving the public what it wants? What myths and cultural influences affect how the public views these types of crimes? The outlaw myth is most likely to be the highest factor in the glamorization of outlaws. Even beyond the guiding myth of American individualism, the concept of "stealing from the rich and giving to the poor" appeals to humans in general, especially the poor. The "War on Drugs" has given rise in popular music to traditions such as gangster rap and the narcocorrido, celebrating the "outlaw hero" of the drug dealer (Wikipedia, 2014, para 1).
B. How do these perceptions affect the public’s attitudes toward crime and their confidence in government.? Public attitudes toward police are generally positive (Dowler, 2003, para 7) In theory, the arrest of public officials engaged in corruption should be proof of, and therefore reinforce a perception of the criminal justice system as honest. In fact though, media tends to use cases of public corruption selectively. Take for example, Chris Christie's abuse of power in Bridgegate, and compare this to the IRS abuse of power scandal in the way that media has covered both scandals. (Investors.com, 2014) (Whitlock, 2014)
C. Are there ways to adjust public perception? Because mala prohibita crimes tend to be the result of a consensus view, and there is a reflective relationship between the media portrayal of crime and the public demand for such material, it is unlikely that the way society views criminals will change unless the criminal justice system changes the way it deals with a consensus view. In addition, the role of the outlaw hero in cultural mythology subverts the possibility of changing these views through media manipulation. Finally, attempts to legally restrict media presentations of crime may be unconstitutional. As one example, laws such as the various "Son of Sam" laws, intended to prevent a criminal from profiting from their crime, would have a peripheral effect on media presentation. However, the original NY state law has been struck down as unconstitutional (Wikipedia, 2014, para 5)
II.. Efficiency of effort
A. Despite the high societal cost of the "War on Drugs", there has been little success in this war. In 2014 alone, the criminal justice system in America has spent over $3.5 billion, and arrested over 140,000 citizens (Drug Sense, 2014, para 1-3). And what are the results for this cost? CNN (2011, para 1) reports that more than 22 million Americans age 12 and older use drugs, nearly 9% of the U.S. population. Indeed, the federal government reports that drug usage is increasing. "National survey shows a rise in illicit drug use from 2008 to 2010"( Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration [SAMHA], 2011, para 1)
B. One issue in discussing white-collar crime is the cost to society. Graham compares several studies with estimates ranging from a total coat to the economy of $44 billion to $600 billion per year (2012, p.13) A second issue to be considered is the criminal justice system does not always pursue white-collar crime. "It appears at times that our justice system does not place adequate emphasis on fraud and other white collar crimes especially when it is considered a non-violent victimless crime. One disturbing fact is how the offense is perceived, not as a criminal offense at all, but as simple bad judgment on the part of victims, by both the general public and by the victims themselves. "(Crimes of Persuasion, 2014, para 3) Finally, some prosecutors may have a hard time convicting on white-collar cases. "The Serious Fraud Office’s decision not to lay criminal charges over the collapse of Hanover Finance shows how tough it is to prosecute white collar crime under the present law, former SFO boss Adam Feeley says." (Mafia Today, 2013, para 1)
C. The Congressional Research Service discusses the various ways that organized crime affects the economy.; money laundering, cigarette trafficking, piracy and counterfeiting of goods, and currency counterfeiting.(Finklea, 2010, pp21-24). Unfortunately, measuring a dollar cost for the damages that organized crime causes is difficult .The National White Collar Crime Center [NW3C] discusses the various reasons this is so; it is not measured in any systematic way, some is not detected, some is not reported, and not all offenses that could be committed by criminal organizations such as gambling and prostitution are committed by organizations (2007, p.3)
III. How have these efforts affected the criminal justice system
A. As mala prohibita crimes are defined by a consensus view, it can be argued that these crimes can be used to attack a political minority. Another view is that of conflict theory which proposes that poorer members of society are kept in their places by prosecuting their vices. One example of this is the political elite of a city attacking those that they consider as ill-educated., and satisfies both theories.
Take note, however, of which economic class Mayor Bloomberg thinks he is saving from themselves. In his mind he’s doing poor folks a favor when he assumes the role of portion police, but in reality he’s merely showing his prejudice that poor people are disgustingly fat and too stupid to understand why. He must believe that they need the government to ban their bad habits, one after another, until they’re eating organic arugula from Whole Foods. (Huang, 2014, para. 16)
B. The "War on Drugs" has had the most effect on Americans' fundamental liberties. While the growth of the Mafia has contributed to the growth of the FBI, the "War on Drugs" affects law enforcement agencies and court systems at every level of government, with an attendant effect on all of us.
Despite such warnings, most Americans have yet to appreciate that the War on Drugs is necessarily a war on the rights of all of us. It could not be otherwise, for it is directed not against inanimate drugs but against people—those who are suspected of using, dealing in, or otherwise being involved with illegal drugs. Because the drug industry arises from the voluntary transactions of tens of millions of people—all of whom try to keep their actions secret—the aggressive law enforcement schemes that constitute the war must aim at penetrating the private lives of those millions. And because nearly anyone may be a drug user or seller of drugs or an aider and abettor of the drug industry, virtually everyone has become a suspect. All must be observed, checked, screened, tested, and admonished—the guilty and innocent alike. (Wisotsky, 1992, para. 11)
And as the criminal justice system has pursued the "War on Drugs" past the boundaries of due process and procedural law, we now have the government taking the role of committing mala in se crimes, from the theft of property from un-convicted suspects via property seizure, to the killing of people who aren't even using or selling drugs. A list of such victims provided by Drug War Rant includes a Marine veteran who had served two tours in Iraq, and was under surveillance based on his acquaintances, not on any action of his own, was shot by police on his own front porch. (2014, para. 14).
C. That such shootings occur also coincides with the trend of police militarization is not surprising. Somin notes that
... the number of SWAT team deployments has risen from a few hundred per year in the 1970s to over 50,000 in 2005. A wide range of state and federal law enforcement agencies now have military-style units, ranging from small-town rural police departments to such unlikely federal agencies as the National Park Service, the Postal Inspection Service, the Department of Agriculture, and the Fish and Wildlife Service
Most of the raids launched by these units target suspected low-level drug dealers, not terrorists, kidnappers, or violent criminals of any kind. The everyday use of such massive force predictably results in the death and injury of numerous innocent people. (Somin, 2013, para. 1,2)
This trend is an indicator that the growth complex theory may be in play. Of course, when an organization succumbs to mission creep, it often fails to pursue the mission it was created for.
"Starting in the mid-1970s, the NORC surveyed households in American cities and uncovered huge amounts of crime that never made the official rolls. One possible scenario that emerged was that the police were too busy with the war on drugs to do normal everyday policing. " (Class notes, Unit 4: Week 3 - page 5)
V. Recommendations
A. Criminal justice agencies should push for the decriminalization of drug use and sales. Criminalization has led to a waste of public money, a waste of criminal justice assets, the arrest and incarceration of private citizens, and has had no effect on the consumption of illegal drugs in our society. Decriminalizing this activity would free up resources to be used to pursue other crimes, including white-collar crimes that have been not been pursued fully. Criminal justice agencies should also consider creating sanctuary zones regardless of what the politicians ask. One example of how politics can interfere with the operation of the criminal justice system is in the example of sanctuary cities, in which liberal politicians order policing agencies disregard enforce immigration law, despite the harmful effects of illegal immigration to employment and public support for the law. Selective enforcement is a sword that cuts both ways.
B. Bounty programs may also be a solution to resource issues: due to a lack of resources, the criminal justice system does not pursue investigation of white-collar and organized crime. A system of bounty awards would allow private agencies to investigate such crimes. The bounty could be paid out of fines assessed to a convicted criminal. There would have to be many restrictions placed on participants in such a program, as they would not be sworn law enforcement agents. Such restrictions would include no confrontation of suspects( no interrogation, no arrests). This type of program would dilute the possibility of corruption, as criminals might not know exactly which private agencies were investigating their crimes.

Crimes of Persuasion. (2014) Factors Which Allow The Problem To Continue. Retrieved January 30, 2014 from http://www.crimes-of-persuasion.com/laws/problems.htm

Dowler, K. (2003). Media Consumption and Public Attitudes Toward Crime and Justice: The Relationship Between Fear of Crime, Punitive Attitudes, and Perceived Police Effectiveness. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 10(2) (2003) 109-126. Retrieved January 29, 2014 from

DrugSense (2014).Drug War Clock. Retrieved January 30, 2014 from http://www.drugsense.org/cms/wodclock

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Finklea, K. (2010). Organized Crime in the United States: Trends and Issues for Congress. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved January 30, 2014 from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40525.pdf

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National survey shows a rise in illicit drug use from 2008 to 2010. (2011, September 8). SAMHSA News Release . Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration . Retrieved January 30, 2014 from http://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/advisories/1109075503.aspx

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Study: 22 million Americans use illegal drugs. (2011, September 8). The Chart. CNN. Retrieved January 30, 2014 from http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/08/study-22-million-americans-use-illegal-drugs-3/

Whitlock, S. (2014 ,January 9). There's Already 17 Times More Coverage on Christie Scandal Than in Last Six Months of IRS. NewsBusters. Retrieved January 28, 2014 from http://newsbusters.org/blogs/scott-whitlock/2014/01/09/there-s-already-17-times-more-coverage-christie-scandal-last-six-mon

Wisotsky, S. (1992, October 2). A Society of Suspects: The War on Drugs and Civil Liberties. Cato Institute. Retrieved February 1, 2014 from http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/society-suspects-war-drugs-civil-liberties

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