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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Week 6 Paper - Criminological Theory

The Future of Criminological Theory
A primary issue with the state of our current criminal justice system is the high number of resources used in curtailing drug offenses, also known as the “War on Drugs”. I won't go into great detail on this subject, as the discussion would require a plethora of paragraphs to examine fully. There three issues that should be addressed in the context of a discussion of out future; the high amount of drug offenders, the underlying harm this war does to our society, and how this could be remedied.
At the “Drug War Facts” website, the number of prisoners in our jails show that drug offenders account for half of the Federal prison population. The website states that “On Dec. 31, 2012, there were 196,574 sentenced prisoners under federal jurisdiction. Of these, 99,426 were serving time for drug offenses,” and further that “On Dec. 31, 2011, there were 1,341,797 sentenced prisoners under state jurisdiction. Of these, 222,738 were serving time for drug offenses, of whom 55,013 were merely convicted for possession.(Drug War Facts, 2014, para 1-2)
Despite the waste of law enforcement resources on a mala prohibita issue, there is a greater cost to society; “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)
Although the underlying criminality of drug use remains a public issue, and subject to the whims of a busybody and buttinsky population, there is an easy fix that the criminal justice system can assume of it's own volition, a non enforcement policy. After all, hasn't city council after city council across America set a precedent by simply ignoring both the wishes of the voters and the law of the land to declare themselves sanctuary cities for illegal aliens? Why shouldn't law enforcement agencies simply take the same track in a policy that would benefit Americans for a change?
Theorists have already updated older perspectives, and we have modern variants of strain, social control, and developmental theories. In this context, is it possible that we already have enough Criminological theories for the future? Do we need to simply determine the contexts in which these theories will work best? Theory is just as mutable as the human animal it attempts to explain. More theories will be developed, because no single theory will be able to completely explain criminal behavior. Criminal behavior is going to result from a combination of factors which will vary from individual to individual Abrahamsen explains this; “Any classification, be it of plants, animals, or human beings, is to some extent artificial because there will always be individual characteristics or a set of characteristics which can properly be placed in more than one group. In our own attempt at classification, dealing as we often do with emotionally and mentally abnormal offenders, it is frequently difficult to distinguish between a criminal who is neurotic and one who suffers from a character disorder. Yet in spite of the shortcomings inherent in classification, we must attempt to categorize offenders if we are going to be successful in dealing with them. If we can classify them in a rational way, we can diagnose their characteristics, treat them, and predict their future behavior. However, such classification means that we will have to examine carefully each criminal to be able to find the characteristic and predominant traits that will tell us in which particular category he belongs. (Abrahamsen, n.d.,para 2)
A review of the criminological theory course leads me to the following thoughts: I had a natural affinity for classical thought, as I place a high value on the concept of free will, and that society must set and enforce controls to avoid anarchy. From Positivist thought, I think that strain theory makes a lot of sense and is useful for describing criminal decision making.. Other then Marxist based theories, I could see the usefulness of most theory under certain circumstance. I also like the assumption under social control theory that crime is a natural result of human existence
Will positivist or classical school influence criminal justice policies more in the future? Each theory will ebb and flow as a basis for policy as political influence and media propaganda is put into play. Historically, Americans have used both theories to explain and counter explain criminal behavior and to set policies used to combat criminal behavior
Do present day criminological theories satisfactorily explain female and juvenile crime? Several theories based on social learning can help explain juvenile crime, such as cultural transmission theory and differential association theory . There can be biological reasons or sociological reasons for less female crime, or as discussed above, more likely a combination, but we can see that feminist theory, like Marxist theory, based in attaining political goals, fails the test of time and reality. Although feminist theory predicted that as feminist policies were advanced, women would commit crime at the same rates as men, this is not the case. Adler contended that the “process will result in women committing more traditional male crimes, such as violent crimes and white-collar crimes. The rate of female crime will also increase” (Williams & McShane, 2014, p.149) Williams and McShane point out that “research has yet to find much support for her position”(2014, p.149)

Abrahamsen , D. (n.d.). The classification of criminals. Retrieved May 13, 2014 from http://www.self-defender.net/extras/crime_class.htm

Drug War Facts. (2014).Drug offenders in the correctional system. Retrieved May 13, 2014 from http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Prisons_and_Drugs

Williams, F. & McShane, M. (2014) Criminology Theory (6th edition). Pearson

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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