Term Paper: Crime Prevention and Control

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Crime Prevention and Control - U.S. Justice System and Proactive Policing

The prevention and control of crime have hounded American society despite the expanse of its economic and political power in the world. Stanford Professor Friedman traces the failure of the efforts of the U.S. criminal justice system in curbing or preventing crime to the Americans' well-entrenched cultural taboos of their Manifest Destiny as a superior people and their demand for individual freedom and rights. From these taboos grew out prison buildings, the police, the courts, more severe court sentences and the celebrity culture. With the persistently increasing crime rates, preventive measures, like preventive detention, were tried. But preventive detention did not work. President Johnson believed that the root causes of crime were racism, poverty and social injustice and provided funds for States and local governments to address these root causes. Congress passed three bills to support his initiative. But it was not until the 90s that a workable alternative to crime prevention and control was introduced. Proactive or community policing actively involves the citizens in preventing or solving crimes through non-punitive or adversarial procedures. The proactive movement has earned the cooperation of prosecutors and other members of both the public and private sectors. When fully successful and accepted by the American public, it will make the U.S. The model in crime prevention and control.

Introduction

Americans pride themselves of their Manifest Destiny as a superior race and their individual freedom and rights. But crime rates in the midst of the practice of freedom continue to increase. Professor Friedman of the University of Stanford identified cultural taboos supporting this demand for individual freedom and rights as ultimately behind the unrestrained rise in crime rates. The existing criminal justice system is adversarial and punitive. Its crime prevention and control mainly deal with suppression. When this could not curtail crime, preventive detention was tried. Nonetheless, crime rates continue to increase till the late 70s. President Johnson offered the notion that the root causes of crime were racism, poverty and social injustice. He provided funds for the States and the local government in an effort at curbing these root causes. Congress also responded and signed bills to support President Johnson's initiative.

Discussion

But it was not until the 90s that a new concept was introduced. This was proactive or community policing, which would actively involve the citizens or the community in averting or settling conflicts. The concept is based on the philosophy that crime is the enemy of all relationships and its ultimate objective is to draw both sides of a conflict to a life of harmony. The proactive policing movement has made marked gains and, when fully accepted and ingrained into the mainstream, can make the U.S. The model in crime prevention and control.

A decade ago, Stanford University law professor and author of "Crime and Punishment in American History" said that cultural taboos stood on the way of reforms, aimed at lowering the crime rate (USA Today 1994). This was because many of these cultural taboos were entrenched in Americans' demand for individual freedom. Absolute curfews in other countries would be hard on burglars and their citizens and would be effective in controlling crime in those places. But most Americans would quickly object to such curtailment of their personal liberties and personal lives. Yet the continuous rise in the rate of serious crime could not be ignored. Measures were undertaken to respond to the situation while respecting cultural taboos. There had been more prison buildings erected. The courts imposed more severe sentences. Guidelines for mandatory punishments were issued and strictly followed. Putting more policemen, especially in crime-infested areas, was also proposed. Greater police presence would have an effect, but there could not be too many policemen for the sustained task. Gun control was another option but many believed that it would not work. People actually have an inclination to violence. Hence, genuine gun control was unlikely on account of the stated cultural taboos relating to the American demand for individual rights. Professor Friedman pointed to the celebrity culture, which worshipped a famous person, such as a rock or sports star or even a criminal who made fast money. The invention of television after World War II introduced this culture right into the home. Friedman said that people today had developed celebrity values, which inclined them away from graying Nobel Prize winners and corporate executives. Those who made the news by killing somebody became more enticing and people followed them through in the newspapers and television with interest (USA Today).

Whenever a heinous crime was committed, the initial reaction was to put the blame on everyone else (Doherty 1998). Taking stock of genocides, such as that in Rwanda, U.S. President Bill Clinton pointed to the international community's sharing in the responsibility and guilt. He said that evil was not in the irresponsibility of those who practice it but was the shame of everyone else who did not prevent it. If only the perpetrators should be blamed, governments could only arrest them, hold them for trial and punished, if found guilty. But if social forces, gun proliferation and violent television shows and movies were to blame, the police and the judges would not be enough. Programs, crusades and concerted government action to change the very nature of culture and society should be undertaken and set in place. In addition, real gun control, a revived economy, new forms of educational indoctrination and truly moral and brave leaders would be needed. It would need to address the one factor underneath individual mistakes, which were only the cumulative effects of bad decisions made by individuals in that social atmosphere of individual freedom. There would always be social forces that would influence an individual to commit a heinous crime, but self-restraint and prevention would also be within the scope of individual freedom. Instead of resorting to violence or a violation of law, the individual could avoid pregnancy, educate himself and become a self-sufficient person. These remained options to him despite the torrent of influences in society. He could opt to control his anger and become a positive, rather than a negative, force in society (Doherty).

That desired dramatic change in the U.S. criminal system occurred in the last decade (Robinson 2001). Its focus broadened from the traditional punishment of past crime to prevention of future crimes by imprisonment and control of dangerous offenders. Habitual offender laws impose life imprisonment on repeat offenders. Jurisdictional reforms lower the age at which young offenders can be tried as adults and increased terms of imprisonment beyond those provided by juvenile courts. Gang membership and recruitment became punishable under the law. The community became obliged to report the presence of a convicted sex offender. Sexual offenders could be subjected to civil detention even at the end of their criminal term, according to sexual predator laws. And the sentence of offenders with a prior criminal history would be increased, according to sentencing guidelines, as these offenders would most likely commit future crimes. The new emphasis on prevention may not have altered the way the criminal justice system presents itself in that it continues and must continue to impose punishment for the commission of crimes. "Punishment" means subjecting the offender to pain, loss or suffering on account of a crime or wrongdoing. But "dangerous" refers to a threat of future harm. A probable offender can be restrained, detained or incapacitated for being "dangerous" but his "dangerousness" cannot logically be punished Robinson).

Despite recent declines in the late 1970s, the violent crime rate was still three times higher that during the decade of World War II (Robinson 2001). Aggravated assault was almost four times the pre-War level as unbroken crime increases went up three times the level of the 50s. The emergence of juvenile crime with other unpredictable and unprecedented changes would negate those decreases in crime volume. Even if crime rates went down every year for the next three decades, people would remain apprehensive because of the changes in their lifestyle. Reducing crime rates to the level of the 50s would require a return to the lifestyle of that time if the freedom and sense of security of old must be re-established. But this would not be feasible or likely at this time, so the clamor for protection was directed at legislators who established the new trend of detaining dangerous offenders as a prevention of future crime. But this otherwise-praiseworthy attempt went in the wrong direction by perverting the justice process itself while proving to be a costly yet ineffective prevention-detention system. Punishment and prevention are different and separate functions with their respective criteria and procedure. The use of a single system to perform both functions would not work. It would be a mixed system wherein preventive detention would be cloaked as criminal justice. This would not achieve either justice or protection. There was no guarantee that a legislature or court would not abuse its power. That danger would be greatest if preventive detention… [END OF PREVIEW]

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