What Is A Crime

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Informing Criminal Justice Policy

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  • What Is A Crime

    1. 1. WHAT IS A CRIME? CIRCUMSTANCES AND CHOICES
    2. 2. Demonizing Youth, Marketing Fear: The New Politics of Crime <ul><li>Crime rates are dropping, </li></ul><ul><li>the economy is booming </li></ul><ul><li>Canada is once again, according to the United Nations, one of the ‘best countries’ in the world. </li></ul>
    3. 3. IS THERE A RELATIONSHIP? <ul><li>Yet fear of crime is a crippling concern </li></ul><ul><li>the new millennium is witnessing the sharpest distinction between the living conditions of the rich and poor since the Great Depression </li></ul>
    4. 4. Sharp Paradox: In a Time of Plenty <ul><li>thousand's of adults, children and youth live on the streets, </li></ul><ul><li>reduced to begging, </li></ul><ul><li>marginal efforts at work </li></ul><ul><li>petty crime </li></ul><ul><li>Hundreds of thousands more live in shelters or a step away from shelters. </li></ul>
    5. 5. <ul><li>Why has a harsh approach to crime and disorder become a central feature of our culture? </li></ul>
    6. 6. Purpose of the Criminal Law <ul><li>to ‘protect society’ </li></ul><ul><li>guarantee security and safety for individuals </li></ul><ul><li>provide prompt retribution for victims of crime </li></ul><ul><li>Under the rule of law </li></ul>
    7. 7. But: <ul><li>It is relatively easy to politicize crime: </li></ul><ul><li>crime, and </li></ul><ul><li>fear of crime </li></ul><ul><li>is part of the culture </li></ul>
    8. 8. HOW? <ul><li>Crime is fascinating </li></ul><ul><li>A commodity for writers, artists, the media </li></ul><ul><li>Political interests of all stripes are carefully attentive to issues of criminal justice </li></ul>
    9. 9. The ways that crime is: <ul><li>defined </li></ul><ul><li>prosecuted </li></ul><ul><li>punished </li></ul><ul><li>Are being influenced by ever more overtly political ends </li></ul>
    10. 10. The ‘new’ welfare state <ul><li>Both </li></ul><ul><li>neo-conservative </li></ul><ul><li>and </li></ul><ul><li>neo-liberal </li></ul>
    11. 11. Neo-conservative Positions <ul><li>family and church (not the state) give charity support for the unfortunate </li></ul><ul><li>state entitlements such as welfare weaken family and church </li></ul><ul><li>social assistance is not a right </li></ul><ul><li>Should rarely go to children, youth and single mothers </li></ul><ul><li>a ‘law and order’ retributive approach to social disorder and dysfunction </li></ul>
    12. 12. Neo-liberal Positions <ul><li>‘ survival of the fittest’ </li></ul><ul><li>rely on market forces. </li></ul><ul><li>The state should ‘get out of the way’ </li></ul><ul><li>Market will decide which regions, which people, prosper and which don’t. </li></ul><ul><li>The only assistance the State should be providing are ‘incentives’ to work. </li></ul><ul><li>private security, policing and correctional services expand </li></ul><ul><li>treatment and social services are privatized, </li></ul>
    13. 13. Results <ul><li>Major cuts to social assistance </li></ul><ul><li>strict new rules limiting entitlement introduced suddenly </li></ul><ul><li>Rents deregulated </li></ul><ul><li>social housing programmes cancelled and cut back </li></ul>
    14. 14. Results? <ul><li>an increase in homelessness in general </li></ul><ul><li>new presence of homeless and disenfranchised young adults on the street </li></ul><ul><li>‘ student welfare’ cancelled </li></ul><ul><li>most of the youth who leave home today have few options available for the basics of survival: food, clothing and shelter </li></ul>
    15. 15. More results? <ul><li>a significant number turn to or are captured by street prostitution </li></ul><ul><li>juggle part time minimum wage jobs </li></ul><ul><li>panhandle </li></ul><ul><li>squeegee windshields </li></ul><ul><li>engage in crime </li></ul><ul><li>or starve </li></ul>
    16. 16. <ul><li>Cuts to Children’s Aid Society budgets have removed another strand in the safety net </li></ul>
    17. 17. The education system is also being  reformed <ul><li>Fewer teachers for students with special needs </li></ul><ul><li>Reduced resources for support programs </li></ul><ul><li>Alternative schools and alternative programs are being cut </li></ul><ul><li>Adult education courses closed </li></ul><ul><li>School funding formulas are changing </li></ul><ul><li>School boards funded based on the students who remain enrolled for a full year. </li></ul>
    18. 18. Zero tolerance to school violence <ul><li>policies which ensure that students engaged in almost any sort of violence may be expelled </li></ul><ul><li>some young people have nowhere to go but the street </li></ul><ul><li>demonized and marginalized </li></ul><ul><li>young people expelled from school under zero tolerance very rapidly run out of options </li></ul><ul><li>except for property crime, prostitution, drugs or all three </li></ul>
    19. 19. The Commodification of Crime <ul><li>Crime has become a valuable political commodity </li></ul><ul><li>concern about crime has become a feature in literally all political campaigns today, even in the face of significant declines in the rate of crime </li></ul>
    20. 20. <ul><li>Crime sells newspapers. </li></ul>
    21. 21. <ul><li>Crime is no longer simply something with marketing power. </li></ul><ul><li>Crime itself, or more accurately, the fear of crime, is being marketed for political purpose s. </li></ul>
    22. 22. <ul><li>Demand is fostered for: </li></ul><ul><li>more safety </li></ul><ul><li>more control </li></ul><ul><li>more order </li></ul><ul><li>more punishment. </li></ul>
    23. 23. <ul><li>Middle class markets are targeted </li></ul><ul><li>new laws are developed </li></ul><ul><li>new fears are identified. </li></ul><ul><li>And each time, a political benefit is extracted. </li></ul>
    24. 24. Common perceptions about what ‘crime’ is are shaped: <ul><li>‘ crime’ is limited to street crime and disorder, </li></ul><ul><li>and to random acts of extreme violence. </li></ul><ul><li>But: </li></ul><ul><li>corporate or so called ‘white collar’ deviance causes as much or more social harm than street crime </li></ul>
    25. 25. The criminal justice system is broken <ul><li>Crime is ‘out of control’ </li></ul><ul><li>Criminals are ‘getting away’ with murder </li></ul><ul><li>Courts are too ‘soft’ on crime </li></ul><ul><li>Criminals have more rights than victims </li></ul>
    26. 26. The criminal justice system is broken <ul><li>Law’s reach against corporate deviance (from environmental crimes to economic misconduct) is diminished: </li></ul><ul><li>investigative and prosecutorial infrastructures are dismantled </li></ul><ul><li>‘ cutting red tape’ </li></ul><ul><li>‘ getting government out of the boardrooms of the nation </li></ul>
    27. 27. On the other hand: <ul><li>Street youth </li></ul><ul><li>Beggars </li></ul><ul><li>Squeegee kids </li></ul><ul><li>Prostitutes </li></ul><ul><li>increasingly demonized and criminalized. </li></ul>
    28. 28. Political Crimes and Misdemeanors <ul><li>redundant exercises of quasi-criminal legislation enacted with overtly political goals in mind </li></ul><ul><li>clearly marketed to serve political, not legislative, interests. </li></ul><ul><li>not needed (if existing legislation were actually used) </li></ul>
    29. 29. A similar strategy names a piece of legislation with its message <ul><li>. The ‘ Safe Streets Act’ </li></ul><ul><li>An Act to promote safety in Ontario by prohibiting aggressive solicitation, solicitation of persons in certain places and disposal of dangerous things in certain places and to amend the Highway Traffic Act to regulate certain activities on roadways </li></ul>
    30. 30. The new ‘moral panics’ <ul><li>. Debate or critique is almost impossible with this technique. </li></ul><ul><li>Who wishes to re-victimize Brian and family or Christopher and his? </li></ul><ul><li>Who wants unsafe streets? </li></ul><ul><li>Who would refuse to protect children? </li></ul>
    31. 31. The new ‘moral panics’ <ul><li>homelessness and poverty is articulated as a decline in moral values and an increase in sexual and other disorder. </li></ul><ul><li>nothing of substance is done to make streets safer </li></ul><ul><li>the sight of poverty is criminalized. ‘ </li></ul><ul><li>Aggressive’ begging is outlawed </li></ul><ul><li>invisible, begging is not. </li></ul><ul><li>Begging in any location where the solicitation is hard to ignore, near automated bank machines for example, is criminalized </li></ul><ul><li>begging where the beggar can be ignored is not. </li></ul><ul><li>None of these provisions were needed in any real sense. The police have ample powers and plenty of crimes to choose from in the Criminal Code to curtail harassment, loitering and nuisance. </li></ul>

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