Lecture3

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Lecture3

  1. 1. The Social Construction of Crime, Part 2 How do definitions of crime vary over time and cross-culturally? What does this variation tell is about our own culture and society?
  2. 2. From last time: Why is criminal law an important object of social struggle and conflict? <ul><li>1. It expresses particular norms and values. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Public safety issues may (or may not) be involved. </li></ul><ul><li>3. It generates important constraints and opportunities. </li></ul><ul><li>4. It may affect power relations, as well as the distribution of resources. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Summary (of previous lecture) <ul><li>In modern societies, crime is created and defined by criminal law. </li></ul><ul><li>Criminal law is shaped by both cultural norms and politics (the distribution of power). </li></ul><ul><li>Criminal law has a number of important consequences beyond regulating behavior and public safety issues. It is therefore often hotly contested and controversial. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Historical Example: The Case of Vagrancy <ul><li>Who has been defined as a vagrant in the U.S. and elsewhere? </li></ul><ul><li>a. People without fixed home or livelihood </li></ul><ul><li>b. Make living by irregular work, informal economy, etc. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Vagrancy as a Crime <ul><li>Often defined as a crime as feudal systems break down. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>European case </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Post-Reconstruction southern United States </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Vagrancy as a Crime Today <ul><li>Was a crime until 1970’s, when Supreme Court ruled that a “status” could not be a crime. </li></ul><ul><li>Behaviors associated with homelessness have been re-criminalized: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>No sleeping/sitting laws </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No panhandling laws </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No sleeping in parks </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Explaining the New Vagrancy Laws <ul><li>Dramatic rise in homelessness in the 1980s: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dramatic cuts in federal housing subsidies and spending </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Increasing poverty and inequality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decarceration of mentally ill </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Also: rise of “post-industrial” urban economies <ul><li>Fewer industrial jobs and employers. </li></ul><ul><li>Urban economies more dependent on tourism, shopping, high-end service sector. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Global” cities compete to attract developers and large companies. </li></ul><ul><li>Yuppies reclaim the city; the “Fraser” ideal. </li></ul>
  9. 9. 3rd Factor: Broken Windows Policing <ul><li>Theory is that “disorder” and minor crimes invite serious crime. </li></ul><ul><li>Police are encouraged to be proactive and to focus on disorder. </li></ul><ul><li>Question: Why might this be appealing to police agencies? </li></ul>
  10. 10. Understanding the New Vagrancy Laws: Summary <ul><li>Increased homelessness </li></ul><ul><li>Development of post-industrial urban economy </li></ul><ul><li>Popularity of ‘broken windows policing’ </li></ul>
  11. 11. Why does it matter? <ul><li>Consequences of this approach to homelessness ? </li></ul><ul><li>Alternatives to it? </li></ul><ul><li>Summary: legal response to vagrancy/homelessness has complex social and political causes. </li></ul>
  12. 12. The Case of Drugs <ul><li>Drug use was not defined as a crime in 19 th century America </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Widely consumed in over the counter medicines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not treated as a significant social problem </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. The Criminalization of Drugs: Origins <ul><li>First local law: SF anti-opium legislation </li></ul><ul><li>First national law: Harrison Narcotics Act </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Re-interpreted by courts to prohibit doctors from supplying addicts (maintenance) </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. The Contemporary War on Drugs <ul><li>Intensified under Presidents Nixon and Reagan </li></ul><ul><ul><li>More money for border and law enforcement </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mandatory sentences adopted in 1986 (crack) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reduced judicial discretion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Amount of drugs key; role in enterprise irrelevant </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Number of arrests skyrocketed </li></ul>
  15. 15. U.S. Drug Arrests
  16. 16. Drug Arrest Rate by Race
  17. 17. Assumptions that Inform the U.S. Drug War <ul><li>People who use and sell drugs cause harm to themselves and others and should be punished. </li></ul><ul><li>Drug prohibition will reduce the supply and availability of drugs, and therefore decrease use. </li></ul><ul><li>The threat of punishment and rising cost of drugs will also deter drug use. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Assumptions that inform drug policy reform in some European countries <ul><li>No society can eliminate all drug use. </li></ul><ul><li>Not all drug use is problematic. </li></ul><ul><li>The goal should be to reduce the harm associated that is (sometimes) associated with drug use. </li></ul><ul><li>A public health approach better reduces the harm caused by drugs. </li></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>QUESTIONS TO PONDER </li></ul><ul><li>What does the U.S. approach to drugs tell us about our society (culture and politics)? </li></ul><ul><li>How do the consequences of the war on drugs and the harm reduction approach differ? </li></ul>
  20. 20. A Final Example: Debate Over Immigration Law <ul><li>Discuss Provisions of House Bill, dubbed “The Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What is at stake symbolically? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How would this law affect people’s opportunities and constraints? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How would this law impact the distribution of resources? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How would this law affect criminal justice institutions? </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Wrap-Up <ul><li>The cases of vagrancy, drugs and immigration law show how economic developments, race/ethnic relations, politics, and cultural factors all influence: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What we think of as crime. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How manage crime-related problems. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How we seek justice. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Will focus on the latter two next week. </li></ul>

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