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Crime Control in America

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There has long been a debate over which, if any, are the most effective methods of crime control. Governments from bottom to top in our nation have poured over the issue with mixed results for as long as there has been a nation. Until very recently deterrence was completely based on fear of punishment. However, recent years have provided us with a more complete understanding of crime and its roots among the more desirable parts of our society, specifically the mind of a criminal. Through the study of psychology, specifically free will, determinism and social identity, we may find that situational crime prevention is a better means to deter crime in our nation.

The debate over the proper course for effective crime control can be traced back to the famous treatise “On Crimes and Punishments” written by Cesare Beccaria in 1764. Beccaria’s work implies (rightly so) that potential law violators would be deterred if government agencies could swiftly detect, try and punish anyone who violates the criminal law. This exercise in disciplinary power is noted by Jokiranta; “In order to get hold of the hearts and minds of the members, the community has to get hold of their bodies” (Jokiranta, pg 10), and has been adopted by systems of criminal justice since their beginning with the London Metropolitan Police in 1829. Along with this approach came the stigma that criminals were predominantly born of poverty and misfortune.

Since the 1960’s, when criminal justice became the subject of serious academic study, significant debate has continued over the way in which crime control should be approached. Political scientist James Q. Wilson made the persuasive argument that most criminals are not poor unfortunates who commit crime to survive...

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In conclusion, we can see that social psychological theories can be used to identify a large part of what constitutes crime in America. Understanding the average criminal mind requires us to understand how a criminal might place themselves in our society. The concepts of determinism and free will may be the preliminary stepping stones to the mind of a criminal. If we begin the psychological analysis of a known criminal with his or her concept of free will and determinism, then determine their self imposed social identity we may discover psychological deterrents to the crime they committed. And by focusing on the understanding and developing of psychological deterrents we can reduce certain types of crime rates with less use of monetary resources than are spent today on the fear deterrent.

Works Cited

Challenge of Democracy
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