Deviance and Crime in the United States
Two pressing questions pertaining to deviance and crime will face us in the future: Is the solution to our "crime problem" more law and order? Is equal justice under the law possible? Although many people in the United States agree that crime is one of the most important problems in this country. they are divided over what to do about it Some of the frustration about crime might be based on unfounded fears; studies show that the overall crime rate has been decreasing slightly in recent years. One thing is dear: The existing criminal justice system cannot solve the "crime problem:' If roughly 20 percent of all crimes re, ilt in arrest, only half of those lead to a conviction in Sf 'ious cases, and less than 5 percent of those result in a jail term, the "lock em up and throw the key away" approach has little chance of succeeding. Nor does the high rate of recidivism among those who have been incarcerated speak weU for the rehabilitative efforts of our existing correctional facilities. Reducing street crime may hinge 'on finding ways to short-circuit criminal behavior.
One of the greatest challenges is juvenile offenders, who may become the adult criminals of tomorrow. However. instead of military-style boot camps or other stopgap measures, structural solutions-such as more and better education and jobs, affordable housing. more equality and less discrimination. and socially productive activities-are needed (0 reduce street crime. In the past, structural solutions such as these have made it possible for immigrants who initially committed' street crimes to leave the streets, get jobs. and lead productive ' lives. Ultimately. the best approach for delinquency and crime would be prevention: to work with young people before the} become juvenile offenders to help them establish family relationships, build self esteem. choose a career, and get an education that will help them pursue that career. Sociologist Elliott Currie (1998) has proposed that an initial goal in working to prevent delinquency and crime is to pinpoint specifically what kinds of preventive programs work and to establish priorities that preventative possible. Among these priorities are preventing child abuse and neglect. enhancing children's intellectual and social development, providing support and guidance to vulnerable adolescents. and working intensively with juvenile offenders (Currie. 1998 Is equal justice under the law possible]. As long as racism. sexism, classiness, and ageism exist in our society.
people will see deviant and criminal behavior through a selective lens. To solve the problems addressed in this chapter, we must ask ourselves, what we can do to ensure the rights of everyQn~c1y.ding... the poor. people of color, and women and men alike. Many of us can counter classism, racism. sexism. and rgeism where they occur. Perhaps the only way that he United States can have equal justice under the law in the future (and. perhaps, less crime as a result) is to promote social justice for individuals regardless of their race, class, gender, or age.