Crime and public policy. [James Q Wilson; Joan Petersilia;] — Crime in the United States has fluctuated considerably over the past thirty years, as have the policy. Crime and Public Policy has 43 ratings and 2 reviews. Endria said: This book is a James Q. Wilson (Editor),. Joan Petersilia (Editor). · Rating details · James Quinn Wilson, Joan Petersilia Published in in Oxford ;New York, NY by Crime and public policy / edited by James Q. Wilson and Joan Petersilia.

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This introduction to the book starts by defining crime. It explains that cross-national agreement about what should and should not be considered as criminal is narrower than is sometimes recognized. Examples are given of various acts that are regarded as criminal in some countries but not others.

Crime and its control raises many instrumental, expressive, emotional, and moral issues, the text states. The layout of peterilia book is outlined and some noncontroversial conclusions are offered. Next this introductory text looks at broad public policy approaches for dealing with crime: Next rates and trends are detailed and the costs associated are analysed. Finally this introductory section of the book looks at choosing the right policies.

C rimelike death and taxes, will always be with us. Stupidity, cupidity psychopathy, greed, intoxication, polich emotion, and impulsiveness are part of the human condition, much as we might wish it were otherwise, and all societies have to deal with their effects. Not all harmful behaviors are criminal. What is harmful and what is not varies with time and space. Some behaviors, such as killings, rapes, robberies, serious assaults, and taking other people’s property, are criminal in almost all places.

Some behaviors, such as witchcraft, heresy, adultery, homosexuality, and gambling, are not now pstersilia in most Western countries, but in earlier times they were.

Other behaviors, such as child abuse, domestic violence, drug use, prostitution, and environmental despoliation, were until recently generally not considered the law’s business, though now they are. And still other behaviors, including cybercrime, identity theft, human smuggling, hate crimes, and money laundering, became significant crimes only when they recently became technologically possible or were legally proscribed. Cross-national agreement about what should and should not be considered criminal is narrower than is sometimes recognized.

Crime and Public Policy

It is conventional to contrast developed Western countries with others, but that is an oversimplification. In many Muslim countries heresy, apostasy, homosexuality, adultery, and failure to observe important cultural conventions remain crimes. In Turkey acts or words showing disrespect for the nation can be criminally prosecuted. However, it is a mistake to assume that even Western countries’ notions of what counts as crime are congruent.

In much of continental Europe Holocaust denial petersila a crime, and people are occasionally prosecuted and imprisoned for it; the First Amendment of the U.

Crime and Public Policy by James Q. Wilson

Constitution forbids such laws. In England, Scotland, publiic some other European countries private possession of handguns and public possession of knives with blades longer than seven inches are crimes; some Americans believe that the Second Amendment to the U.

Constitution makes criminalization of handgun possession unconstitutional. The law allows for imposition oolicy prison sentences for engaging in prostitution as a form of antisocial behavioreven though English criminal ;olicy long ago decriminalized prostitution, and for begging as antisocial behavioreven though English criminal law does not authorize prison sentences for begging Burney Prostitution has been legalized in a number of European countries, polucy drug use and minor trafficking have been decriminalized.

Any adult tourist or other adult in the Netherlands can legally buy marijuana in coffee shops, and addicts can obtain maintenance doses of other substances from approved medical sources. Italy and Spain likewise tolerate levels and forms of drug distribution that U. Sweden, by contrast, is as intolerant of drug use as is the United States, but is much less punitive about it.


In much of Europe unlawful entry into the country is not a criminal act, though in the United States it is. Some of the differences described in the preceding few paragraphs are the products of fundamental national differences in judgments about the pettersilia of particular cultural values.

Dutch tolerance of drugs and prostitution, Austrian intolerance of Holocaust denial, and some Muslim countries’ unwillingness to tolerate nontraditional styles of dress are outgrowths of deeply bedded cultural norms, however much outsiders may disagree with them. As cultural norms change, which over time they do, laws change with them, but the transitional periods are typically rocky.

Other differences described in the preceding paragraphs, however, do not so much reflect cultural differences about the desirability of behavior as they do divergent opinions about the most effective ways to deal with it.

Dutch drug policies, for example, are predicated on the ideas that less aggregate social harm will result from tolerant than from repressive drug policies, and that treating addicts as unfortunates needing state support will convert them in the eyes of young people p. Dutch tolerance of drug use and low-level trafficking is as much a public policy about crime as is American intolerance and prohibitionism.

Which is better cannot be answered in any absolute way. Crime and its control raise a motley of instrumental, expressive, emotional, and moral issues about which reasonable people differ. A purely rational approach to drug policy in the United States based on cost-benefit analyses would involve decriminalization of use, regulation of distribution, greatly reduced use of criminal sanctions, and use of greatly reduced criminal sanctions.

Such approaches have been beyond reach in recent decades because for some U. Sometimes qnd laws are as much defenses of the values of dominant social groups as they are efforts to avoid harms associated with drug or alcohol use. With so many different kinds of crime, so many ways of thinking about them, and so many ways to deal with them, policy making is contested and complicated.

This short article provides a bit peterislia background. Section I sets out a typology of policy approaches criminal law enforcement, prevention, regulation, decriminalization, harm reduction, nonintervention peersilia operate sometimes as alternatives, sometimes ptersilia complements.

Wnd II discusses data on crime rates, patterns, trends, and costs. Systematic knowledge and analysis concerning most types of crime are remarkably primitive compared with such subjects as petersillia economy, public health, and education and dentistry, as James K.

Stewart, onetime director of the U. The amount of money devoted to research and evaluation of crime control policy, the size of the specialist research communities, and the quality of petesilia data systems crme meager compared with those relating policcy other policy subjects.

Nonetheless, a few relatively noncontroversial conclusions can be offered about crime and public policy:. It is difficult to conclude that recent tough police practices and sentencing laws explain the American decline; no other country adopted comparable policies, and simultaneous declines occurred in many of them.

Pubkic serious violent crimes have almost certainly also been declining, but this is less clear because reduced tolerance of violence means that relatively more p. Seemingly higher rates of violence in some countries in recent years probably reflect higher rates of reporting and recording, sometimes more than offsetting, and thereby camouflaging, absolute declines. Anecdotal and journalistic reports suggest that most of these behaviors are becoming more common, but we have no valid and reliable sources of data about them, so it is hard to know what to believe.

For other types of crime, no one has seriously attempted to estimate costs e. Some, such as the United States, England, and New Zealand, rely on deterrence and incapacitation to attempt to control crime.

Others, notably the Nordic countries, are skeptical about these approaches and rely on punishment’s wileon educative effects coupled with strong social welfare approaches. Some countries have high imprisonment rates and others have low rates. Some countries send comparatively few people to prison but for long periods; others send comparatively many but for short periods. Some favor short sentences; others oppose short sentences as destructive. Some have experienced five- and sevenfold increases in imprisonment rates in recent decades; some have experienced slight or no increases.


Finland and Japan experienced sharp decreases from tothough Japanese rates have increased since then. Crime is a legal concept; strictly speaking, a behavior becomes a crime only after a legislature has defined it to be one. In individual cases, acts become crimes only tentatively when a prosecution is initiated and only conclusively when a conviction is entered.

In some countries, and for some kinds of crime, policy makers have decided that preventive, regulatory, and harm-reduction approaches are more effective than criminal law enforcement. Aims, Methods, and Functions. Six broad public policy approaches are available for dealing with crime: Sometimes these are alternatives, sometimes complements.

Criminal law enforcement is what the criminal justice system does. Police investigate crimes and arrest people. Prosecutors decide whether or not to initiate a prosecution and if so, for what.

They negotiate guilty pleas, try cases, and make recommendations to judges about sentences. Judges preside over pretrial proceedings and trials, review and accept or, rarely, reject guilty pleas, and impose sentences.

Corrections authorities puublic different sorts run prisons, jails, and probation and parole systems. Governors and the U. Legislatures enact and revise laws defining crimes and governing penalties.

Sometimes these laws set ranges within which judges may make decisions e. In describing roles of officials and agencies, the preceding description gives a false impression of U. To the contrary, the system is highly discretionary. Police puhlic decide to make an arrest, or not. Prosecutors may charge suspects with serious crimes, less serious crimes, or no crime at all. Petersiliz may divert obviously guilty suspects into treatment programs.

They exercise discretion to make and withdraw charges and to make plea bargains that, constitutionally, is almost unreviewable.

Judges sometimes have broad discretion to individualize sentences, and when they legally lack such authority they can cooperate with plea-bargaining lawyers to avoid application of mandatory minimum or three-strikes sentences they consider too severe.

Judges do not always exercise discretion to avoid imposition of unjustly severe sentences, however; sometimes they impose them. The system is so riddled with discretion that wide disparities in how cases are handled are inevitable. This can be portrayed as good officials can take into account ethically meaningful differences between cases or bad officials are not good at individualizing and often treat comparable cases starkly differently.

The criminal justice system is premised on legal threats. Criminalization broadcasts the message that certain behavior is forbidden, and sentencing laws threaten what may happen if citizens ignore the criminal law’s adjurations. Conventionally it is said that criminal sanctions do their work through deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and moral education. The evidence about deterrence is uncertain and contested.

The fairest generalizations are that certainty and celerity of punishment are more important than p. Others conclude that a deterrent effect can be confirmed—sometimes, for some crimes, and under some circumstances—but that existing knowledge is so fragmentary that it has no practical relevance to policy Cook ; Nagin a.

There is no doubt that some sentences incapacitate some offenders, but there is doubt about the incapacitative efficiency of imprisonment e.

Some prisoners will not reoffend in any case. Some, such as drug traffickers and gang members, will quickly be replaced; the crime will go on, the criminal will not. Even most career criminals desist by their thirties. A classic analysis of incapacitation concluded that its policy relevance is questionable J. The evidence about rehabilitation has been changing rapidly.

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