Chapter 1 The Problem of Social Control
What is crime? An action taken by a person or a group of people that violates the rules of a society to the point that someone is harmed or the interests of that society are harmed.
What we know about crime is often based on incomplete information. • We tend to personalize. • All crime is local. • Crime statistics do not tell the whole story. • We sometimes let our prejudices affect our thinking. • We have a limited idea of the dangers to our health and safety.
Three broad categories of crime… • Sensational crime • Street crime • Corporate crime, white-collar crime, and organized crime
Sensational crime • Much of what we think we know about crime comes to us from the media. • Certain offenses are selected for their sensational nature and made into national issues.
Street crime • Includes a wide variety of acts both in public and private spaces, including interpersonal violence and property crime. • These are the offenses most often included in measurements of crime. • Those with the least likelihood of being victimized often fear crime the most.
Corporate crime, white collar crime, and organized crime • Corporate crime: the breaking of laws in the lawful pursuit of profit. • White collar crime: employees harming a business. • Organized crime: individuals working together systematically to break the law.
Levels of Government • Law enforcement, courts, and corrections tasks are divided differently across the local, state, and federal branches of government. • Criminal justice responsibilities are spread unevenly across different levels of government. • An overlap exists between jurisdictions in terms of appeal and oversight functions.
Local-level Criminal Justice • Most law enforcement authority lies at the local level. • The chief law enforcement officer for each county is the sheriff. • There are more than 3,000 sheriff's departments in the United States. • Incorporated cities usually have their own police departments.
State-level Criminal Justice • Law enforcement functions at the state level are usually confined to specialized missions. • Most of court action is at the state level. • Most states divide their courts into multi-county judicial circuits that rule on state law.
State highway patrol units are responsible for maintaining safety on the state roads and interstate highways and also may issue driver's licenses. Most states have investigative agencies and crime labs. State-level law enforcement is usually confined to specialized missions.
Federal-level Criminal Justice • Law enforcement functions include several agencies that enforce federal laws and assist state and local governments. • The federal court system parallels the state system and processes offenders who break federal laws. • The federal government has its own correctional system for those convicted of federal offenses.
It is useful to envision the criminal justice system as a large funnel in which cases move downward toward their final disposition.
The Funnel EffectOffenses At the wide mouth of the funnel are all the crimes committed in society, including every murder, rape, burglary, insurance fraud, shoplifting, and car theft.
The Funnel EffectCrimes known to the police The first real measure of crime, these are the behaviors that the police include in reports and are officially measured.
The Funnel EffectInvestigation Police do their best to solve crimes. They gather tissue samples and fingerprints, talk with witnesses and victims, and examine police records of potential suspects.
The Funnel EffectArrests Once the police become aware that a law has been broken, they make an arrest if there is enough evidence. Clearance rates can vary widely depending on the type of crime and the priorities of the law enforcement agency.
The Funnel EffectBooking Booking occurs at the police station, where vital information is recorded. Usually, the suspect is held for further questioning.
The Funnel EffectCharges filed by the prosecutor Of all arrests, only a percentage result in a person being charged with an offense. The prosecutor uses discretion to decide which cases to eliminate from the system.
The Funnel EffectGrand Jury Grand juries decide whether enough evidence exists to justify an indictment and a trial.
The Funnel EffectInitial Appearance, Preliminary Hearing, & Arraignment Suspects must be brought before a judge within a reasonable time for an initial appearance. The suspect is formally charged.
The Funnel EffectBail/Bail Bonding Bail money is paid to the court to ensure that a suspect who is released from jail will appear in court.
The Funnel EffectPlea Bargaining The plea bargaining stage is one of the points in the criminal justice system that results in a large attrition of cases.
The Funnel EffectTrial Few cases actually make it to trial. Of the cases that go to trial, only a small percentage end up in guilty verdicts.
The Funnel EffectSentencing Depending on the offense, a sentence can range from a fine and community service to several years in prison to life imprisonment to death.
The Funnel EffectProbation Occurs either after the trial as part of the sentence or instead of a trial as part of a plea bargaining agreement.
The Funnel EffectAppeal A written request to a higher court to modify or reverse the decision of a trial court or intermediate-level appellate court.
The Funnel EffectPrison Relatively few of the people that the police arrest go to prison.
The Funnel EffectParole Parole occurs after prison. Inmates who successfully adjust to prison life may receive early, supervised release.
The Funnel EffectCapital Punishment A relatively rare event and one for which only a small proportion of offenders are even eligible. Several states do not employ capital punishment.
Why some offenses are excluded from the system... • Cost • Discretion • Errors
The criminal justice system has multiple goals. • Deterrence • Incapacitation • Retribution • Rehabilitation • Restoration
Crime: A Social ResponsibilityThe primary institution of socialization in society is the family. Other institutions include: • Religion • Schools • The Media
The System of Last ResortThe criminal justice system has a difficult mission for several reasons, including: • Offenders • Resources • Structure
The System of Last ResortIndividual vs. Societal Responsibility for Crime • Critical criminology contends that the individual offender is not solely to blame for crime. • Critical criminology considers racism, sexism, ageism, and wealth disparity. • Critical theory: The wealthy and powerful use the criminal justice system to enhance their social position.
Questions • Why do we sometimes have a faulty idea of the nature of crime in the United States? • What are the goals of the criminal justice system? • Why is the criminal justice system considered the system of last resort?