US Property Crime Rate
US Property Crime Rate

US Violent Crime Rate
US Violent Crime Rate

Brief History

Crime is an offense against the law or a behavior considered illegal by the legislative body.

Types of crime include: 1. Crime against property, such as theft or robbery. 2. Crimes against persons, such as assault, murder, and rape. 3. white-collar crimes, such as stock fraud and pricefixing. 4. Victimless crimes, such as public intoxication, vagrancy, sodomy, or pornography sale. 5. Political crimes, such as bribery and illegal campaign contributions

Theories about crime:
  • confinement, in which those individuals who commit a crime should be removed from society and have limited social privileges; their incarceration prevents further damage to the society
  • deterrence, in which people fear punishment associated with a crime, so they avoid commiting the crime
  • restorative justice, in which the offender feels a personal responsibility to the victim and attempts to repair the harm (such as community service) [1]
  • rehabilitation, in which a person is compelled by more than free will to commit a crime and the factors causing criminal behavior can be "fixed." [2]

Until the late 1960s, the federal system focused on fighting crime associated with gamboling and organized crime.
The modern "tough on crime" view of criminal justice emerged in the 1960s. Punishment became the focus of controlling crime, and a subsequent increase in incarceration took place. The "get tough" policies included harsher punishments for drug violations and the three strike penalty, in which multiple convictions can heighten the sentence (such as life in jail).
The War on Drugs has been a continuous battle for the United States since the latter half of the 1900s. Eisenhower created a committee to end narcotic addiction in 1954, but the War on Drugs was coined by Nixon in 1973. He created the Drug Enforcement Administration to start the global war. [3]

Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Policymaking Actions

  • Legislative
    • The legislative branch is responsible for making laws which citizens are expected to follow.
    • Example: Tough on Crime Omnibus Bill in Senate (2008)
  • Executive
    • The executive departments enforce the laws, including the police force.
    • The Department of Justice, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Agency; Fedral Bureau of Investigation; Federal Bureau of Prisons; Office of Justice Programs; United States Marshals Service
  • Judicial
    • The judicial branch adjudicates, and rules on cases when criminals mistreat the law.
    • The Warren Court expanded the rights of persons accused, so the accepted idea of severe treatment as a deterrence from criminal behavior became less effective
    • In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in Ropers v. Simmons that juveniles would not receive the death penalty.

Flow of Policymaking Through the Three Branches

Discussion of Interrelated Activity: Controlled Substances Act
Executive: 1969 - President Richard Nixon and Attorney General John Mitchell begin plans for a new plan: an amalgamation of previous federal narcotics and drug laws into a single law, (in response to increased drug abuse during the 1960s in America), communicate their plans to Congress

Legislative: Controlled Substances Act drafted in a House committee in 1970 which places drugs into “schedules” depending on their severity (Marijuana is placed in Schedule I, the most controlled category), establishes the Shafer Commission, a group that would study marijuana abuse in the U.S.

Judicial: Religious neutrality of Controlled Substance Act questioned, certain religious groups are angered because drugs on the Controlled Substances Act list are used for spiritual purposes: Employment Division v. Smith (1990)– state could deny unemployment benefits to a person found using peyote for religious purposes, case established that states have the power to, but are not required to, accommodate drug use for spiritual purposes

Role of Non-Governmental Groups

General Justice Advocacy Groups:
· American Bar Association (ABA) - Lobby group composed primarily of lawyers working on solutions to the nation's crime problem
· American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) - Interest group that uses whatever means necessary to preserve human rights, especially in the face of justice systems
· Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) - Nonprofit organization designed to reduce reliance on use of prison as solution to social problems
· Criminal Justice Policy Foundation - Conducts surveys and research on solutions to criminal justice problems like drug policy and policing
· International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) - One of the nation's oldest professional associations dedicated to police professionalism

Drugs - Pro-Decriminalization:[4]
· National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML)
· Drug Policy Foundation
· Common Sense for Drug Policy
· RxMarihuana
· Drug Reform Coordination Network

Political Cartoon

California Legalizing Marijuana

War on Drugs
Crime Fighters

Impact of Policymaking Actions on the American Public

Policymaking actions involving crime impacts every American, governing how we live our lives. It affects the laws that we have to live by and the punishment that we face after breaking those laws. It impacts Americans' attitudes toward the government and their society. When the government passes laws that instill fear of punishment, Americans are discouraged to commit crimes. However, some Americans remain uncrubed in their attitude towards crime; if someone has an inherent desire to commit crimes, then he or she only relies on himself to stop such actions from occuring. After the actions are committed, and only if caught, does the government then instill penalizations. These penalizations include fines, imprisonment, community service, etc. This creates a large prison system in America, with high prison populations. Americans' attitudes toward the government waver between a sytem that is too harsh on criminals (such as the death penalty) and a system that is not strong enough (lacks enforcement).
In addition, crime policy impacts the American public because the expenses of keeping criminals incarcerated continues to increase. Americans complain that too much tax money is spent in prison systems with an increase in inmates. This disheartens americans when studies have found that more money is spent on prison systems than on colleges by the states. [5]

Current Status of Policy Decisions

    • Obama on Crime:
      • During Obama's campaign, he took a stance to give ex-offenders job training, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, and employment opportunities. This plan will effectively re-integrate ex-offenders into society so they are successful members of America. In addition, the typical liberal belief is that the death penalty should be abolished and that imprisonment is the best sentence; however, Obama does not oppose the death penalty in heinous crimes. In Illinois, Obama led the way to require video taping of capital interrogations and confessions to insure that the death penalty was given only when absolutely necessary. [6]
      • Over the past ten years, there have been nearly 12,000 crimes based on sexual orientation alone. In October, Barack Obama signed a hate crime bill into law. The law makes ita federal crime to assault anyone on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. This was Obama's first major gay rights legislation. [7]
    • Legalizing Marijuana in California: Currently, the Controlled Substances Act bans the sale of marijuana in America. The Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act was a bill proposed to legally allow the sale and tax of marijuana in California to adults aged 21 and over. The marijuana must be used at the home, as using it in public would constitute a find of $100. The bill would remove criminal penalties associated with the possesion and cultivation of marijuana. While the bill passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee, it did not continue through the Health Committee. The bill may be introduced after the November elections. [8] This November, California's ballot will feature an initiative to legalize marijuana. This Initiative to Control and Tax Cannabis is similar in that it is calling for the legalization of the possession, cultivation, and transportation of marijuana for people aged 21 and older in California. Supporters call for reform because so many people have cannabis and current measures have clearly failed to control it. It will also circulate money into California's economy and save money used to convict people found with marijuana. However, others say that it will merely make marijuana more accessible and people will have worsened problems, as seen with alcohol and other drug addictions. [9]
    • Currently 35 states recognize and implement the death penalty. Research has shown that race discrimination is clearly present in the death penalty. Since 1999, the number of death sentences per year has declined. In 1999 there were 284 death sentences, while in 2009 there were 106. [10]

Analysis of Current Policy & Recommendations for Change

    • Dealing with recidivism: One problem with current policy is recidivism, or repeating an offense after facing punishment. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2/3 of the 650,000 inmates released from US prisons each year will be rearrested. Locking up criminals without reintegrating them into the community yields few positive results, as offenders become locked in a revolving door. To avoid the cycle of recidivism, Obama's stated approach to reform by implementing job training and counseling will benfit criminals.Another effective method to curb recidivism is to track recidivism rates from specific institutions so that certain institutions can be held accountable and make improvements. An increase in parole and probation officers in communities and an increase in officials in high risk schools can also be beneficial. If parole and probation officers were then given more power and authority, they could be more effective enforcers. [11]
    • The War on Drugs: The problem with the current war on drugs is that the attitudes of users still remain unchanged. The attitudes among the users are that drugs are acceptable, as evidenced by the many people of California who are now attempting to legalize marijuana for more than just medical purposes. Just as the school systems implemented programs, such as DARE, to curb smoking at younger ages, such measures must be taken to curb drug usage.

  1. ^ Restorative Justice. National institute of Justice. 2007.
  2. ^ Rehabilitation - What Is Rehabilitation?
  3. ^ Suddath, Claire. "The War on Drugs." Time. 25 March 2009.,8599,1887488,00.html
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Barack Obama on Crime. On the Issues.
  7. ^ Obama Signs Hate Crimes Bill Into Law.CNN.28 October 2009
  8. ^ "Information about A.B. 2254." Marijuana Policy Project.
  9. ^ Control & Tax Cannabis, California 2010.
  10. ^ Death Penalty Information Center. April 2010.
  11. ^ Newman, Jason. "Stop Revolving Door Justice." Progressive Policy Institute. 23 July 2008.