American crime rates are disproportionately high in comparison to other Western countries. The likelihood of someone being a victim or committing a crime in the US depends on a number of demographic factors and their positioning in the country (Reiman, 14).
Overall, minorities, men and people in less favorable economic conditions are more likely to commit crimes in most parts of the world (Garland, 25). The American population is highly multi-cultural an issue which complicates the societal challenges that contribute to crime. The higher the number of cultures in a country, the more diverse are their needs and reactions to their immediate environments (Reiman, 18). The disparities in the socio-economic statuses of different cultures and races in America raises the crime rates in the US as compared to western nations which have lesser cultures co-existing.
The rise in crime rates in America can also be attributed to lack of positive ways to handle societal factors leading to crime. The American society is highly capitalistic and the government tends to focus more attention in protecting the rich while neglecting the poor and underprivileged (Tonry, 29). This situation has led to some significant divide between the rich and the poor. The dynamics in world trade have heralded some economic hardships such as the recent global recession which led to rise in inflation. Crime rates increase as the cost of living and inflation increases as the poor and underprivileged strive to make a living.
The US government has also failed to institute effective ways to fight the escalation of crime. The fact that the US is made up of semiautonomous states with differing laws makes it hard for the federal government to formulate effective policies to address some issues such as mass incarceration (Gray, 45). The government has for instance failed to regulate gun control laws leading to an increase in the use of guns for violent crime activities. In addition, the problem of drug abuse in contemporary American society has also contributed to increased crime rates.
Incarceration is the holding up offenders in prisons or simply imprisonment. The American government has opted for incarceration as a means of containing crime within the country since the mid 20th century. By 2001 America has an estimated 2 million imprisoned people. The number of imprisoned people has risen over the years as several states have banned the death penalty and replaced it with life imprisonment. Mass incarceration is expensive to any country as the cost of maintaining prisoners and the prison systems is high. The holding of energetic and productive people in captivity denies the country of a significant workforce which could be vital growing the country’s economy. In the wake of tough economic times and recession it is imperative that the US government reviews its incarceration laws to reduce the number of people in prisons.
The US government can counteract the mass incarceration of offenders by introducing other correctional measures. One of these ways is the rehabilitation of the offenders through community work. The government can deploy convicted persons to work in community amenities such as hospitals, schools, parks and other social places. The politicization of crime would be an appropriate strategy to fight incarceration. Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign was anchored on proclaiming “crime in the streets” while Richard Nixon’s appeal for “law and order” resonated with a sizeable portion of the public. They were deemed as suitable method to counteract incarceration.
The American culture of individualism promoted incarceration. Societies that seek collective approaches to social welfare are able to eradicate crime. The formation of cohesive societies also translates to ability to address the root causes of crime. In highly individualistic societies like the American society, it is easier for people to impose pain or punishment on people on whom they do not personally know (Reiman, 21). If the American society became more stratified, people would advocate for lesser pain and harassing incarcerations even on people they do not know on a personal sense.
Measures to increase stratification between the high, middle and low class would be increasing the affordability of technology, improved housing systems, and increased affordability of education among others (Mauer, 67). The provision of these and other services would empower the minorities economically and therefore reduce crime rates and incarceration by extension.
In addition the government would counteract incarceration by offering suitable prisoner rehabilitation programs during probation. This prevents chances of a reformed criminal from relapsing and committing crime again (Zimring, Franklin & Gordon, 24). Quite a number of people currently in prison are in for a second or third time. If reformed prisoners were absorbed, cultured and empowered economically to start their lives afresh after prison, their chances of committing crime again would significantly reduce.
The best way to prevent mass incarceration of prisoners would be to educate the society on the demerits of crime. The government can also initiate programs to improve livelihoods among the poor and disadvantaged in the society. These measures are preventative and sustainable in the long term. In addition the deterrence of crime through educational campaigns would cost less as compared to doing the same by confining convicted persons to cells.
Gray, Tara. Exploring Corrections: A Book of Readings, Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2002. Print
Garland, David. The culture of control: crime and social order in contemporary society.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. Print.
Tonry, Michael H.. Sentencing matters. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Print.
Mauer, Marc, Race to Incarcerate ReadHowYouWant.com, 2010. Print
Reiman, Jeffrey. The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class and
Criminal Justice, 8th ed., Boston: Pearson Publishing. 2010. Print
Zimring, Franklin E., and Gordon Hawkins. Crime is not the problem lethal violence in America.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print.