Category Archives: Crime and Deviance

Alternative to the school-to-prison pipeline

In my last post I discussed the role the school-to-prison pipeline plays in increasing the gap in minority education. The consequences of zero tolerance school policies are many including stigmatization, dropping out of school, and/or getting a juvenile record. Some schools have begun to change their responses to deviance in schools by going away from zero tolerance policies and towards restorative justice models. Restorative justice is a proactive approach requiring wholesale cultural change in the punishment orientation of the school system based on improved responsibility and communication. The restorative justice program provides long-term change that emphasizes building relationships, improve behavior, reduce violence, and build community (Zehr, 2002).   (more…)

Avery Gordon’s “Ghostly Matters” and the Haunting of Sociological Research

 

Source: Ghostly Matters by Avery F. Gordon

Source: Ghostly Matters by Avery F. Gordon

I recently stumbled upon a unique analysis of the construction of social reality.  In Avery Gordon’s Ghostly Matters, haunting is a method of sociological research.  She argues, “To study social life one must confront the ghostly aspects of it” (7).  Ghostly Matters is her attempt to understand the complexities of social life through an analysis of the hauntings surrounding Sabina Spielrein, the desaparecido of Argentina and the lingering impact of racial slavery during the Reconstruction period in the United States.  Her book might be a conceptual call within the field of sociology to understand that which it represses, but her approach is truly interdisciplinary, in that she seeks to create a something “that belongs to no one” (ibid).

(more…)

The School-to-Prison Pipeline and the Minority Educational Gap

Retrieved from Getty images.

Retrieved from Getty images.

In a recent Sociology Lens post, Markus Gerke detailed the problem associated with President Obama’s rhetoric of individual responsibility for increasing opportunities for Latino and Black men. One component to President Obama’s initiative is to increase educational opportunities for these populations and Gerke correctly notes that the focus on individual responsibility ignores the structural barriers that limit these populations. Research suggests that a major factor in the educational achievement gap is the presence of the school-to-prison pipeline and the punishment of minority students at greater rates than white students. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Education notes that 5 percent of white students in the United States are suspended compared to 16 percent of black students.  Furthermore, researchers have documented racial disparities in school punishment for over 40 years with African-Americans accounting for 34 percent of suspensions nationwide, despite making up only 17 percent of the population (Browne, 2003).

(more…)

The Rapist’s Voice

Source: www.reddit.com/

Source: www.reddit.com/

 

**Warning: This posting contains content some readers may find disturbing.

Recently, a student told me about a 2012 Reddit thread where a Reddit user invited rapists to tell their stories and the motives behind their sexual assault(s).  Although the posts and all comments connected to the post were eventually deleted, the thread sparked heated debates not only on Reddit but on Jezebel and in the Huffington Post. And despite the site’s attempt to remove the content of the thread, it took me less than fifteen minutes find a large section of the postings and comments in the Museum of Reddit.

My initial reaction to this content was disgust and outrage.  I was concerned about the way a forum like this could re-victimize survivors and even validate sexual assault.  I was not the only one who found the thread dangerous.  A psychiatrist responded to the thread arguing that a forum like Reddit’s can be a trigger for rapists and would be rapists.

(more…)

The U.S. Military’s Sexual Assault Problem

Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault hosts conference at Liberty Field House. Conference helps raise awareness and combat sexual assault. Retrieved from wiki commons

Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault hosts conference at Liberty Field House. Conference helps raise awareness and combat sexual assault. Retrieved from wiki commons.

The United States Senate failed to pass a bill that would have altered the military’s response to sexual assault.  The bill, sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) would have stripped senior military commanders of their authority to prosecute or prevent charges for alleged rapes and other serious offenses in favor of giving the authority to military trial lawyers operating under a newly established office independent of the chain of command.  The vote fell 5 votes short of the 60 necessary to move ahead with the legislation, with opponents of the bill arguing that commanding officers should be given more responsibility in preventing and punishing sexual offenses and that removing power from commanders threatens the organization of the military. The bill failed to pass despite multiple news reports revealing the extent of sexual assaults in the military and the lack of response by military commanders. (more…)

West Virginia Chemical Spill as State-Corporate Crime

West Virginia citizens wait in line to retrieve clean water.

West Virginia citizens wait in line to retrieve clean water.

On January 9, 2014 government officials in West Virginia discovered that over 7,500 gallons of chemicals used to clean coal had leaked out of a Freedom Industries’ chemical facility and into the nearby Elk River. The location of the leaking storage facilities was just upriver from the largest treatment facility in West Virginia affecting over 300,000 residents throughout the state. Immediately discovering the leak, government officials notified the residents of Charleston and surrounding areas to stop using tap water. The government warned against water usage for drinking, cooking, and bathing. The chemicals spilled caused skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, and wheezing to several residents. (more…)

Do Guns Make Women’s Lives Safer?

By Francois Polito (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

One of our readers responded to my previous article on the construction of rapists vs normal men in the media and the related issue of how to best respond to popular assertion that guns could play an effective role in women’s self-defense against rape. While agreeing with my overall analysis, she is looking for argumentative tools of how to counter ‘pro gun for self-defense against rape’ style arguments. Her question comes down to this: “The ‘change the society’ rhetoric makes the very concrete threats against women on a daily basis too abstract. Arguments [that advocate guns for self-defense against rape] keep the rhetoric concrete and practical and very present for very real women. And I haven’t yet found a gun regulation… argument that adequately challenges [the] point that in today’s society as it is, a woman can defend herself with a gun better than by any other means.” This is a valid question: Could it be the case that a society without firearms would be preferable from a moral standpoint, yet firearms might allow women to protect themselves in the here and now? This article is an attempt to argue why guns do not in fact make the lives of women safer.

(more…)

Catching “Affluenza:” The role of money in Criminal Justice

Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/12/ethan_couch_affluenza_defense_critique_of_the_psychology_of_no_consequences.html

Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/12/ethan_couch_affluenza_defense_critique_of_the_psychology_of_no_consequences.html

The prosecution of 16 year old Ethan Couch has garnered considerable media attention in the past two weeks. Couch was accused of killing four pedestrians while high on valium and under the influence of alcohol. With a truck full of friends, Couch crashed into a group of pedestrians. The outcry from this case is twofold. First, Couch’s defense attorney argued that he could not be held fully responsible for his actions because he suffered from “affluenza.” Second, this defense worked and Couch was found guilty but only sentenced to 10 years under correctional probation. Couch, 16, was sentenced to 10 years under correctional probation for his actions. Couch never denied his actions, rather his defense argued that Couch’s dysfunctional upbringing was the reason for his actions and he deserves therapy over incarceration.  (more…)

Everyday Deviancy and the Web

ntu.ac.uk

ntu.ac.uk

 

Since the credit crunch of 2008, and the global financial crisis swept around the world, a new rogue’s gallery of folk devils have been the focus of media opprobrium. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has ceased to talk about ‘Broken Britain’, how everyone is ‘in it together’ and of the laissez-faire, small government ideology epitomised by the ‘big society’. Perhaps this is because the discourse sounds too hypocritical even for a politician to espouse. As jobs are lost, wages decline and the cost of living rises, the media has found a new set of folk devils to vilify, and the public to boo and hiss at. These include tax dodging millionaires, bankers engaging in a casino of shady deals and rigging interest rates, politicians fiddling expenses and associating with people involved in a criminal conspiracy of hacking phones to get the jump on other media rivals.  Even the summer riots in 2011 in the UK could only hold the headlines for a short while before the media engaged in a form of self-cannibalisation with the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics of the print media. It is no wonder; therefore, that deviancy is once again emerging as an important theory to consider within criminology after a period of disregard. This is evident with the re-emergence of the York Deviancy Conference in 2011 and the continued development of cultural criminology (Ferrell, Hayward and Young 2009). However, set between the polar extremes of the usual folk devils of feral kids and the corruption of the powerful elite is a forgotten group. What about people engaged in online deviant behaviours – everyday actions which are too nuanced and accepted to be deemed criminal, such as downloading or purchasing items that are outside of regulation or counterfeit, like medicine? Analysing such behaviours through a deviant lens can make transparent that which the Web renders opaque and shift our attention to the way that the Web has helped create novel forms of deviancy. (more…)

Heavy Metal Music and Sociological Imagination

Iron Maiden. Somewhere Back in Time Tour, 2008. Source: Anne Varak

Iron Maiden. Somewhere Back in Time Tour, 2008.
Source: Anne Varak

As a kid I loved heavy metal.  The overly bright, distorted anthem-like electric guitar solo.  The accompanying rhythmic pulse was reminiscent of a battle snare drum, a hallucination of a military march.  The drum roll and the introduction of the power chord, a series of musical intervals of a perfect fourth repeated over and over again.  When the vocalist entered the picture, singing at the lower end of his range and producing clear tones that were such a deep contrast to the tainted electric guitar chords that the emotional intensity of the song would be turned up a notch.  And just when I’d adjust to the cacophony of sounds, the singer would burst into a virtuosity of vocal jumps, which at times produced pitches so high in the vocalist’s falsetto that it is unclear if he is singing or screaming.

Despite my parents’ critiques, the emergence of heavy metal did more than produce a vehicle for headbanging; it changed popular music.  The lyrics of heavy metal addressed social problems such as discrimination and inequality. Youth crime was also connected to heavy metal.  For example, in the 1994 three teen boys were convicted of murdering three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas.  During the trials, prosecutors highlighted the boys’ interest in the occult and heavy metal music.

(more…)