Social Issues and Justice

Prior to beginning work on this assignment, read Chapters 9 and 10 from the required textbook. Select and then define a significant social issue faced by the justice system, evaluate the scope and consequences of the issue, and analyze society’s responses to the issue (including public policies and other less formal responses). Papers should also present a clearly reasoned alternative, supported by scholarly research.

While the following example can be modified to suit your needs, this outline is likely to result in a high-quality Final Paper:

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  • Identify the problem. Be sure to narrow your problem enough to allow a focused examination.
  • Describe the individual, social, and criminal justice system implications of this problem. Discussion of implications should be supported by accurate research data.
  • Summarize what experts say about the problem.
  • Explain what you, as a society, have done to remedy this problem. Consider public policies and other, less formal responses.
  • Analyze to what extent public policies and other, less formal responses are effective in addressing this problem.
  • Propose an alternative solution to the problem.
  • Analyze why the alternative is or can be, an effective response to the problem. Remember to consider the negative consequences of the alternative response.
  • Conclude with your thoughts about your chosen social problem. This is a good place to include personal opinions, assuming you wish to share them in a research paper.

In short, define a problem, discuss the response, and provide alternative responses to the problem. For example, your problem could be drug use/abuse, with a focus on prescription drug abuse among teenagers. Your description of the problems should be fact based, relying on expert opinion. Your alternative response can be an adjustment to the current policy or a new direction. For example, you may propose longer prison sentences or the legalization of all drugs. Be creative, although suggestions must be supported by scholarly research.

Social issue: human trafficking 

The Final Paper

  • Must be 8 to 10 double-spaced pages in length (not including title and references pages) and formatted according to APA style as outlined in the UAGC Writing Center (Links to an external site.)’s APA Style (Links to an external site.)
  • Must include a separate title page with the following:

    Title of paper
    Student’s name
    Course name and number
    Instructor’s name
    Date submitted

    For further assistance with the formatting and the title page, refer to APA Formatting for Word 2013 (Links to an external site.).

  • Must include an abstract. See the Writing an Abstract (Links to an external site.) resource for additional guidance.
  • Must utilize academic voice. See the Academic Voice (Links to an external site.) resource for additional guidance.
  • Must include an introduction and conclusion paragraph. Your introduction paragraph needs to end with a clear thesis statement that indicates the purpose of your paper.
  • For assistance on writing Introductions & Conclusions (Links to an external site.) as well as Writing a Thesis Statement (Links to an external site.), refer to the Ashford Writing Center resources.
  • Must use at least 3 scholarly sources in addition to the course text, at least three of which can be found in the UAGC Online Library, to support your claims and sub-claims.

    The Scholarly, Peer-Reviewed, and Other Credible Sources (Links to an external site.) table offers additional guidance on appropriate source types. If you have questions about whether a specific source is appropriate for this assignment, please contact your instructor. Your instructor has the final say about the appropriateness of a specific source for a particular assignment.

  • Must document any information used from sources in APA style as outlined in the UAGC Writing Center’s Citing Within Your Paper (Links to an external site.)
  • Must include a separate references page that is formatted according to APA style as outlined in the UAGC Writing Center. See the Formatting Your References List (Links to an external site.) resource in the UAGC Writing Center for specifications.

Carefully review the

Grading Rubric (Links to an external site.)

for the criteria that will be used to evaluate your assignment.


9Crime in Schools and the Workplace

Ed Andrieski/Associated Pres


Learning Outcomes
After reading this chapter, you should be able to

• Discuss the nature and extent of crime at primary and secondary schools, including effects of such
crime and methods and policies to address them.

• Discuss the nature and extent of crime at college and universities, including effects of such crime
and methods and policies to address them.

• Discuss the nature and extent of crime in the workplace, including effects of such crime and
methods and policies to address them.

• Explain why crimes occur at schools and in the workplace.

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

On April 20, 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 students and one teacher at
Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, before killing themselves. Although the
attack occurred at a public high school, it was not typical of school shootings elsewhere in the
nation. Indeed, their intention was to kill everyone at the school, including law enforcement
officers, first responders, and parents by detonating bombs rigged in their cars.

According to the most definitive account of the attacks, both boys participated in and planned
for the assault but for vastly different reasons (Cullen, 2009). One was an angry young man
who hated his classmates as well as many other people in the world that appeared in his “hit
list.” The other boy was clinically depressed and wanted to die. The boys purchased guns,
knives, and explosives online and meticulously planned their attacks, even setting off bombs
elsewhere for practice.

Their plan was to detonate a bomb in the cafeteria after first period, when more than 500
students would be present. The boys hid in their cars, armed with guns and additional
explosives. They hoped to kill anyone who had survived the initial blast when they ran from
the front entrance of the school. Their final act was supposed to end with the boys crashing
their car, packed with explosives, into first responders, killing themselves in the process.

Fortunately, their largest propane bombs failed to go off, but the boys used their guns—as
well as Molotov cocktails—to kill classmates in the cafeteria and library. After 49 minutes and
188 rounds of ammunition, 13 people lay dead and 24 more were wounded.

9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime
Though the Columbine High School massacre shocked the nation, such crime is actually rare
in schools. In fact, given the number of students, teachers, and other personnel in schools on
any given day, it is quite astounding how few violent episodes there are. To track violence in
schools, each year, the United States Department of Justice and United States Department
of Education publish Indicators of School Crime and Safety. This report presents data from
various sources, including the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the Youth Risk
Behavior Survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as
the Schools and Staffing Survey and School Survey on Crime and Safety from the National
Center on Education Statistics (NCES). These data allow us to gain great insight into both the
nature and extent of deaths, violent crime, property crime, student victimization, and teacher
victimization that occurs at schools.

The data also show the prevalence of bullying, cyberbullying, gang activity, drug use, and hate
crimes occurring at schools, as well as the effects of these offenses on students, teachers,
communities, and society. Each of these terms is defined in this chapter. Table 9.1 shows
the extent of various nonfatal crimes that occurred at American schools in 2017 as well as
homicides and suicides that occurred at schools during the 2015–2016 school year (the
latest years for which NCES data is available).

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

School Crime Is Rare
Table 9.1 makes several points about school crime in America. First, crime is actually quite
rare given the number of students and teachers on school campuses and the amount of time
they spend there. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2019c), there
were about 55.6 million students expected to attend elementary and secondary schools
during the 2019–2020 school year. If students go to school for 9 months of the year, 5 days
a week, and for about 7 hours each day, each student spends a total of about 1,400 hours in
school per year. Given this, it is surprising that there is not more crime at schools, which hold
at any time millions of young people in the phase of their lives when they are most likely to
commit street crime because of their age (see Chapter 5).

However, these numbers show only crimes reported or discovered by schools. Many crimes,
including minor crimes, but also even some serious crimes, remain undetected because they
go unreported. Thus, the prevalence of school crime is likely greater than reflected in these
data. Second, most crimes that occur on school campuses are nonviolent in nature, especially
when you consider minor crimes not shown in the table (e.g., vandalism). And even of the
violent crimes, most are not serious in nature, meaning they do not generally lead to bodily

The data on school crime show an interesting paradox. For example, most deaths of young
people through murder and suicide do not occur at school. Of the 1,478 homicides of children
ages 5–18 years during the 2015–2016 school year, only 18 occurred at school (NCES, 2018a).

Table 9.1: Extent of crimes at American schools

Total nonfatal victimizations
(2017, ages 12–18 years) 827,00


Thefts* 30


Violence* 4


Serious violence* 1



Total fatal victimizations
(2015–2016, ages 5–18) 37



 of students 18

Suicides 7

 of students 3

*Rounded to the nearest 1,000.

Source: From “Table 228.25. Number of nonfatal victimizations against students ages 12–18 and
rate of victimization per 1,000 students, by type of victimization, location, and selected student
characteristics: 2017” in Digest of Education Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics,
2018 ( and “Table 228.10.
School-associated violent deaths of all persons, homicides and suicides of youth ages 5–18 at
school, and total homicides and suicides of youth ages 5–18, by type of violent death: 1992–93
through 2015–16” in Digest of Education Statistics, National Center for Educational Statistics,
2018 (

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

Further, of the 1,941 suicides of the same age group, only 3 occurred at school. This means
roughly 1% of murders and fewer than 1% of suicides occurred at school.

However, the rate of victimization of students for theft and violence for students was higher
at school overall (33 victimizations per 1,000 students) than away from school (20 victimiza-
tions per 1,000 students) (NCES, 2018b). This is likely because students spend more hours
(while awake) at school per week than they do away from school. And time spent at school is
time spent around lots of other young people—the very people most likely to commit street
crime. That is, there is simply more opportunity for children to commit and to be victimized
by crimes at school than away from school.

Overall student victimization rates both at and away from school have been steadily declining
since 1992 (see Figure 9.1). Similarly, victimization by gender and race decreased between
2001 and 2017, with a 3% drop for male and female students, as well as for Black and His-
panic students. White students reported a 4% decrease in victimization during this same
period (NCES, 2018c).

Figure 9.1: Rate of victimization per 1,000 students at school and away from
school, 1992–2017

Since the early 1990s, the number of reported criminal victimizations at schools and away from
schools has decreased.

Note: Due to a sample increase and redesign in 2016, victimization estimates among youth in 2016 were not comparable to
estimates for other years.

Based on data from “Table 228.20. Number of nonfatal victimizations against students ages 12–18 and rate of victimization per
1,000 students, by type of victimization and location: 1992 through 2017” in Digest of Education Statistics by National Center for
Education Statistics, 2018 (












‘92 ‘93 ‘94

‘95 ‘96 ‘97 ‘98 ‘99 ‘00 ‘01 ‘02 ‘03 ‘04 ‘05 ‘06 ‘07 ‘08 ‘09 ‘10 ‘11 ‘12 ‘13 ‘14 ‘15 ‘17

At school Away from school

Note: Due to a smaple increase and redesign in 2016, victimization estimates among youth in
2016 were not comparable to estimates for other years.

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

Media reports of school crime tend to create misconceptions of a danger that is actually quite
small for the overwhelming majority of school users. For example, coverage of the mass mur-
der over two decades ago at Columbine High School, discussed at the beginning of the chapter,
was so widespread and intense that many parents were afraid to let their kids go to school
and some simply refused to let their children attend (Robinson, 2011). Online sources such
as the National Center for Victims of Violent Crime (2008) contribute to the misconceptions
by making claims such as this: “Our nation’s schools, once a protected haven for learning and
growth, are no longer safe for teachers or students in many of our nation’s communities.” In
fact, schools are quite safe.

Even some of the data from the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education
(Musu et al, 2019) make it seem like school crime is worse than it really is. For example, it was
reported that during the 2015–2016 school year, 69% of public schools recorded one or more
violent incidents, and about 39% reported at least one act of theft. This suggests crime occurs
at nearly all schools. Yet, only 16% reported serious violent incidents, meaning a crime like
sexual assault, physical attack, or robbery.

Further, in 2017, only 2.2% of students ages 12–18 years reported being victimized by any
crime at school, including 1.5% who reported theft victimization and .7% who reported
violent victimization (Musu et al., 2019). In other words, nearly all students are not victimized
by crime at school.

About 1 in 5 students reports being offered, sold, or given drugs (Musu et al, 2019), but these
are only high school students, so drugs are actually not this prevalent in all schools (drugs are
far less prevalent at elementary schools). One in 10 students in 2017 reported gangs were
present in their high school, a dramatic drop from 1 in 5 students who reported that gangs
were present in their schools in 2001 (Musu et al, 2019).

About 23% of students reported seeing hate-related graffiti at school in 2017, and about 6%
were victims of hate-related words at school. As we will discuss in the next section, bullying
of all kinds impacts about 20% of students ages 12–18 (Musu et al, 2019).

Bullying includes being made fun of, called names, insulted, the subject of rumors, pushed,
shoved, tripped, spit on, threatened with harm, excluded from activities on purpose, forced
by others to do things you don’t want to do, and having one’s property destroyed by others on
purpose. According to the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education (Musu
et al, 2019), in 2017 13% of students ages 12–18 reported being made fun of, called names, or
insulted; 13% were the subject of rumors; 6% were victimized by cyberbullying (also known
as electronic bullying); 5% were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on; 5% were excluded from
activities on purpose; 4% were threatened with harm; 2% were forced to do things they did
not want to do; and 1% had property destroyed on purpose.

Of the students reporting being bullied in 2017, about 31% said they were bullied on 1 day
during the school year, 19% were victims of bullying on 2 days, 30% were bullied on 3 to 10
days, and 20% reported being bullied on more than 10 days in the school year (Musu et al,
2019). Some students (4%) reported they had been bullied two to ten times in a single day
during the school year.

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

For students ages 12–18, bullying is more common among female students (24%) than
among male students (17%). Specifically, female students are more likely to report some
forms of bullying than male students, including being the subject of rumors, being made fun
of, called names, or insulted, and being excluded from activities on purpose (the reason for
this is explained later in the chapter). Bullying is also more common among Black students,
White students, and students of two or more races (all 23%) than among Hispanic students
(16%) and Asian students (7%) (Musu et al, 2019). Among high school students, 33% of
gay, lesbian, or bisexual students and 34% of transgender students reported being bullied
on school property (CDC, n.d.; Johns et al, 2019). The largest portion of bullying is reported
to occur in hallways or stairways (43%), followed by inside classrooms (42%) or inside the
cafeteria (27%) (Musu et al, 2019).

Bullying is more common among middle school students than among high school students. In
high school, people are more mature and have learned (through experience and education)
that many previously perceived differences between races are smaller and less consequential
than first imagined. The higher rate in middle schools likely has to do with human develop-
ment; it is during these years that young people begin to establish their own identities, find
new peer groups, and separate themselves from people different than them. Regardless of
when or where bullying happens, the negative effects on youth are significant (see Figure 9.2).

Figure 9.2: Effects of bullying on students ages 12–18

From Indicators of school crime and safety: 2018 by L. Musu, A. Zhang, K. Wang, J. Zhang & B. A. Oudekerk, 2019, National Center
for Education Statistics ( ).




















School work

Not at all

Aspect of life affected

Relationships with
friends or family

Feeling about

Physical health

Not very much Somewhat or a lot

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

About 15% of students in grades 9–12 reported being cyberbullied in 2017. Incidents of
cyberbullying were most commonly reported by gay, lesbian, or bisexual students (27%),
female students (20%), White students (17%), and students of two or more races (16%)
(Musu et al, 2019). Such incidents included being sent hurtful information on the Internet,
being the subject of harassing text messages, instant messages, or e-mails, being the subject
of an online rumor, and being excluded online.

As for hate words, students reported being targets of hate-related words that referred to
race (2.8%), ethnicity (1.7%), gender (1%), sexual orientation (0.8%), religion (.7%), and
disability (0.7%). Overall, this reflects a 50% decrease in the number of hate-related word
victimizations from those reported in 2011 (Musu et al, 2019).

Another form of bullying is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is commonly defined as
unwelcome sexual advances, verbal comments, physical touching, and even offensive remarks
about one’s gender (United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2012).
Although we commonly think of sexual harassment as something that occurs in the work-
place, it also occurs at schools.

Approximately 48% of students in grades 7–12 have been sexually harassed at school, with
girls reporting higher rates of sexual harassment than boys (56% versus 40%, respectively)
(Hill & Kearl, 2011). Harassment in school is both verbal and physical. Some girls report hav-
ing to protect their private areas while walking through the hallways, as otherwise they leave
themselves vulnerable to “grabbing” by boys passing by. For gays and lesbians, the problem is
even more pervasive, with at least 70% reporting sexual harassment at school (Parker-Pope,
2008). Sexual harassment in schools is illegal under Title IX of the 1972 Education Act. This
law applies to all school settings, including colleges and universities.

Other problems occur at school, some of which are criminal and others serious social prob-
lems. Table 9.2 shows the percentage of schools that reported serious social problems occur-
ring at their schools at least once a week during the 2015–2016 school year.

Table 9.2: Percentage of public schools reporting selected social problems
occurring at least once a week, 2015–2016

Cyberbullying among students 12.0%

Student bullying 11.9%

Student acts of disrespect of teachers other than verbal abuse 10.3%

Student verbal abuse of teachers 4.8%

Widespread disorder in classrooms 2.3%

Student racial/ethnic tension 1.7%

Student sexual harassment of other students 1.0%

Student harassment of other students based on sexual orientation or gender identity .6%

Source: Indicators of school crime and safety: 2018, by L. Musu, A. Zhang, K. Wang, J. Zhang, & B. A. Oudekerk, 2019, National
Center for Education Statistics ( ).

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

According to the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education (Musu et al,
2019), crimes are more prevalent at high schools and middle schools than elementary schools.
Rural schools are slightly less likely than city and suburban schools to report criminal activity,
and city schools have the highest rates of serious violent crime (although they have the low-
est rates of bullying). Data show that there is a positive relationship between school size and
crime, meaning that as schools get larger, they host more crime. Since city schools tend to be
larger, this increased opportunity for victimization likely explains their higher rates of crime.

The same kind of relationship is found between racial composition of schools and poverty and
schools; as a school is home to higher rates of racial minorities and students that receive free
or reduced-price lunch, the percentage of schools that report crimes on campus is higher. This
is consistent with predictions made by social disorganization theory (Wynne & Joo, 2011).

Deaths at School
Much research goes into studying school-associated violent deaths, which is not surprising
given that crimes that produce death are viewed as the most serious crimes in America
(Piquero, Carmichael, & Piquero, 2008; Stylianou, 2003).

Yet, as shown earlier, there were only 37 homicides at schools in the 2015–2016 school year,
including 18 murders of students, plus 3 student suicides. Given the nearly 56.2 million stu-
dents in elementary and secondary schools during this time, there was only one death result-
ing from homicide or suicide of a student for about every 2.7 million students enrolled.

In spite of this fact, whenever a death occurs at school, it makes national news and is gener-
ally linked to all other previous school deaths. School shootings are especially widely covered
in the news (Newman & Fox, 2009) and helped establish a moral panic over the crime in the
United States (Burns & Crawford, 1999). A moral panic occurs when the fear of or reaction
to a crime is greater than the threat that crime actually poses; oftentimes, policies are created
and implemented in response to a moral panic that are mostly unnecessary and can even
make things worse (Robinson, 2011).

For many, the 1999 Columbine massacre may seem to be the first mass school shooting in
American history, but in fact, mass school shootings date back to the 18th century. As shown
in Figure 9.3, however, school shootings have increased both in frequency and severity over
the last five decades. This increase has been met with an increase in concern over school
safety. According to one study from the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research
Center (AP-NORC, 2019), 67% percent of Americans feel that schools and colleges are less
safe today than they were 20 years ago.

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

However, it must be acknowledged that not every school shooting is considered an act of
targeted school violence. Targeted school violence is defined as any school shooting or other
violent attack where the school or a particular target at the school is selected prior to the
attack, such as the attacks at Columbine High School (Vosskuil et al., 2002). There were at
least 41 targeted violence incidents between 2008 and 2017 (National Threat Assessment
Center, 2019).

A Study of Targeted Attacks
A study of 41 incidents of lethal targeted violence at U.S. schools from January 2008 through
December 2017 discovered several major potentially useful findings for preventing serious
violent acts at schools (National Threat Assessment Center, 2019). First, such attacks are
rarely impulsive and instead tend to be planned in advance. In 51% of cases, attackers dis-
played planning behaviors beyond stating their intent to carry out an attack. In 41% of cases,
planning began within one to six months prior to the attack.

Figure 9.3: Number of K–12 school shootings resulting in death or injury,

Based on data from K–12 school shooting database, by D. Riedman, D. & D. O’Neill, 2020, Center for Homeland Defense and
Security (












1970–79 1980–89 1990–99 2000–09 2010–19

Shootings w/ injuries or deaths

Killed (total) Students or other children killed

Injured (total)

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

Given the advanced planning, motivation of those who
carried out school attacks is important. According to
the study, retaliation was a primary motive of 61% of
attackers. Most often, retaliation was related to bullying
by the attacker’s peers (46%). Other primary motiva-
tions included a desire to kill (17%), suicide or despera-
tion (7%), trying to achieve fame or notoriety (5%), and
psychotic symptoms (5%). These findings are consistent
with rational choice theory, which posits that criminal-
ity is motivated by potential gain including emotional
gain such as a sense of satisfaction or increased atten-
tion (Lab, 2010).

Also related to motivation, nearly all (94%) of the attack-
ers had experienced stressors in the six months prior to
the attack, with 51% experiencing a stressor within two
days of the attack. Although 91% were found to exhibit
symptoms of at least one psychological, behavioral, or
developmental disorder, only 40% had received a men-
tal health diagnosis prior to their attacks. Most com-
monly, the stressors experienced were family-related
(91%) or some form of bullying (80%). These findings
support general strain theory, which suggests that crim-
inality is caused by emotional adjustment to negative
life experiences (Agnew, 2005).

Attacks were primarily carried out using firearms (61%), although knives were used in 39%
of cases. What’s more, of those who used firearms, 76% acquired them from a parent or other
close relative’s home. In fact, 77% of school attackers had a known history of using weapons,
including 71% who had experience using guns. Despite research demonstrating that hav-
ing a firearm in the house makes it easier to defend oneself from potential criminal attacks,
research has also shown that having guns in the household significantly increases the chance
of a household member using firearms to commit a violent act (Loft, 2010).

Most attackers caused concern in others due to their behaviors prior to the attacks. In 80%
of cases, another person (e.g., a school official, parent, teacher, fellow student, or other) was
concerned by the behavior of a future school attacker. However, although 89% of attackers
had been seen displaying behaviors that should have been met with an immediate response,
66% of those cases were not reported.

MarkCoffeyPhoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus
The majority of targeted violence
in schools is planned at least two
days in advance.

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

Only 17% of the attackers had been arrested for or charged with violent offenses prior to
their attacks, and 31% had any history of arrest. However, 51% had a history of violence that
did not result in police contact. These findings are consistent with the tenets of basic crime
prevention—the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Still, most of the attackers
did not commit any serious act of violence prior to their targeted attack.

Other people generally knew about the attacks before they occurred. In 77% of cases, at least
one person knew the attacker was thinking about or planning the attacks. In 77% of those
cases, it was a peer who knew and in 14% it was an adult. Unfortunately, in most of these
cases, no one came forward to tell of their concerns for a wide variety of reasons.

While there is no profile of the typical school attacker, the study found that 83% of the attack-
ers were male, 63% were White, and 34% of such attacks occurred in suburban communi-
ties. The age of the attackers ranged from 12 to 18 years. The attackers differed in terms of
academic performance (although most of them were doing well in school). In terms of social
relationships, most had at least one friend, 11% were in a romantic relationship, and nearly
three-quarters participated in extracurricular activities. The degree of disciplinary problems
in school varied, although 71% had received disciplinary action at some point in the 5 years
before their attacks. Finally, 57% of attackers displayed some form of change in behavior or
appearance prior to the attack. Many of these findings are inconsistent with social control
theories, which would not expect serious criminality among children closely bonded to their
peers, schools, and recreational activities.

Of all the attacks studied by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education,
the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was the most lethal, claiming the lives of
26 people. Yet, the 2007 mass killings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
(Virginia Tech) remains the most lethal school shooting in the United States to date. Since this
attack occurred at a college campus, it is discussed later in the chapter.

Teacher Victimization
Teachers are also occasionally victimized by crime at school. For example, in the 2015–2016
school year, 10% of public-school teachers reported being threatened with injury by a stu-
dent at school in the past year (Musu et al, 2019). Rates of threats were highest among male
teachers, Black teachers, and elementary school teachers.

Further, 6% of teachers reported being physically attacked by a student in the previous year.
Rates of student attacks of teachers were highest among female teachers and among elemen-
tary teachers in public schools. This is likely because younger students are least capable of
exercising self-control and because female teachers are sometimes perceived by aggressors
as less capable of protecting themselves.

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

In a survey of 4,735 teachers in 48 states, rates of teacher victimization surfaced as a great
concern among educators (McMahon et al., 2011). In that study, approximately 50% of all
teachers experienced one form of harassment, 33% experienced property offenses, and 25%
reported a physical attack. Harassment included obscene remarks and gestures and threaten-
ing remarks.

Theft and damage to property were the most common property offenses reported by teach-
ers. In terms of physical altercations, teachers reported having objects thrown at them and
being physically attacked. Teachers were also victimized by colleagues (18.9%) and parents
(10.6%). Victimization rates were similar across race but differed according to gender. Male
teachers reported slightly more victimization than female teachers.

Impact of Specific Factors on School Crime
Researchers study several factors to aid in understanding—and preventing—crime in
schools. Rates of crime vary across a number of student characteristics, including by sex, age,
race/ethnicity, and urbanicity. Males are more likely overall to be victims of nonfatal crime at
school than females (37 versus 28 victims per 1,000 students, respectively), although both
are equally likely to be victims of theft at school (about 12 per 1,000 students for both males
and females) (Musu et al, 2019). By age group, students ages 12–14 are more likely overall to
experience nonfatal victimization (38 victims per 1,000 students) and are significantly more
likely to experience violent victimization (27 victimizations per 1,000 students) than stu-
dents ages 15–18 (28 nonfatal and 14 violent victimizations per 1,000 students).

Figure 9.4 shows how the percentages of criminal victimization at school vary by factors such
as sex, age, race/ethnicity, and city size (i.e., urbanicity).

As shown in Figure 9.4, the percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native students who
reported victimization (11.1%) was higher than that for students of all other recorded races
and ethnicities combined. And rural schools had the lowest percentage of reported school

Away from schools, the gap between male and female rates of victimization is smaller than it
is for victimization at school; there are 9 fewer victimizations per 1,000 students for females
at school but only 6 fewer for females away from school. Interestingly, away from school,
15–18 year olds have higher rates of victimization than 12–14 year olds (23 versus 17 victim-
izations per 1,000). Although the report found no significant differences in rates of victimiza-
tion at school based on race/ethnicity, White students were more likely than Black students
to be victimized off campus (25 versus 13 per 1,000, respectively).

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

Figure 9.4: Percentage of students ages 12–18 who reported criminal
victimization at school during the previous 6 months, by selected student and
school characteristics, 2017

From Indicators of school crime and safety: 2018 by L. Musu, A. Zhang, K. Wang, J. Zhang & B. A. Oudekerk, 2019, National Center
for Education Statistics ( ).












American Indian/Alaska Native

0.0 5.0 10.0 15.0 2







Student or school





! Interpret data with caution. The coef�icient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.

‡ Reporting standards not met. Either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the coef�icient of variation (CV) is 50 percent or greater.













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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

It is likely that victimization risk on and off campus does not match due to conditions unique
to the school environment. That is, males and younger students are more at risk of criminal
victimization than other students for reasons unique to the school rather than due to demo-
graphic factors. Unfortunately, not enough is known about this issue to draw firm conclusions.

Trends in School Crime
In spite of popular belief, crime at school is generally down. In fact, all forms of crime at school
are down since the 1990s, including thefts, violent victimizations, serious violent victimiza-
tions, and even murder. Figure 9.5 depicts trends in all nonfatal crimes, including thefts, vio-
lent acts, and acts of serious violence since the early 1990s.

Figure 9.5: Trends in school crime, 1992–2017

The overall total rate of school crime victimizations has fluctuated but decreased over time. A high
rate of incidents (194 per 1,000 students) was reported in 1993 and a low of approximately 33
victimizations per 1,000 students was reported in 2017.

Note: Due to a sample increase and redesign in 2016, victimization estimates among youth in 2016 were not comparable to
estimates for other years.

Based on data from “Table 228.20. Number of nonfatal victimizations against students ages 12–18 and rate of victimization
per 1,000 students, by type of victimization and location: 1992–2017” in Digest of Education Statistics, by National Center for
Education Statistics, 2018 (


‘92 ‘93 ‘94

Total Theft All violent Serious violent

‘95 ‘96 ‘97 ‘98 ‘99 ‘00 ‘01 ‘02 ‘03 ‘04 ‘05 ‘06 ‘07 ‘08 ‘09 ‘10 ‘11 ‘12 ‘13 ‘14 ‘15 ‘17
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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

Figure 9.6 depicts trends in the number of homicides and suicides at schools since the early
1990s. Both forms of death at school are down since the 1990s, especially murder.

Figure 9.6: Trends in homicides and suicides of youth ages 5–18 at school,
1992–93 through 2015–16

The 1990s had higher numbers of reported homicides in schools. There were peaks of over 30
homicides in the 2006–2007 and 2012–2013 school years, but overall the number of homicides per
year were typically lower between 2000 and 2016. However, there was an increase in number of
suicides at schools between 2000 and 2015.

Note: Due to a sample increase and redesign in 2016, victimization estimates among youth in 2016 were not comparable to
estimates for other years.

Based on data from “Table 228.10. School-associated violent deaths of all persons, homicides and suicides of youth ages 5–18
at school, and total homicides and suicides of youth ages 5–18, by type of violent death: 1992–93 through 2015–16” in Digest
of Education Statistics, by National Center for Education Statistics, 2018 (































































Homicides at school Suicides at school

No one knows for sure why school crime is less common today than it was in the 1990s,
but the best answer to the question of why crime is down in schools is that it is down for
the same reasons that crime is down in America. Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics
(Morgan & Oudekerk, 2019) show that property crimes and violent crimes have declined
since the 1990s. Criminologists claim that criminal justice did have something to do with
the declines (e.g, more police on the streets, more effective problem-solving policing, more
probationers and prisoners) but also find that most of the declines in crime are attributable
to factors outside of criminal justice (e.g., an improved economy, aging population) (Walker,
2010; Zimring, 2008).

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

Outcomes of School Crime and Misbehavior
According to the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education (Musu et al,
2019), school crime impacts individuals on school campuses, but it also has effects on sur-
rounding communities, as well as society at large. School crime leads to injury (and occasion-
ally death) of students and teachers as well as property loss, and it interferes with the health
and educational success of students. Other outcomes include increases in student drop-out
rates, teacher turnover, early retirements, and interruptions of learning (Crews et al. 2008).

Students also occasionally report feeling afraid of crime. In 2017, about 4% of students
reported being afraid of attack or harm, versus just under 3% who feared attack or harm
away from school. Further, 6% of students reported avoiding school activities or classes at
school out of fear of attack (Musu et al, 2019).

Fear of crime was higher among female students than male students and highest among stu-
dents of color. It was also highest in urban and public schools. Students of these schools were
also more likely to report avoiding certain places at school. This is logical given that, in gen-
eral, criminal victimization is more common among these groups and in these schools.

Fear of crime within the school setting has a detrimental effect on children. It can affect
academic performance and socialization. It can also cause anxiety, depression, sleeping or
eating disorders, nightmares, and in severe cases, suicidal ideations. Students may feign
illness or be truant to avoid school. In extreme cases, students may even drop out of school.
Students also avoid certain areas of schools where bullying is most likely to occur.

Victims of school crime also suffer academically and may remain hungry because they are
afraid to go to the cafeteria, or they will be consistently late for class to avoid the crowded
hallways in between classes. Physical illness, such as urinary tract infections, can develop
from fear of using the bathroom during school hours. Such students will also be unlikely to
partake in extracurricular activities. As a result, their entire school experience will be a disap-
pointing one, riddled with anxiety and fear. This does not provide a conducive atmosphere for
learning, and it will not produce an enthusiastic learner.

Other students, in an attempt to defend themselves, bring weapons such as guns, knives, box
cutters, mace, or brass knuckles to school. Bringing a gun to school may make a student feel
safer, but the consequences can be devastating. Another student or teacher could be shot or
killed, or the student who brought the weapon could be expelled and arrested. Finally, the
more schools have to police students, the less time they have to teach students.

Teachers also report that misbehavior, student tardiness, and class cutting interferes with
their teaching. For example, in the 2015–2016 school year, 38% of teachers reported this.
Such problems were higher in secondary schools than elementary schools (48% versus 32%,
respectively), and in larger and city schools. Larger schools provide both greater anonymity
and opportunity, both of which will logically produce more behavioral problems in school
(Musu et al, 2019).

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

Responding to School Crime
Schools across the country deal with crime and disorder at school in a wide variety of ways.
Figure 9.7 shows the kinds of activities and policies pursued by schools to respond to these
social problems.

Figure 9.7: Percentage of schools that used selected safety and security
measures to respond to crime on campus, 2015–2016

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent

From Indicators of school crime and safety: 2018 by L. Musu, A. Zhang, K. Wang, J. Zhang & B. A. Oudekerk, 2019, National Center
for Education Statistics ( ).

















20.0 40.0 60.0 80.0 100.0

Controlled access to buildings
during school hours

Security cameras used to
monitor the school

Required faculty and staff to
wear badges or picture IDs

Required students to
wear uniforms

Required students to wear
badges or picture IDs

Random metal
detector checks

Random dog sniffs to
check for drugs

Enforced a strict dress code

Primary Middle

Safety and Security Measure

High school

As shown in Figure 9.7, schools in 2015–2016 most commonly controlled access to schools
during business hours to prevent crime on campus. A vast majority of schools also used secu-
rity cameras to monitor the premises and more than half of schools required staff and faculty
to wear identification badges (Musu et al, 2019). Some schools used random metal detec-
tor checks or dog sniffs to prevent weapon possession and drug use by students. Just over
25% of elementary schools required students to wear uniforms, and that number decreases
as students age. As a whole, more than half of schools (53%) enforced a strict dress code.

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

Schools nearly universally limit access to social networking sites, cell phones, and text mes-
sage devices. This not only helps reduce distractions from and interruptions of class but also
likely helps reduce the incidence of cyberbullying on campus.

The most common strategies used at schools are consistent with Crime Prevention Through
Environmental Design (CPTED) and situational crime prevention. Both are measures aimed
at reducing opportunities for crime by altering the environment in ways to make crime less
likely to occur (Lab, 2010).

Implementing more security officers and cameras are two strategies used in the attempt
to decrease school-based victimization. The logic is that, if capable guardians are present,
the opportunity to victimize will be decreased. Security cameras and adult presence in the
hallways are meant to deter would-be rule breakers. Yet, they probably have little value in
deterring serious criminals such as school shooters (whose attacks have unfortunately been
caught on school cameras). Security cameras as well as locker checks (reported by 48% of
students) have raised issues of privacy on campus.

Web Field Trip: To Arm or Not to Arm?

A recent trend of increased presence of armed security personnel on school campuses has
been controversial. According to the NCES (2018d), nearly 43% of public schools in 2015–16
had sworn law enforcement officers who routinely carried a firearm present on campus at
least once a week. Some schools are even considering arming teachers in classrooms in an
attempt to thwart classroom violence and targeted shootings.

Read the Violence Policy Center’s argument against arming teachers at http://www.ncdsv
.org/images/VPC_Arm-teachers-the-facts-argue-against-it , and then read an article from
the San Diego Union Tribune in support of this idea at https://www.sandiegouniontribune

Critical Thinking Questions
1. Which position, allowing guns in schools or preventing them, did you find most persua-

sive? Why?
2. Does hiring armed security or allowing school staff to carry guns guarantee that school

shootings will be reduced?
3. What methods aside from providing security and teachers with firearms could be

employed to reduce school shootings?

Interestingly, only 7% of all public schools required students to wear badges or picture IDs.
As a general rule, the larger the student population, the more intense the number and impact
of security measures (Musu et al, 2019).

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Section 9.1 Nature and Extent of School Crime

Crime prevention at schools also entails broader efforts such as counseling and school-based
therapy for children with personal problems and/or who have shown warning signs for
aggressive or violent behavior, as well as antibullying programs that seek to diminish the pos-
sibility that children will one day seek revenge for negative treatment at the hands of other
students (Prout & Brown, 2007).

Since certain factors are associated with school-based violence, all school administrators and
faculty should receive training on how to identify risk factors. Schools need to implement pol-
icy and procedural guidelines to help faculty handle high-risk students. Most kids who com-
mit school-based homicides will exhibit leakage, which refers to the student’s intentional or
unintentional admission of their violence. This may include a discussion of fantasies, dreams,
feelings, or attitudes; thoughts can also be expressed through artwork.

Law enforcement and school officials must work collectively. There should be ongoing com-
munication between the two and a written policy codifying their agreement to work together
on violence prevention. Ongoing assessments of violence and bullying should be conducted
by law enforcement and school administrators. In order for this relationship to be effective,
law enforcement must have a strong presence within the schools and develop relationships
with faculty and students.

Web Field Trip: Student Privacy

Privacy rights in the United States become a complicated issue when a minor is involved. The
rights to free speech, free press, free association, and freedom from unwarranted search and
seizure are points of contention between students and school administrators and have been
for decades. A student is also likely to have less privacy rights when it comes to personal infor-
mation, which may be given without their permission to a parent or legal guardian.

To learn more about students’ rights, visit the website of the Electronic Privacy Information
Center. Its page, “Student Privacy,” provides a thorough summary of the issues as well as some
of the latest developments in the law related to this issue:
Also see how the U.S. Constitution pertains to the issue of student rights:

Critical Thinking Questions
1. What rights do students maintain at schools? Which do they sacrifice? How and why?
2. What differences do you see between secondary schools and colleges and universities?
3. Do you think reform is needed, or are students’ rights a good balance?

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Section 9.2 Nature and Extent of Crime at Colleges and Universities

Prevention programs, such as conflict resolution (the process of negotiation and compro-
mise between two conflicting parties), D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), G.R.E.A.T.
(Gang Resistance Education and Training), and school-based resource officers (police officers
assigned to work within the school setting), help to develop strong relationships with faculty
and students and can serve as a primary step to threat assessments.

In response to bullying, the National Department of Health and Human Services implemented
an antibullying campaign in 2004, and many schools have implemented anti-bullying preven-
tion programming. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, a national model, is designed for
elementary and middle school children. It aims to reduce and prevent bullying in the school
environment. This program was found to decrease bullying and other antisocial behaviors,
such as vandalism and truancy (Pereznietto, Harper, Clench, & Coarasa, 2010).

Schools should have clearly established guidelines for what behavior constitutes bullying and
how such behavior will be handled by school officials. Parents and teachers should be edu-
cated on how to recognize signs of bullying. In cases of cyberbullying, teens should be encour-
aged to talk to their parents and should never disclose their Internet password information.
Harassing messages, via e-mail or text, can be blocked. And computers should be stored in a
common area so parents can keep track of their children’s Internet use.

9.2 Nature and Extent of Crime at Colleges
and Universities
Minor and serious crimes also occur with some frequency at colleges and universities.
Although these are also educational institutions, colleges and universities are distinct from
elementary, middle, and high schools in several ways. First, the former typically are located
across a much larger area and are comprised of many more buildings. Second, students at
colleges and universities tend to have contact with far more people on a daily basis and are
under far less control by superiors such as teachers and administrators. Third, colleges and
universities are not only educational institutions but also serve as a residential environment
during a time where significant developmental life transitions occur (Drysdale et al., 2010). It
is generally recognized that there are thus more opportunities for crime to occur at colleges
and universities. Yet, just as in secondary schools, serious crime is actually rare at colleges
and universities.

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Section 9.2 Nature and Extent of Crime at Colleges and Universities

College and University Crime Is Rare
Figure 9.8 shows the number of “serious” crimes reported by colleges and universities in the
United States in 2017.

Figure 9.8: Crimes at colleges and universities, 2017

Based on data from “Table 329.10. On-campus crimes, arrests, and referrals for disciplinary action at degree-granting postsecondary
institutions, by location of incident, control and level of institution, and type of incident: Selected years, 2001 through 2017” in
Digest of Education Statistics, by National Center for Education Statistics, 2018 (























Forcible sex


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Section 9.2 Nature and Extent of Crime at Colleges and Universities

To provide some context for these numbers, it is important to consider the number of educa-
tional institutions and the students they enroll. In the Fall of 2017, there were nearly 20 mil-
lion students enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States. Another 3.9 million
people were employed as faculty and staff in these colleges and universities that year (NCES,
2018e). Thus, nearly 24 million people spent time at colleges and universities, meaning about
7% of all people in the United States in 2017 were employed by or attending postsecondary

Given these numbers, it is clear that serious crimes are actually quite rare at colleges and
universities. As noted earlier in the section on crimes at schools, however, it is imperative
to understand that these numbers reflect only crimes reported to or discovered by univer-
sity police. Many crimes, including especially minor crimes but also including most rapes, go
unreported to the police. Thus, the prevalence of college and university crime is much greater
than reflected in these data.

As in the case of attacks against secondary schools, the rarest of these are also referred to as
targeted violence, or acts of campus crime that are aimed at harming a particular person or

Directed Assaults
In a report released in 2010 (Drysdale et al), the U.S. Secret Service focused on a more specific
form of targeted violence—directed assaults, defined as an attack that employed or had the
ability to employ lethal force, committed against a specific person or someone who matched
that person’s victim profile, and who was chosen prior to the initiation of the assault or at the
time of the attack based on similarities to the intended victim.

Data from 1900 to 2008 show that there were only 272 such incidents in the United States,
ranging from domestic violence all the way to murder (Drysdale et al, 2010). Acts such as
hazing, pranks, crimes committed for material gain, murder-for-hire plans, low-level assaults,
gang- and drug-related violence, spontaneous assaults between strangers, and incidents
generated by ideological disagreements were excluded. Of all the attacks, 73% were attacks
where offenders targeted a specifically named person or people, and in 79% of those cases,
the targeted person was the only one harmed. Thus, rare violent attacks at colleges and uni-
versities such as the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007 almost never occur.

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Section 9.2 Nature and Extent of Crime at Colleges and Universities

Case Study: Virginia Tech

Twenty-three-year-old Seung-Hui Cho, a student at Vir-
ginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (known
as Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Virginia, killed 32 people
on April 16, 2007. Cho’s killing spree began at 7:15 a.m.
when he shot a female student in her dorm and shot the
dorm’s resident advisor. Two hours and 30 minutes later,
Cho entered a lecture hall building and killed 30 people
(25 students and 5 faculty members) and wounded 17
more. Some of the wounded were shot through direct
gunfire while others were wounded in their attempt to
escape from the building. At the end of the killing spree,
Cho shot himself in the head.

During the 2 hour and 30 minute break between killing
the female dorm student and entering the lecture hall,
Cho went to the post office to mail a package to the NBC
news station in New York City. NBC received the package
2 days after the murders, which contained pictures and
videos of Cho with his weapons. In the video he rambled
about “rich brats” and complained about being picked on. He claimed he was the defender of
the weak and referenced the two shooters in the Columbine High School shooting.

Cho was born on January 18, 1984, in South Korea and immigrated to the United States with
his parents at the age of eight. Cho was a quiet kid who was bullied by others. He remained
a loner at Virginia Tech and liked to write gruesome stories, plays, and poems. One professor
had him removed from her class for causing disturbances and even described Cho as the bully.
He was caught photographing the legs and knees of female students in the class. Other faculty
members were also concerned about him, and one professor encouraged him to seek counsel-
ing. Still, Cho was accused of stalking two female students in 2005. In the same year, he made
suicidal statements to his roommate, which resulted in his short stay at a psychiatric facility.
He was released with instructions to seek out-patient therapy.

Later, Cho was upset that his book proposal was rejected and by the negative reactions of
many of his professors to his work. He was also angry about the apparent disparity in income
levels among the students. Cho was from a hardworking family that managed a dry-cleaning
business. He struggled with money while he witnessed his other classmates, many from afflu-
ent families, “wasting” their money. He was also anxiety ridden over graduation, which was a
few weeks away. Cho was an average student with average grades and no employment history.

He bought his first handgun 5 weeks before the attack and a second one closer to the time of
the attack. Police found evidence in his dorm room that showed he was planning the attack for
quite a while (Nizza, 2007).

Critical Thinking Questions
1. Recall the information you read about targeted attacks earlier in this chapter. Did

Seung-Hui Cho’s motivations and experiences seem in-line with the National Threat
Assessment Center’s findings on targeted attackers?

2. What, if anything, might have been done to help prevent the attacks at Virginia Tech?

Thomas B. Shea/Contributor/WireImage
/Getty Images

In the largest mass killing on
an American college campus,
Seung-Hui Cho opened fire at
Virginia Tech where he killed
32 people and injured 17
others before killing himself
on April 16, 2007.

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Section 9.2 Nature and Extent of Crime at Colleges and Universities

Sexual Assault
According to a study for the Association of American Universities (Cantor et al, 2020), 13%
of university students reported at least one instance of nonconsensual sexual contact since
enrolling in school. Female undergraduate students reported the highest rates of sexual
assault at 26%, followed by students who identified as transgender, nonbinary/genderqueer,
gender questioning, or who did not list a gender (TGQN) at 23%, and finally male students at
7%. Nearly all of the female and TGQN students who participated in the study reported their
offender was male. Among male victims, about two-thirds reported their offender was female
and one-third reported their offender was male.

As noted in Chapter 6, rape and sexual assault are some of the most underreported violent
crimes in the nation. This holds true at post-secondary institutions as well; female students
contacted a program or resource for just under 30% of rape incidents and male students did
so for only about 18%. TGQN students were more likely to contact a program or resource,
reaching out in nearly 43% of cases. The most common reasons students gave for not contact-
ing official sources or programs include not feeling the incident was serious enough to report;
feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or not emotionally able to report; not wanting to get the per-
petrator in trouble; and not thinking the resources could help them (Cantor et al, 2020).

In addition to low levels of victim-initiated reporting, there has been scrutiny in recent years
of universities’ reporting practices. While legislation such as the Clery Act and Title IX require
educational institutions to report and resolve incidents of sexual harassment and sexual vio-
lence, some studies suggest that college campuses have failed to accurately report such data
(AAUW, 2018; Yung, 2015). According to one study, of the 11,000 higher educational institu-
tions receiving federal financial aid in 2016, 77% reported that there were no incidents of any
type of sexual assault on their campuses that year (AAUW, 2018).

Impact of Specific Factors on College and University Crime
Most perpetrators of college and university crime were in their 20s and were known in
some way to their victims due to current or past relationships. For example, 34% of attacks
were related to intimate relationships, and another 10% were due to refusing advances of
the attacker or being obsessed with the target. Another 14% were in retaliation of a specific
action (Drysdale et al, 2010). These kinds of attacks really have nothing to do with colleges
and universities but instead suggest that violent actions on campuses are generally motivated
by the same kinds of factors that generate violence off campus.

Another 10% were categorized as being in response to academic stress or failure, and 10%
resulted from sexual violence by a stranger. Virtually no attackers were not affiliated in some
way with the college or university (almost all were current or former students or employ-
ees), and more than 90% of attackers were males. More than half of the time (54%), firearms
were used.

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Section 9.2 Nature and Extent of Crime at Colleges and Universities

According to the report, these acts are rarely impulsive and instead usually thought out and/
or planned in advance, although attackers rarely directed threats toward their targets prior
to their attacks. However, in about 29% of the cases, offenders either engaged in stalking or
harassing behaviors, verbal or written threats, or other physically aggressive acts toward the
offender (Drysdale et al, 2010). Finally, there is no reliable profile of the campus attacker,
although almost all were men.

When colleges and universities report the crimes that occur within their jurisdictions, they
are required to report whether the crimes occurred on or off campus. The data show that,
generally speaking, the following crimes tend to occur on public property at or near the cam-
puses: murder, aggravated assault, and motor vehicle theft. Meanwhile, the largest portion
of robbery occurs on campus but not in residence halls. Finally, the following crimes tend
to occur on campus and, in particular, in residence halls: burglary, forcible sex offenses, and
arson. Also, cases of weapons possession, liquor law violations, and illegal drug possession
tend to occur in residence halls (NCES, 2019d). Explanations for these findings are offered
later in the chapter.

The outcomes of campus and university crime are similar to those of school crimes. Thank-
fully, the most serious of them (e.g., death and serious injury) are rare. Yet, students and other
users of campus spaces are often injured physically and financially by crime. As a result, they
often suffer from fear of crime and increased perceptions of criminal victimization. Studies
confirm these outcomes as well as the fact that students do report avoiding areas of campuses
they perceive to be dangerous (Robinson & Roh, 2012).

The Party Subculture
Student lifestyle promotes certain types of criminal victimization, including sexual assaults
induced by heavy alcohol consumption as part of the party subculture at many colleges and
universities (Robinson & Roh, 2012). Given the large number of young people that congregate
on college and university campuses, that socializing is very important to people in early
adulthood, and that most of them are away from home for the first time, it is not surprising
that college students often drink alcohol in heavy amounts as part of their new independence.

Alcohol has the most significant impact on campus crime (Robinson & Scherlen, 2007),
where alcohol use promotes aggressive acts such as assault and rape (Giancola, 2002). Alco-
hol impairs the regions of the brain responsible for planning, forethought, and self-control.
Thus, when young people drink, they often make poor decisions that promote both offending
and victimization. In a majority (69%) of sexual victimization cases on college and univer-
sity campuses, the offender had consumed alcohol, and in 43% of cases the victim had been
drinking alcohol. Similarly, the vast majority (90%) of acquaintance rapes involved alcohol
(Hattersly-Gray, 2018). Given this reality, it is important for college and university adminis-
trators to address alcohol use and promote responsible use at all times for those who drink.

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Section 9.2 Nature and Extent of Crime at Colleges and Universities

The good news is that colleges and universities are promoting alcohol abstinence (at some
campuses) or responsible alcohol use (at most campuses). This often includes learning per-
sonal limits or tolerance of alcohol, encouraging students to drink only with people they know
and can trust, social norm campaigns where students learn that most students actually do not
drink in large amounts, teaching students about the relationship between alcohol and aggres-
sive behavior, and even encouraging students to seek other forms of entertainment. Some of
these approaches are addressed later in the chapter.

Responding to Campus and University Crime
Before 1990, college administrators did not willingly disclose campus crime statistics to the
public. They were also reluctant to submit such information to law enforcement. Crime statis-
tics could deter potential students from applying and damage the college’s reputation. How-
ever, in 1990 Congress passed the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act, known today
as the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act or
the Clery Act. It requires colleges and universities that receive federal financial aid to report
crime statistics and to make such statistics readily available to the public.

This act was originally part of the Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act of 1990.
In 1998, it was renamed the Clery Act after a 19-year-old college freshman, Jeanne Clery, who
was raped and murdered in her dorm by another student in 1986. The Clery Act has several
regulations: (1) policy disclosure, (2) records collection and retention, and (3) information
dissemination. Under the Clery Act, colleges and universities collect and report annual crime
statistics and then make them available to the public, along with safety and security proce-
dures and programs being used to protect campus users.

Information required by this Act is excluded under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy
Act of 1974 (FERPA). Crime statistics are not considered educational records; therefore, they
are subject to disclosure. Information regarding the outcome of campus disciplinary proceed-
ings is not a FERPA violation. The U.S. Department of Education is responsible for collecting
this data.

The Clery Act and the national campaign by Jeanne Clery’s parents made other significant
changes to how colleges respond to criminal activity. One example is the hiring of campus
security officers with law enforcement backgrounds because they tend to be more profes-
sional than private security guards. Almost 90% of large campuses have sworn police officers
(Peterson, 2011).

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Section 9.2 Nature and Extent of Crime at Colleges and Universities

Case Study: The Jeanne Clery Story

Jeanne Clery was a 19-year-old freshman student attending Lehigh University in Bethlehem,
Pennsylvania. On April 5, 1986, Jeanne was raped and murdered in her college dorm by a
student that she did not know. It was 6:00 a.m., and the perpetrator, Josoph Henry, entered her
room with the intent to steal after he had been drinking all night. He entered the dorm through
three unlocked and partially open doors. The doors were
propped open with boxes from other students. None
of the doors was properly guarded or secured. Jeanne
woke up during the burglary, and Henry raped and
strangled her. Henry was later apprehended by police
and ultimately was convicted of murder on April 5, 1986,
and sentenced to death.

The university was reportedly aware of complaints from
students about unsecured doors in the same dorm, but
university officials failed to act on any of the complaints.
They also failed to provide any information regarding
campus security or crime statistics. In the 3 years prior
to Jeanne’s murder, 38 violent crimes were committed on
Lehigh’s campus; none of the students or their parents
were made aware of this information. Jeanne’s parents
were very unhappy with how the university handled this
matter. They sued the school for $25 million, and the case
was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Jeanne’s parents used the money to support their
campaign to get Congress to pass a crime disclosure law
to help ensure the safety of all college students. They
started at the state level but were able to wage a national
campaign that resulted in the successful passage of the
Clery Act. They also created a nonprofit organization,
Security on Campus (now called the Clery Center), which
is committed to preventing violence on college campuses
and helping college victims from around the country
(Peterson, 2011).

Marianne Barcellona/Contributor/The
LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

The rape and murder of
college student Jeanne Clery
inspired The Jeanne Clery Act,
which requires colleges and
universities to disclose campus
crime statistics and security

CPTED and situational crime prevention are also extremely common at colleges and univer-
sity campuses. Recall that these are approaches aimed at reducing opportunities for crime
through means such as increasing the ability of potential witnesses to see offenders and for
people to protect their own property.

For example, most campuses rely heavily upon the use of security cameras and most have
implemented card access to buildings. Doors must remain secured, and those students with-
out a card will not be permitted to enter. A security guard or resident monitor may sit in the
front entrance to sign guests in and out of the building, especially after hours. Campuses have
installed more lighting and more frequent patrol. In addition, call boxes are available on most
campuses. If students witness an emergency, they can call campus police/security from these
boxes, stationed strategically around the campus.

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Section 9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime

Some campuses provide their resident students with cell phones with the number of campus
security preprogrammed into the phone. Most colleges have also implemented campus alert
systems following the fatal shootings at Virginia Tech. Students can sign up to receive emer-
gency alerts via phone, text, and/or e-mail. Finally, there are more education centers to help
students learn how to protect themselves and more counseling services available for those
that are victims of crime.

Colleges and universities also routinely and regularly provide crime prevention advice and
programs aimed at individual people such as students. Students usually receive information
about protecting themselves from certain situations after being admitted to the school, after
arriving on campus, and also throughout their studies. Given the link between alcohol and
aggression noted earlier, this information usually includes alcohol-related information.

9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), within the United States Department
of Labor (2012), offers the broad definition of workplace violence as “any act or threat of
physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that
occurs at the work site.” This includes any act from serious crimes like murder to simple
threats of violence or even verbal abuse.

The NCVS defines workplace violence a bit differently. Its definition of workplace violence is
“nonfatal violence (rape/sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault) against
employed persons age 16 or older that occurred while they were at work or on duty” (and
attempted crimes are also included) (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012d). Given that its defi-
nition includes only serious acts of violence, the extent of workplace violence in the NCVS
appears much smaller according to this source. NCVS defines workplace homicide as a
“homicide of employed victims age 16 or older who were killed while at work or on duty”
(excluding deaths by accidents) (Harrell, 2011, p. 2).

Finally, NCVS also defines nonworkplace violence as “nonfatal violence (rape/sexual assault,
robbery, and aggravated and simple assault) against employed persons age 16 or older that
occurred while they were not at work or on duty” (and attempted crimes are also included)
(Harrell, 2011, p. 2).

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Section 9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime

Workplace Crime Is Rare
According to OSHA (2012), nearly 2 million American workers indicate that they are victims
of workplace violence every year, and much more goes unreported. Of these, the smallest por-
tion is homicide. According to the National Safety Council (2019), there were 20,790 nonfatal
workplace injuries and 453 workplace homicides in 2018 as a result of assault.

Data from the NCVS (Harrell, 2011) show that about 572,000 nonfatal violent crimes occurred
against people 16 years or older at work in 2009, and of these only about half were reported
to the police. These data suggest that workplace violence makes up about 15% of all nonfatal
violent crime that occurred in the United States against people 16 years and older in the
United States during these years. Thus, 85% of nonfatal violent crime occurs away from work.

To provide some perspective, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012) reports that in March
2011, there were about 153.3 million employed people in the United States. Assuming victim-
ization at work remained relatively constant since 2009–2010, this means that somewhere
between 0.4% and 1.3% of workers were victimized by workplace violence, depending on
whether you use the NCVS or OSHA definition. Thus, crime at work is even more rare than
crime at school.

Some types of workplace crime are more common. Examples include white-collar and cor-
porate crimes (discussed in Chapter 3 as well as later in this chapter). It is also important to
recall that these data reflect only crimes reported to or discovered by the police. Thus, the
prevalence of workplace crime is greater than reflected in these data.

Table 9.3 shows the number of fatal incidents at work caused by intentional injury in 2018.
Note that deaths can result from assaults and violent acts without being classified as homi-
cides. Typically, the distinction is the presence or absence of intent on the part of the offender.

Table 9.3: Intentional fatal workplace
injuries, 2018

Deaths caused by . . .

Total intentional injuries 757

 Homicides 453

  Shooting 351

  Stabbing 44

 Self-inflicted injury


Source: “Table 2. Fatal occupational injuries for selected events
or exposures, 2011–2018” in Census of Fatal Occupational
Injuries, by Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019. (https://www.bls

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Section 9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime

Bullying or harassment in the workplace is another form of workplace crime. A 2017 study
found that 19% of employees have personally experienced bullying on the job while another
19% have witnessed it (Namie, 2017). Sexual harassment is another form of bullying on the
job. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC, n.d.) received 7,514 charges
alleging sexual harassment in 2019. About 38% of women and 13% of men report having
been sexually harassed at their workplace (Stop Street Harassment, 2018).

In the Field: An Expert Discusses LGBTQ
Bullying in Schools and the Workplace

Is bullying or harassment of LGBTQ individuals in schools
or workplaces an issue? How might organizations such as
the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center respond to or help individu-
als who are victims in such cases?

Bullying and harassment of LGBTQ individuals is com-
monplace in schools and the workplace. The L.A. Gay &
Lesbian Center works to ensure LGBTQ equality through
outreach, education, and advocacy. Individuals who have
been victims of bullying, harassment, and other forms
of discrimination can find assistance through our Anti-
Violence Project. We provide legal consultations, attor-
ney referrals, restraining order preparation, assistance
with crime victim compensation, and advocacy within
the criminal justice system.

We frequently receive requests from employers to pro-
vide LGBTQ sensitivity trainings, and sometimes these
requests are part of an employer’s efforts to resolve con-
flicts between employees. In some instances, the train-
ings have been requested because an employee came out as transgender, and the employer
wanted to learn how to create a trans-affirmative work environment.

We have also assisted students from middle school up to college age with issues around school
bullying, and in one instance we were sought out for our expertise by the Los Angeles Police
Department during an investigation of anti-LGBTQ bullying in a local private high school. In
that particular case, the parents of the victim were unaware of their daughter’s sexual orien-
tation, and school administrators planned to have a meeting with the parents and “out” their
child to them, against her will. Through an LAPD detective, we were able to convince admin-
istrators that outing the student to her parents without her consent would most likely have a
severe psychological impact on her and could potentially create devastating upheaval in her
life. We have seen many instances where youth have come out, or have been “outted,” to their
parents, who in turn reject their children and kick them out of the home. Not having the vic-
tim’s consent and not knowing how the parents would respond could lead to similar results.

Courtesy of Jake Finney
Jake Finney, former manager
of the Anti-Violence Project for
the Los Angeles LGBT Center in
Los Angeles, California.

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Section 9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime

The Most Dangerous Occupations
According to NCVS data from 2005–2009 (Harrell, 2011), the highest overall rates of nonfatal
workplace violence occurred among those in law enforcement (47.7 victimizations per 1,000
employed persons). This can thus be considered the most dangerous form of work when it
comes to likelihood of workplace violence, as shown in Figure 9.9.

Figure 9.9: Rates of workplace violence, 2005–2009

Based on data from Workplace violence, 1993–2009, by E. Harrell, 2011, Bureau of Justice Statistics (
/content/pub/pdf/wv09 ).

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50

Law enforcement

Mental health














Retail sales



Within each of the occupational categories shown in Figure 9.9, some professionals have
higher than average violence victimization rates at work, including bartenders (79.9 vic-
timizations per 1,000 employed people), law enforcement officers (77.8 victimizations per
1,000), teachers at technical/industrial schools (54.9 victimizations per 1,000), mental
health professionals who provide custodial care (37.6 victimizations per 1,000), and gas sta-
tion attendants (30.2 victimizations per 1,000) (Harrell, 2011).

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Section 9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2019a), the largest percentage of workplace
homicides in 2018 occurred in service work (33.1%), followed by sales and office work
(22.7%) (see Table 9.4). The least-affected occupations were those involved in professional
and related work (7.3%).

Possible reasons why these jobs are more dangerous are examined later in the chapter.

Table 9.4: Workplace homicides, 2018

Percent of workplace homicide

victims age 16 or older

Management, business, and financial 10.2%

Professional and related (e.g. computer/mathematical, architecture/
engineering, life/physical/social sciences, community/social services,
legal, education, art/design/entertainment/media, healthcare)


Service (e.g. health support, protective service, food preparation and
serving, building and grounds cleaning and maintenance)


Sales and office 22.7%

Natural resources, construction, and maintenance 12.1%

Production, transportation, and material moving 13.2%

Source: “Table A-6. Fatal occupational injuries resulting from transportation incidents and homicides by occupation, all United
States, 2018” in Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, by Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019 (

Impact of Specific Factors on Workplace Crime
Workplace violence is in some ways different than violence away from work. For example,
nonfatal workplace violence is more likely than nonworkplace violence to be committed by
strangers (53% against males and 41% against females) (Harrell, 2011). Recall from earlier
discussions in the book that most violent crimes nationally are committed between people
who know each other. At work, about 26% of violence against men and 32% of violence
against women is committed by people who have a work-based relationship (see Table 9.5).

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Section 9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime

Although most violence at work stems from crimes such as robberies by people not associ-
ated with the particular workplace, violence committed by a current or former employee or
customer at work usually follows some triggering event where a person says he or she has
been treated unfairly, disciplined, or denied something perceived to be deserved (e.g., a raise
or promotion). Thus, these triggering events can also be understood as risk factors for future
criminal acts. So too can certain characteristics of those who commit the acts. These include
things like a history of violent behavior, past criminal behavior, negative personality traits
(e.g., anger, unhappiness), negative experiences in the past, and substance abuse.

Table 9.5: Workplace violence by gender

Victim/offender relationship

Percent of workplace violence

Male Female

Total 100.0% 100.0%

Intimate partner 0.8 1.7

Other relatives 0.6 0.7

Well-known/casual acquaintances 11.7 18.9

Work relationships 25.5% 31.7%

Customer/client 3.9 6.5

Patient 1.5 6.0

Current or former—

Supervisor 1.2 3.3

Employee 2.6 1.7

Co-worker 16.3 14.3

Do not know relationship 8.5% 6.1%

Stranger 52.9% 40.9%

Source: Workplace violence, 1993–2009, by Harrell, E., Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011 (
/pdf/wv09 ).

Rates of violence for men and women are greater at work than away from work. At work the
rate is 5.9 per 1,000 people ages 16 years and older for males, versus 4.1 for females; and
away from work it is 17.2 for males versus 15.5 for females. Still, a large majority of workplace
violence is committed against males (63%) (Harrell, 2011).

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Section 9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime

Table 9.6 shows rates of nonfatal violence at and away from work from 2005 to 2009 (the
latest years for which data is available) by gender, race, age, marital status, and annual house-
hold income. Notice that the rate of victimization at work is higher for Whites than it is for
Blacks/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos, whereas away from work it is higher for
Blacks/African Americans than for Hispanics/Latinos and Whites. However, both at and away
from work, American Indians experience the highest rates of nonfatal violent victimization.

Table 9.6: Rates of nonfatal violent victimization at and away from work, by
demographic factors, 2005–2009

Victim characteristic

Rate of nonfatal violence per 1.000 employed persons
age 16 or older in—

Workplace Nonworkplace

Total 5.1 16.4


Male 5.9 17.2

Female 4.1 15.5

Race/Hispanic origin

White 5.7 15.3

Black/African American 4.1 20.4

Hispanic/Latino 3.0 18.0

American Indian 13.0 33.9

Asian/Pacific Islander 3.6 8.2

Two or more races 7.8 60.3


16–19 years old 3.2 46.9

20–24 6.9 36.0

25–34 6.9 19.5

35–49 4.9 12.4

50–64 3.9 7.4

65 or older 1.7 3.0

(continued on next page)

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Section 9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime

Another difference between workplace violence and violence away from work is that away
from work, 16–19 year olds have the highest rates of violent victimization, but at work it is
people ages 20–34 years. Finally, the relationship between income and violent victimization
is different at and away from work. Away from work, people making less than $7,500 have
the highest rates of victimization, but at work it is people making less than $15,000 that have
the highest rates of victimization. Possible reasons for these variations are examined later
in the chapter.

Victim characteristic
Rate of nonfatal violence per 1.000 employed persons
age 16 or older in—
Workplace Nonworkplace

Marital status

Never married 6.2 29.3

Married 4.3 7.2

Widowed 5.1 7.6

Divorced or separated 6.4 29.2

Annual household income

Less than $7,500 2.8 55.7

$7,500 t $14,999 7.2 39.8

$15,000 to $24,999 6.2 26.2

$25,000 to $34,999 5.2 23.1

$35,000 to $49.999 4.9 17.5

$50,000 to $74,999 7.0 11.6

$75,000 or more 4.4 9.8

Unknown 4.3 15.8

Source: Workplace violence, 1993–2009, by Harrell, E., Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011 (
/pdf/wv09 ).

Table 9.6: Rates of nonfatal victimization at and away from work, by
demographic factors, 2005–2009 (continued)

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Section 9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime

Table 9.7 shows workplace homicides by demographic factors. The overwhelming majority
of workplace homicide victims are male (82.3%). Less than half are White (47.5%), whereas
African Americans (21.4%) and Hispanics (18.5%) are overrepresented as victims of homi-
cide given their portion of the U.S. population. In terms of age, people are most likely to be
killed at work in their mid-20s to early 50s (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019b).

Table 9.7: Workplace homicides by demographic
characteristics, 2018

Victim characteristic
Percent of workplace homicide

victims age 16 or older

Total 100.0%


Male 82.3%

Female 17.7


16–19 years old 2.9%

20–24 6.2

25–34 23.0

35–44 21.6

45–54 21.4

55–64 16.6

65 or older 8.4

Race/Hispanic origin

White 47.5%

Black/African American 21.4

Hispanic/Latino 18.5

American Indian/Alaskan Native 0.7

Asian 9.3

Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 0.7

Other or race not reported 1.8

Source: “Workplace homicides by selected characteristics, 2011–2018” in TED: The Economics
Daily, by Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2019 (

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Section 9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime

Trends in Workplace Crime
Figure 9.10 depicts trends in nonfatal workplace violence at work from 1993 to 2009 (the
latest year for which data is available), with a break in the data in 2006 due to a methodological
change in the NCVS.

Figure 9.10: Workplace and nonworkplace nonfatal violence against people
16 years and older who are employed and unemployed

The overall number of nonfatal violence incidents that occurred either at work or not at work has
decreased since 1993.

Based on data from Workplace violence, 1993–2019, by E. Harrell, 2011, Bureau of Justice Statistics (
content/pub/pdf/wv09 ).


‘93 ‘94 ‘95 ‘96 ‘97 ‘98 ‘99 ‘00 ‘01 ‘02 ‘03 ‘04 ‘05 ‘06 ‘07 ‘08 ‘09

Nonworkplace violence











Violence against person not employed

Workplace violence

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Section 9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime

Figure 9.11 depicts trends in workplace homicides from 1993 to 2009. Homicides at work
declined alongside homicides in general in the United States since the early 1990s.

Figure 9.11: Workplace homicides, 1993–2018

The number of workplace homicides has decreased since 1993. This trend aligns with the decrease in
all homicides since the early 1990s.

Based on data from Census of fatal occupational injuries – current and revised data, by Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d. (https://








‘93 ‘94 ‘95 ‘96 ‘97 ‘98 ‘99 ‘00 ‘01 ‘05 ‘06 ‘07 ‘08 ‘09‘02 ‘03 ‘04 ‘10 ‘11 ‘12 ‘13 ‘14 ‘15 ‘16 ‘17 ‘18

These data show that the rate of workplace violence declined in the 1990s, as did the number
of workplace homicides. As with declines in crime at schools, the decline in workplace crime
is attributable mostly to economic and social changes occurring in broader society.

The outcomes of workplace crime are similar to those of school crime and campus and uni-
versity crime. Again, the most serious of these outcomes (e.g., death and serious injury) are
very rare. Yet, workers are often injured physically and financially by crime. As a result, they
often suffer from fear of crime and increased perceptions of criminal victimization. Finally,
workplace crime obviously obstructs productivity of employees and businesses.

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Section 9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime

White-Collar and Corporate Crime
Although street crime at work is rare, other types of crime at work are far more common,
such as white-collar crime and corporate crime. White-collar crime is a crime committed by
an employee against the business for which the employee works. Corporate crime includes
illegal acts of corporations against shareholders, customers, and citizens (Robinson & Mur-
phy, 2009).

An example of white-collar crime is an employee embezzling money from his employer.
Embezzlement is a form of theft that occurs after a person has rightful possession of prop-
erty. For example, if an employee has legal access to the money of a business and then steals it,
this is embezzlement. Embezzlement involves theft by misappropriating money or property.

An example of corporate crime is a company committing fraud against consumers. Fraud is
also a form of theft, but it occurs when the taking of property is done through deceit or trick-
ery. For example, if a company legally sells a product by making knowingly false claims about
the product, that is a form of fraud called false advertising. Another example of fraud is an
automotive repair company charging a customer for unnecessary repairs.

Direct harms caused by white-collar and corporate crimes are enormous and dwarf all losses
caused by street crime (Reiman & Leighton, 2009). In terms of property loss, white-collar
and corporate crimes cost hundreds of billions of dollars in losses every year (Robinson &
Murphy, 2009). In terms of physical damage, more people are injured and killed by acts of
corporations than by all street criminals every year. Things like defective products, tobacco,
hospital error, occupational disease and injury, and so on, injure tens of millions and kill hun-
dreds of thousands of people every year (Friedrichs, 2006).

Some of these acts are legal (e.g., tobacco) or not intended to produce death (e.g., defective
products), yet they are still often committed with culpability. This means that corporations
can be held accountable for the behaviors that produce death or injury to their employees or
customers because they either acted recklessly (i.e., acting without regard for life or prop-
erty), negligently (i.e., failing to do something required of them), or knowingly (i.e., acting
with the knowledge that an outcome is likely to occur). When a corporation acts culpably
and people are injured or die as a result, we can rightly call such behavior criminal (Reiman
& Leighton, 2009), and in these cases, crime prevention means preventing corporations from
killing or injuring their own employees or customers. A modern example of such cases can be
seen in the actions of doctors and corporate personnel who, recklessly and without medical
necessity, prescribed and marketed opioids throughout the early 2000s and 2010s, contribut-
ing to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

No one knows for sure whether these crimes are increasing, but events such as the mas-
sive fraud on Wall Street and in the banking industry, which caused a major economic reces-
sion, suggest the problem has grown in significance. Scholars agree that fraud is widespread
and endemic in corporate America. That is, some view corporate crime as normal or to be
expected given the focus of large corporations on profit above all else (Bakan, 2005; Robin-
son & Murphy, 2009). The long list of recent white-collar-crime investigations on the FBI’s
“What We Investigate” webpage seems to support this view (https://www.f
gate/white-collar-crime/news). In spite of this, these crimes generally are less enforced and
prosecuted than common street crimes, probably because when people think of crime, they
tend to think of street crime.

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Section 9.3 Nature and Extent of Workplace Crime

Responding to Crime at Work
OSHA provides recommendations for employees and employers to take in reducing instances
of workplace violence, such as better employee safety training, increased lighting, better
security procedures, and an alarm system. Implementation of policy and procedures, keeping
in contact with workers while out in the field, and making sure that workers are never alone
can decrease victimization. Employees should learn how to recognize and diffuse potential
violence, and they should know the steps to follow (i.e., whom to contact) should a violent
episode occur.

If conflict occurs in the workplace, it is the employer’s duty to resolve the conflict as fairly
and as objectively as possible. Failing to provide employees with a safe and secure working
environment leaves employers wide open for civil litigation. Alternative Dispute Resolution
(ADR) programs are a means for solving conflict and can provide a remedy before disputes
become unmanageable. A neutral third party, such as a trained mediator, can preclude or
deescalate a violent situation between two workers or even two students. The mediator can
help to alleviate feelings of anger by clearing up misunderstandings and help the parties to
reach an amicable compromise.

Web Field Trip: White-Collar Crime

White-collar and corporate crime are common but often considered less serious than street
crime. This perception is due, in part, to the fact that perpetrators of white-collar crime often
get lighter sentences, are able to post bail to avoid jail time, and if forced to serve time attend
nicer “club fed” prisons or may serve time under house arrest.

There are more than 20 types of white-collar crimes and schemes. While you’ve probably
heard of a Ponzi scheme, bank fraud, and blackmail, you might be unfamiliar with some of
the others. Read about the types of white-collar crime and the schemes here: http://www Then read about some of the people behind these crimes:
Next, visit the New York Time’s “White-collar Watch” site at

Critical Thinking Questions
1. How many of these types of crimes or schemes have you experienced in your own life?

How many can you remember seeing in the media?
2. Do you think penalties for white-collar criminals should be harsher?
3. What types of white-collar and corporate crimes are happening this month in America?
4. What harms do they cause for the American public and world community?

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Section 9.4 Explanations for School and Workplace Crime

ADR can be used as an alternative to court litigation or agency adjudications, or to help dis-
puting parties resolve a problem that they cannot resolve on their own. Some ADR processes
include facilitation (helping each party to express their issue in a respectable and safe environ-
ment), mediation (helping each party to reach a compromise), and ombudsperson programs
(a person in the agency who listens to grievances confidentially and recommends solutions).

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is another alternative. This program is offered to
employees as part of their benefits package. Trained counselors help employees cope with
work or family-related problems. Such services are free and confidential. However, if the
worker discloses information regarding abuse to a minor, the elderly, or the disabled, or
expresses a desire to inflict harm on self or others, EAP counselors are required to report
such information to the proper authorities. EAP can assist with drug and alcohol problems,
stress, anxiety, depression, anger, relationship issues, parenting, grief, elder-care, workplace
issues, self-improvement, management issues, or mental health issues. Referrals are pro-
vided as needed, and supervisors should encourage employees to seek EAP assistance when

Finally, as in the case of schools and colleges and universities, CPTED and situational crime
prevention are practiced at most workplaces. Common measures include locks, alarms, video
surveillance systems, and so forth, aimed at discouraging would-be offenders from commit-
ting crimes at particular places.

9.4 Explanations for School and Workplace Crime
This chapter has discussed that criminality and criminal victimization (at the street level) are
fairly rare at schools, colleges and universities, and workplaces. Yet, it is more likely to occur
at certain times and places as well as against certain types of people. Some important ques-
tions emerged in the context of this review. The following section offers potential explana-
tions for special considerations of school and workplace crime.

Why Is Crime in Schools and Workplaces Rare?
School crime is rare for the same major reasons that crime at colleges and universities and
workplaces is rare. First, serious criminal victimization is rare in larger U.S. society, meaning
the vast majority of people in society will not be victimized by serious street crime. This is
true at schools, as well.

Second, the same social control mechanisms that act to deter crime from colleges and univer-
sities and workplaces are very strong at schools. For example, the primary agent of socializa-
tion and self-control is families, parents in particular. Although parents are often absent from
school, they are sometimes there serving in various capacities, as in the case of parents active
in Parent-Teacher Associations and those who volunteer at schools (Berns, 2012).

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Section 9.4 Explanations for School and Workplace Crime

Beyond this, teachers and school administrators act as parents to children while the children
are in school. One of the primary responsibilities of these adults is to help socialize children
by teaching and enforcing rules at the school. Often, the rules at school are similar if not iden-
tical to those of the home—listen, follow directions, be respectful, control your behavior, and
so forth.

Teachers and school administrators controlling behavior of children amounts to informal
social control, which is the most important and effective form of crime prevention. Infor-
mal social control is the control of behavior through normal, nongovernmental mechanisms
such as the family (Chriss, 2007). Given that children at school are almost always under the
supervision of adults acting as social control agents, it is not surprising that crime at school
is relatively rare.

Why Are Female Students More Likely to Be Bullied Than Male
Recall that data from schools show that female students are actually more likely than male
students to be victims of bullying as well cyberbullying. Why is this? Female students are
more likely to be bullied in part because of the manner in which young females relate to
each other. Their aggression does not tend to be based on physical acts like young males but
instead tends to be relational in nature, meaning it uses negative emotions in the context of
relationships (Keenan, 2007).

Relational aggression occurs when people use emotion and manipulation to harm others
rather than physical violence, and it usually involves methods such as spreading rumors
about someone, or excluding or ostracizing them. Relational aggression is common at schools
(Sullivan, Farrell, & Kliewer, 2006) and may help us understand why children sometimes feel
unsafe at schools and end up carrying weapons for protection (Goldstein, Young, & Boyd,

Since relational aggression is most common among girls, it is logical to see more bullying
against girls (usually committed by other girls). At the same time, we should expect more
physical aggression (e.g., fights, assaults) by male students. This is due both to biology and
socialization. For example, boys (especially adolescent boys) have higher levels of testoster-
one, which is associated with higher levels of aggression. They are simultaneously social-
ized to handle problems with aggressive means (Robinson & Beaver, 2009). That is, the best
explanation for young male aggression is a biosocial account that considers both biological
and social reasons for behavior.

Why Do Crimes Occur at Particular Places at College and University
Recall that certain places at college and university campuses are more prone to crime. Data
show that murder, aggravated assault, and motor vehicle theft tend to occur on public property
at or near college and university campuses. Such crimes are much rarer within student

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Section 9.4 Explanations for School and Workplace Crime

residences and other buildings (such as classrooms). Also, data show that the largest portion
of robbery occurs on campus but not in residence halls. For example, robbery occurs against
students walking to their cars at night or traveling to social gathering spots. Meanwhile,
crimes like burglary, forcible sex offenses, and arson usually occur in residence halls, as for
incidents of weapons possession, liquor law violations, and illegal drug possession.

Why is this? The simplest explanations are based on opportunity. That is, these crimes occur
most where there are most opportunities for them to occur. Theories such as lifestyle exposure
theory and routine activity theory predict that the convergence of motivated offenders, suitable
targets for crime, and an inability or unwillingness of people to guard those targets, increase
the odds of criminality (Clarke & Felson, 2004). Thus, crime occurs on campuses where there
are more potential offenders and victims together and no one capable or willing to intervene.

The nature of sexual assault on college campuses exemplifies this reality. Studies show that as
many as one in five college females will be sexually assaulted while in college, although most
of these are not reported to the police. When college women and men congregate together,
especially when both have been using alcohol, sexual assault is a possible outcome. Lifestyle
exposure theory focuses on the daily and nightly behaviors of potential victims and offenders
and concludes that the way to prevent sexual assault on campus is to change the lifestyles of
potential offenders and victims, for example, by encouraging them to drink less alcohol and
to change the way they think about appropriate and inappropriate male behavior. Routine
activity theory focuses on the activity patterns that result from these lifestyles and concludes
that the way to prevent sexual assault on campus is to increase guardianship of potential vic-
tims, for example, by advising people to drink only with people they know and to watch out
for each other especially when others have been drinking (Burgess, 2007; Coker et al., 2011;
Gidycz et al., 2011; Palmer et al., 2010).

Why Are Some Jobs More Dangerous Than Others?
What many of the more dangerous jobs have in common is that they are each associated with
working with certain types of people. For example, bartenders serve alcohol, often in large
amounts, and thus bartenders are more likely to interact with intoxicated people. Alcohol
use is associated with aggression and criminality. Police officers, security guards, and cor-
rectional personnel deal with lawbreakers and rule breakers, and thus their risk of criminal
victimization is significantly higher. Mental health professionals provide services to unstable
people who under certain circumstances are more likely to become violent. Meanwhile, gas
station attendants often exchange cash and work alone, sometimes in isolated and rural areas.
Since the vast majority of workplace homicides are committed by robbers and other criminal
assailants, people who work in these conditions are more likely to be victimized.

These findings are also consistent with predictions made by lifestyle exposure and routine
activity theories. Stated simply, there are more opportunities for offending against people
who work face-to-face with other people, especially when alcohol is being served or the cli-
entele includes criminal offenders. General strain theory also is helpful for understanding
workplace crimes because aggression at work is often the result of negative emotions stem-
ming from bad experiences with fellow employees or customers.

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Section 9.4 Explanations for School and Workplace Crime

Why Do Demographic Patterns of Victimization at Work Differ
From Those Away From Work?
Recall that data from schools show that traditional associations between demographic factors
and criminal victimization don’t always hold up when it comes to crime at work. For example,
workplace violence is more likely to be committed by strangers whereas nonworkplace vio-
lence is more likely to be committed by people who know each other. Further, the rate of vic-
timization at work is higher for Whites than most minority groups, whereas away from work,
the rate of victimization is higher for African Americans and Hispanics than Whites. Addition-
ally, people ages 20–34 years have the highest rates of victimization at work, whereas away
from work, it is 16–19 year olds. Finally, people making less than $7,500 have the highest
rates of victimization away from work, whereas at work it is people making less than $15,000
that have the highest rates of victimization.

Why? The answers to these questions also rest heavily on lifestyle exposure and routine
activity theories. That is, opportunity explains these outcomes fairly well. As one example,
Whites in their 20s and 30s are employed in the most dangerous jobs at higher rates than
other demographic groups. The more one is exposed to dangerous jobs the more likely one
is to be victimized.

Using the Sociological Lens: The Cyberbully Criminal

When should bullying be viewed as a crime?

When Tyler Clementi and Dharun Ravi entered Rutgers
University as freshmen in the fall of 2010, neither could
have imagined that before the end of the semester, their
names would become forever linked to a landmark cyber-
bullying case. The story of how Ravi ostensibly cyber-
bullied Clementi into taking his own life has become a
key focal point of numerous social and criminal issues,
including society’s enduring homophobia, the usefulness
of hate crime legislation, the demise of privacy, and, most
prominently, whether bullying can or should be viewed
as a crime.

As new roommates, Ravi and Clementi barely took time
to get to know each other and operated on a variety of
assumptions and stereotypes. Clementi observed that
Ravi’s family was “sooo Indian first gen americanish,” and seemed likely to own a Dunkin’
Donuts. Ravi, meanwhile, lamented to a friend, “[EXPLETIVE] MY LIFE / He’s gay,” upon find-
ing out his new roommate had cautiously come out just days before the start of the semes-
ter (quoted in Parker, 2012). During the mismatched pair’s short time together, Ravi—whose
communications with friends reveal disgust for gay people, along with amusement that
Clementi was using their shared room for sexual encounters with a man he met on a gay
website—secretly taped his roommate’s intimate encounters and gossiped about him over
Twitter. Although Ravi never actually posted any videos or pictures of Clementi online, he vio-
lated his roommate’s privacy, and Clementi complained to friends that he was afraid and was

Mel Evans/Associated Press
Dharun Ravi’s 30-day jail
sentence aroused debates over
whether his punishment was
too lenient or severe.

(continued on next page)
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Section 9.4 Explanations for School and Workplace Crime

contemplating moving out. One night, he asked Ravi to leave their room so he could be alone
with a partner, leading Ravi to write cruel, exposing statements about Clementi online. Days
later, Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

Immediately, the case became a lightning rod of controversy, with debate swirling over how
much responsibility Ravi bore for Clementi’s suicide, what exact factors prompted Clementi to
kill himself, and to what extent someone may be prosecuted for bullying that leads to suicide.
Ravi was eventually charged with 15 counts related to bias intimidation (a hate crime) and
violation of privacy, and on March 16, 2012, was convicted of all of them. Because he was con-
victed of a hate crime, he could have been sentenced to as much as 10 years in prison and been
deported to India. On May 21, however, Judge Glenn Berman sentenced Ravi to 30 days in jail,
a $10,000 fine, 3 years probation, and 300 hours of community service.

Reactions to Ravi’s relatively light sentencing were emotional and mixed, as the following
perspectives reflect. All raise critical and fundamental questions about the criminal nature of
cyberbullying and how society should prosecute and punish such cases going forward.

Thirty Days Is Not Enough
Steven Goldstein is one of many in the gay community who were disappointed by the lenient
sentence Dharun Ravi received for cyberbullying Tyler Clementi. Goldstein points out that Ravi
targeted Clementi not out of general mean-spiritedness but specifically because he was reviled
by Clementi’s homosexual identity. The facts of the case, as Goldstein reads them, are that Ravi
tried to intimidate Clementi on the basis of his identity—that constitutes a hate crime, which
Goldstein says is and should be punishable with a more meaningful sentence. Thirty days is
not long enough for justice to be served, nor for Ravi to truly repent for driving a sweet, shy,
and talented young man to suicide. Goldstein thinks in sentencing Ravi lightly, society lost an
opportunity to take a firm stand against cyberbullying and hate.

“Steven Goldstein: Garden State Equality Responds to Rave Sentence,” by Steven Goldstein,
Baristanet, May 22, 2012 (

Light Sentence Was Just Right
Judge Glenn Berman struck the right balance in sentencing Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail,
argues Jay Michaelson in the following perspective. He weighs the various factors of the case
and concludes a guilty verdict with a light sentence is the perfect balance of punishment in this
difficult-to-prove and emotional case.

Michaelson suggests a harsher sentence would have likely generated an unproductive back-
lash against the gay community and would also fail to address the rampant and widespread
homophobia in American society that Ravi participated in but did not invent. Interestingly,
prominent voices in the gay community agree, and several argued that Ravi should receive
a light sentence because of this. “Ravi may have been the last person who made [Clementi]
feel unsafe and abused and worthless, but he couldn’t have been the first,” said Dan Savage,
founder of the It Gets Better project. “The rush to pin all the responsibility on Ravi and then
wash our hands and walk away means we’re not going to learn the lessons of these kids”
(quoted in Zernike, 2012, paras 16-17). Slate columnist J. Bryan Lowder agrees that Ravi is

Using the Sociological Lens: The Cyberbully Criminal (continued)

(continued on next page)
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Steven Goldstein: Garden State Equality Responds to Ravi Sentence

Steven Goldstein: Garden State Equality Responds to Ravi Sentence


Section 9.4 Explanations for School and Workplace Crime

more a product of his homophobic society than he is an instigator of it. “We can’t lock the bully
up, because the bully is in all of us,” said Lowder as he advocated for leniency for Ravi. “To pin
the whole weight of our culture of homophobia on Ravi and to think that sending him a mes-
sage is going to fix all that is misguided” (quoted in Zernike, 2012, paras 18 & 20).

“30-Day Sentence for Dharun Ravi in Rutgers Spying Case Is Right,” by Jay Michaelson, Daily
Beast, May 21, 2012 (

Thirty Days Is Too Harsh
Even 30 days is too long a sentence for Dharun Ravi, argues Ross Kaminsky in the following
perspective. Kaminsky does not deny that Tyler Clementi’s death was tragic and that Dharun
Ravi acted shamefully, but firmly believes it is wrong, even dangerous, to make being mean a
prosecutable crime. Kaminsky points out that no one will ever really know what caused Clem-
enti to jump to his death—the world has blamed Ravi, but it is likely that issues with his par-
ents, a history of depression, and other factors played into Clementi’s decision to end his life,
a choice which Kaminsky says Clementi ultimately bears responsibility for. Kaminsky thinks
it is sad enough that one man’s life was destroyed by this experience; sentencing Ravi only
destroys a second. With little evidence that Ravi’s sentence will deter future acts of homopho-
bia, cyberbullying, or hate crimes, Kaminsky concludes that Ravi’s punishment was too steep.

“Nobody Pushed Tyler Clementi,” by Ross Kaminsky, American Spectator, May 23, 2012

Critical Thinking and Discussion Questions
1. In your opinion, is incarceration an appropriate punishment for cyberbullying? Why or

why not?
2. Ross Kaminsky equates hate crime with “thought crime.” Explain what you think he

means by this and whether or not you agree.
3. What deterrent effect, if any, do you think Dharun Ravi’s sentence will have on

4. To what extent do you think a person can be blamed for another person’s suicide? To

what extent do you think they should be able to be punished under the law?
5. Do you think Dharun Ravi’s sentence was just? Explain your reasoning.

Using the Sociological Lens: The Cyberbully Criminal (continued)
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Nobody Pushed Tyler Clementi


Chapter Summary

Chapter Summary
Young people spend an enormous amount of their lives during childhood, adolescence,
and early adulthood in their schools, colleges, and universities. And virtually everyone
holds a job at some point in their lives, many enjoying the benefits of lifelong careers. Thus,
understanding crime at schools, colleges and universities, and the workplace is of great

Luckily, serious crime is quite rare at schools, colleges and universities, and workplaces.
That is, there is very little murder, rape, robbery, and assault at these places. Yet,
occasionally these crimes do occur, along with crimes like harassment and bullying. More
common at schools and colleges and universities are acts of theft, vandalism, and even

At work, the most common offenses are white-collar and corporate crimes. White-collar
crime, in fact, causes more physical and financial damage than serious street crimes.
Instead, what is more newsworthy are the least common of all crimes, crimes like murder by
current or former employees.

School officials, college and university administrators, and workplace managers have all
designed and implemented crime prevention policies to reduce the possibility of crime
occurring on their watch. These efforts pay off but are not as effective at preventing
those rare directed assaults or other incidents like hazing that can lead to devastating

Critical Thinking and Discussion Questions
1. Asian American students experience lower rates of bullying and being bullied than

students of other races and ethnicities. Given this, what conclusions might you draw
about Asian Americans, Asian American families, or Asian American communities?

2. In 77% of violent, targeted school attacks, at least one person knew someone was
conceiving of or planning an attack. In most cases, though, no one came forward
with this information. Why do you think this is?

3. What are some significant differences between on-campus crime and crime in the
general population?

4. Explain how workplace violence differs from violence that takes place away from

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Chapter Summary

Key Terms
bullying Being made fun of, called names,
insulted, the subject of rumors, pushed,
shoved, tripped, spit on, threatened with
harm, excluded from activities on purpose,
forced by others to do things you don’t
want to do, as well as having one’s property
destroyed by others on purpose.

Clery Act A law that requires colleges and
universities that receive federal financial aid
to report crime statistics and to make such
statistics readily available to the public.

directed assault An attack that employs
or has the ability to employ lethal force,
committed against a specific person or
someone who matches that person’s victim
profile, and who was chosen prior to the
initiation of the assault or at the time of the
attack based on similarities to the intended

embezzlement A form of theft that occurs
after a person has rightful possession of
property; involves theft by misappropriating
money or property.

informal social control The control
of behavior through nongovernmental
mechanisms such as the family.

leakage A student’s intentional or
unintentional admission of violence to come.

moral panic When the fear of or reaction
to a crime is greater than the threat it
actually poses, and policies are created and
implemented that are mostly unnecessary
and can even make things worse.

nonworkplace violence Nonfatal violence
(including attempted crimes) against
employed persons age 16 or older that
occurred while they were not at work or on

relational aggression The use of emotion
and manipulation to harm others; usually
involves methods such as spreading rumors
about, excluding, or ostracizing someone.

sexual harassment Unwelcome sexual
advances, verbal comments, physical
touching, and even offensive remarks about
one’s gender.

targeted school violence School shootings
and other violent attacks where the school
or a particular target at the school is
selected prior to the attack.

workplace homicide Homicide of
employees age 16 or older who were killed
while at work or on duty (excluding deaths
by accidents).

workplace violence Any act or threat of
physical violence, harassment, intimidation,
or other threatening disruptive behavior
that occurs at the work site.

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Reducing Crime and
Reforming the Criminal
Justice System

Ryan Tarinelli/AP/Associated Press

Learning Outcomes
After reading this chapter, you should be able to

• Discuss the ideological and financial obstacles to criminal justice system reform.

• Describe the disconnect between popular assumptions and scientific evidence about crime.

• Explain evidence-driven crime-control strategies in contemporary America.

• Contrast retributivism and restorative justice as guiding principles for criminal justice.

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Section 10.1 The Challenge of the Status Quo

In August of 2010, after serving nearly 10 years in prison for two bank robberies, Lance
Brown walked out of a North Carolina prison a free man. Since his release he has been strug-
gling with poverty and homelessness and was forced out of a homeless shelter for fighting
with another patron. In April of 2012, Brown approached his parole officer and asked what he
needed to do to get put back in prison! His parole officer referred him to a series of agencies
and support services that Brown did not pursue. Instead, he walked into the local courthouse
in Columbus Georgia and threatened to kill the president of the United States. However, offi-
cers did not believe that Brown’s threats were credible and thus there were no consequences.
Apparently frustrated, Brown exited the courthouse and promptly threw a brick through the
glass front door of the courthouse. Brown was held in jail for 9 months awaiting trial. At trial
he was sentenced to 1 month in jail and 3 years probation for malicious mischief. In court,
Brown noted that his behavior would result in shelter in a facility in which at least, “some-
one’s going to offer me a sandwich and drink” (Associated Press, 2012, p. 1).

Many experts believe that the problem of crime in America is grounded in larger issues of
social structural marginality. Thus, issues like the economy, poverty, health care, and educa-
tion may be central in an encompassing crime-control strategy.

10.1 The Challenge of the Status Quo
One of the paramount challenges in criminology is developing systematic, evidence-driven
and practical public policies to address the crime problem. However, public policy does not
exist in a vacuum; developing, implementing, and evaluating cost-effective and pragmatic
crime-control policies is only part of the challenge. Many experts highlight that changes in
criminal justice policy include a series of obstacles. There are ideological barriers to change
given America’s historic support of “tough on crime” policies. There are individuals and
industries that benefit from the criminal justice system in its existing form. And individuals
and groups reap massive profits from committing crime in America and internationally.

Thus, the next era of criminal justice policy faces a two-pronged challenge. First, to develop
sound public policy to reduce crime and its attendant harms. And second, to overcome obsta-
cles to change and the vested interests in the status quo.

The Crime Control Industrial Complex
Classical sociological theorist Karl Marx made a series of astute observations about crime
that are as relevant today as they were 150 years ago. Marx argued that the social-structural
dynamics of capitalism would shape crime as well as how society would attempt to control
crime. Economic obstacles may be one of the most significant barriers to criminal justice sys-
tem reform.

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Section 10.1 The Challenge of the Status Quo

Industries associated with crime control provide a series of economic and social opportuni-
ties for individuals in modern society. A series of legal system actors depend on the criminal
justice system for employment including police, judges, prison guards, and many others. In
addition, a number of individuals and professions depend on industries directly related with
the criminal justice system. For example, both college professors and college students may
study criminology and criminal justice. Publishing companies regularly publish textbooks
and other books that are required in college courses. Private security companies install and
monitor alarm systems in private homes and businesses. These firms may also provide pri-
vate security personnel to individuals and communities. Construction companies build and
maintain America’s jails and prisons. Prisons require laundry services, telephone companies,
and electronic surveillance systems. The garment industry produces uniforms for both crimi-
nal justice system employees and inmates. Crime and crime control are big business.

Criminologists and sociologists often refer to the series of individuals and industries that
depend on crime as the crime control industrial complex. This concept has a rich and
important history. The ideological origin of this construct was former President Dwight
Eisenhower’s farewell address in 1961, which warned America about what Eisenhower
coined the “military industrial complex.” In this famous speech, Eisenhower reflected on
witnessing world war and the corresponding human and social toll of widespread violence.
Within the framework of American democracy, he warned the American public to be extra
judicious when deciding the appropriateness of war. He expressed concern that America
had created a massive, expensive, and influential military machine that had the potential to
artificially encourage the country to go to war, in part to justify its own existence; that military
elites have the power to potentially influence the country to use its military might in part
because of the economic necessity created by the military industrial complex. Criminologists
have built upon Eisenhower’s rich military industrial complex concept by applying it to a
series of criminal justice issues.

Journalist Eric Schlosser (1998) applied Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex concept
to the economics of prisons. Schlosser defined the prison industrial complex as “a set
of bureaucratic, political, and economic interests that encourage increased spending on
imprisonment, regardless of the actual need” (Schlosser, 1998, p. 1). Similarly, this concept
can be applied more broadly to crime control in general. Thus, we can define the crime control
industrial complex as “a set of bureaucratic, political, and economic interests that encourage
increased spending on [crime control] regardless of the actual need” (Schlosser, 1998, p. 1).

Any systemic reforms to the criminal justice system must overcome possible resistance from
the crime control and prison industrial complexes. Thus, as suggested by Karl Marx, economic
dynamics are likely central to the future of criminal justice policy in America.

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Section 10.1 The Challenge of the Status Quo

Web Field Trip: Corrections Corporation of America

Up until the 1980s, all correctional facilities were public or government owned and operated.
Then a few individuals started a private company that promised to design, construct, expand,
and manage prisons, jails, and detention facilities. They also provide inmate transportation
and a multitude of in-prison programs. While private correctional facilities promise to be bet-
ter than public ones and to offer more resources and a more effective system, they are also
companies trying to make a profit. The ethics behind this business model and whether private
facilities are in fact better than public prisons, is up for debate.

Visit the website of the private prison company the Corrections Corporation America (recently
rebranded as Core Civic) at Click on “Who We Are” from
the “About CCA” dropdown menu and watch the embedded video on that page.

Critical Thinking Questions
1. How would you describe the tone of the video?
2. What are the pros and cons of privatization in the criminal justice system?
3. Are there other ways to reform prisons that do not include privatization?

The Profitability of Crime
Crime is also big business for criminals; the scope and profitability of crime on the inter-
national stage is striking. According to one report, the global gross proceeds from criminal
behavior is estimated at $1.6 to $2.2 trillion annually (Channing, 2017)! If “crime” was a sov-
ereign nation, it would be one of the largest 20 economies in the world (Dahl, 2012).

The most profitable international criminal industries are counterfeiting (up to $1.13 trillion
per year), illegal drug trafficking (up to $652 billion per year), and human trafficking ($150.2
billion per year) (Channing, 2017). Any of these organizations may have enough power and
resources to destabilize and threaten the viability of existing governments in the developing
world. In addition, human traffickers victimize approximately 2.4 million people each year.
The UN describes this horrific criminal industry as, “a shameful crime of modern-day slav-
ery” (Dahl, 2012, p. 1). Finally, many types of organized criminal groups engage in corruption,
which is estimated to have a global cost of $2.6 trillion, equal to 5% of the world’s economy
(United Nations Security Council, 2018).

International criminal business is often associated with organized crime. However, modern
organized criminal groups tend to be more fluid and dynamic compared to past decades.
In previous eras, international organized criminal groups were often strictly hierarchical
in nature and typically restricted membership by national origin and ethnic or racial heri-
tage. Modern groups tend to be more flexible. They often cooperate to commit one or more
criminal endeavors and then disband. Thus, traditional international law enforcement strate-
gies targeting group leaders are less viable strategies (Dahl, 2012; Elliott, 1997). The United
Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (n.d.) adds that the changing nature of technology and
access to international information and relationships continue to increase the effectiveness
of transnational organized criminal groups. Organized crime is linked to drug trades, human
trafficking, money laundering, maritime crime and piracy, cybercrime, and political crimes,
among others.

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Section 10.1 The Challenge of the Status Quo

Reducing the profitability of crime may be central to criminal justice system reform. Given
the lucrativeness of crime, both internationally and within America, reforms might seek out
practical ways to reduce the profits, and thus the rewards, from engaging in criminal behav-
ior. While the scope of these problems can be daunting, criminologists and policy experts
have highlighted some areas that are ripe for reform to reduce the profitability of engaging in
criminal behavior. The evidence suggests that reducing the profitability of drug crime might
be a prudent approach to undermining the profitability of international organized crime.
However, these suggested reforms also must overcome entrenched ideologies that may be
resistant to change.

Web Field Trip: Drug Drones

From speedboats to homemade submarines to catapults, drug traffickers have become adept
at developing new methods of smuggling their products. Along the U.S.-Mexico border, some
cartels have begun using drones to transport drugs into the United States. American officials
have responded by developing new methods to track and cripple the traffickers’ ability to
transport drugs.

To learn more about this latest battle between drug traffickers and law enforcement, watch
the video “Drug Cartels Using Drones To Smuggle Across Borders” at https://nowthisnews

Critical Thinking Questions
1. How do drones reaffirm the challenges of combating international organized crime?
2. What strategies do you think would be effective to reduce the supply of illegal drugs in

3. What strategies do you think would be effective to reduce the demand for illegal drugs

in America?

Ideological Challenges to the Status Quo
The chapters in this book have presented various theories to explain crime and described a
range of crimes. While crime is declining, it remains a significant social issue, and America
continues to have significantly higher rates of violent crime compared to other Western dem-
ocratic societies (Lynch & Pridemore, 2011). In addition, the nature of crime and how society
responds to crime is changing. Advances in technology give law enforcement new tools to
monitor what they believe may be potential criminal activity. Information sharing between
law enforcement agencies and the private sector has created a new era of policing. Many of
these changes in how the criminal justice system and society react to crime have been shaped
by the attacks on September 11, 2001. The post-9/11 world has created public fear of new
types of crimes. Not only are people afraid of being victimized by traditional street crime
but concerns about terrorism shape society’s experiences in places ranging from airports to
schools. Reviewing recent works about crime and punishment illustrate the changing nature
of crime and society. Moreover, these cornerstone works examine the ideologies of crime con-
trol and public interpretations of the crime problem.

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Section 10.1 The Challenge of the Status Quo

The Culture of Control
In The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society, legal scholar and
sociologist David Garland (2001) presents an overview of the changes in society’s attitudes
about crime and punishment since the 1970s. Garland argues that changes in social condi-
tions, such as growing insecurities about safety and increased perceptions of risk, have led
society to adopt increasingly punitive responses to crime. Crime rates did not rise, but fear of
crime, possibly facilitated by the government and media, did grow. According to the analysis,
increased vengeance is not reserved for the most serious offenses. Rather, a punitive approach
is applied to juvenile offenses and growing numbers of less serious offenses.

According to Garland, society reacts emotionally to the belief that crime is an ever-increasing
problem. In turn, this fear of crime has changed the tone of criminal justice policy. The media
creates images of “unruly youth, dangerous predators, and incorrigible career criminals”
(Garland, 2001, p. 10). Rather than creating laws that react to empirical realities of increased
crime rates, the government often passes legislation based on sensationalized media accounts.
Thus, contemporary criminal justice is focused on providing security for the public, contain-
ing danger, and identifying and containing any type of risk.

Protecting the public is a highly-politicized process. This process often omits criminological
researchers and practitioners from the creation of criminal justice policy in favor of politi-
cians and members of society who have been victims of crime. Accordingly, laws are often
named after crime victims. For example, Megan’s law was named for Megan Kanka who was
raped and murdered by a neighbor who was a two-time convicted pedophile. In 1996, Presi-
dent Bill Clinton signed the Megan’s Law bill into law. Nearly 20 years after the law was estab-
lished, society is struggling with the increasing numbers of sex offenders who, when released
from prison, often abscond from parole. Increasing restrictive provisions, such as limitations
on where they can live, and public backlash when they move into neighborhoods has created
an unintended consequence. Instead of improved supervision when released, Megan’s law
has likely made it more difficult for law enforcement to track sex offenders.

Garland also discusses the expanding infrastructure of crime prevention and community
safety. An ever-growing network of partnerships between law enforcement agencies are
increasingly participating in information sharing. The Department of Homeland Security,
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Fed-
eral Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and local enforcement agencies have created networks in
which they work together on public safety initiatives. These initiatives are largely preventa-
tive in nature. They do not react to crime, as traditional law enforcement, but watch, track,
and collect data about individuals and groups that may engage in criminal activity.

Multiagency information sharing and crime prevention are likely sound strategies, but in
practice some controversial cases have raised important questions about individual civil lib-
erties. For example, in 2012, the media learned that the New York Police Department (NYPD)
had been granted permission to surveil Muslim students at Rutgers University, New Jersey’s
largest public university in 2007. Apparently, the surveillance expanded to include Muslims
in Newark, New Jersey, and other nearby cities. Media accounts suggest that Newark’s mayor,
the New Jersey State Police, and Rutgers’ officials approved this surveillance. However, no
individual Muslim people or members of the mosques where they worshipped were sus-
pected or accused of engaging in terrorist or other criminal activity.

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Section 10.1 The Challenge of the Status Quo

Not only are law enforcement agencies creating new alliances, but within society crime con-
trol is becoming increasingly commercialized. Private police, security guards, private security
systems installed in homes, and private prisons are more common. While security was once
the responsibility of the state, private citizens are relying on private industries to provide
them with the services the government once did. Garland attributes some of the growth of the
private security business to the perpetual sense of crisis present in society.

Governing Through Crime
In Governing Through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and
Created a Culture of Fear, Jonathan Simon (2007) argues that freedom and equality are the
price society is willing to pay to achieve a sense of safety. Consider, for example, the dramatic
federal laws enacted by the federal government in response to the 9/11 attacks; the Patriot
Act, signed into law one month after the attacks, gave the government sweeping powers to
monitor electronic communications and people of interest in the hopes of thwarting further
terrorist attacks.

However, society’s fear of crime and violence, Simon argues, is irrational. He points out that
the title of his book, “governing through crime” refers to the idea that power and authority
in the United States are wielded based on the constant threat of crime and violence. Society
typically awards policies and procedures created in the name of preventing crime with less
scrutiny and immediate legitimacy. According to Simon, society is more willing than ever to
relinquish rights while accepting social institutions’ expanding powers.

Prisons of Poverty
In Prisons of Poverty, Loic Wacquant (2009) points out society’s

intensified surveillance of so-called problem neighborhoods, increased anxi-
ety over and representation of youth delinquency, harassment of the home-
less and immigrants in public space, night curfews and “zero tolerance,” the
relentless growth of custodial populations, the deterioration and privatiza-
tion of correctional services, the disciplinary monitoring of recipients of pub-
lic assistance. (Wacquant, 2009, p. 1)

He argues that governments, the United States and European Union in particular, are relying
on the criminal justice system to control the disorder that has resulted from social problems.
More specifically, mass unemployment, the growing wage gap between social classes, and
the shrinking networks of state social support have a direct and important connection with
crime (see Chapter 3). He refers to the phenomenon as a transition from the social state to
the penal state.

Wacquant pays particular attention to New York City and the aggressive policy of fighting
quality-of-life crimes based on the broken windows theory. According to the approach, by
focusing on relatively minor offenses, such as vandalism and loitering by homeless people,
more serious crime will decrease. Law enforcement will be sending a message that smaller
offenses will not be tolerated, and offenders will be less likely to target those communities.
Poor, disenfranchised, or powerless people living in urban areas are most likely to commit
minor offenses such as quality-of-life violations. Waquant argues this creates a dangerous
underclass in the eyes of the public.

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Section 10.1 The Challenge of the Status Quo

Wacquant also points out how the changing approach to controlling crime benefits the state
that puts the legislation in place. The penal state is justified by the images of fear that the
government and media create for public consumption. The combination of unemployment,
immigrants, and criminality has often been used to justify the penal state. Powerful law
enforcement becomes necessary, then, to protect the public from the imminent threat of these
growing social problems. One way to protect society is by collecting increasing amounts of
personal information—from the Internet searches of individuals, to their travel patterns, and
even the groups to which they make charitable contributions. Creating data-bases of private
information about individuals, which increasingly includes genetic data, permits the gov-
ernment to surveil without individuals’ consent or knowledge. Budgets for maintaining and
strengthening this penal state continue to grow as the state’s social support or welfare role

With Liberty and Justice for Some
In With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the
Powerful, Glenn Greenwald (2011) outlines the inequalities that permeate the United States’
criminal justice system. He argues that not only do people with political and economic power
have advantages within the criminal justice system but they are actually allowed to break the
law, largely without legal consequences. It is not only that the wealthy have better lawyers
but many corporate acts that cause massive harm are not defined as crimes in the first place.

One of the founding principles of the United States is that the law is meant to act as an equaliz-
ing force. The sayings such as “all people are created equally” and “justice is blind” reflect the

ideal that the country’s system of laws is created with an
emphasis on fundamental notions of fairness. Today, Green-
wald argues, there is a two-tiered system of justice with the
politically and financially powerful largely exempt from the
system that imprisons the poor and powerless at a higher
rate than any other country in the world. As the powerful
gain protection, the powerless become subject to increas-
ingly punitive punishments.

What Greenwald calls “elite immunity” is clearly illustrated
by the financial meltdown of 2008. Federal Reserve chair-
man Ben Bernanke testified in front of Congress that the
United States’ economy was days away from a meltdown.
Years of banks issuing high-risk mortgages and selling bank
products, such as derivatives, without the assets to back
them eventually had a significant impact on the health of the
American and world economies. The United States’ largest
banks needed money to be able to pay their debts. In Octo-
ber 2009, Congress gave $700 billion in taxpayer money to
avoid the banks going bankrupt and the ripple effects the
bankruptcies would have on the American economy. How-
ever, damage had largely already been done to Wall Street.
The stock market responded negatively and dramatically to
the fears and instability of the economy.

Eric Risberg/Associated Press
Failure to hold top bank
officials criminally responsible
for the 2008 financial crisis is
an example of “elite immunity”
according to Glenn Greenwald.

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Section 10.2 Myths and Misconceptions About Crime

Government officials regulate banks and Wall Street transactions. However, many experts
contend that the treasury secretary has a symbiotic and cozy relationship with the top offi-
cials of the banks and Wall Street tycoons he is supposed to be regulating. Greenwald suggests
that there is no steadfast federal oversight of the financially powerful people who created the
economic downturn. Neither they nor the government regulators who allowed the crisis to
happen have ever been held criminally responsible for their actions.

Greenwald presents powerful examples from modern history, from Watergate to President
George W. Bush’s controversial actions surrounding the war in Iraq, to demonstrate how
America’s elite often go unscathed by the law. He explains how the media, the government,
and the criminal justice system have each played a role in creating the two-tiered system of
laws we have today.

The work of David Garland, Jonathan Simon, Loic Wacquant, and Glenn Greenwald describes
the current state of the criminal justice system. Their work contains several common themes.
Laws are differentially enforced. People’s criminal justice system vulnerability often depends
on their social location and who they are—their race, gender, and socioeconomic status. More-
over, these cornerstone works suggest that society is driven by an irrational fear of crime and
violence. This irrational fear often centers on violent, interpersonal street crime committed
by strangers and often ignores the harms and crimes of corporate America. In examining the
present criminal justice system, these scholars are debunking the myths commonly believed
by the members of society.

10.2 Myths and Misconceptions About Crime
The authors’ works described in the previous section examine the current state of crime and
criminal justice in the United States. The authors point out how social changes have affected
the way society thinks about and reacts to crime. Bohm and Walker (2006) refer to crime
myths as misconceptions that lead to misguided criminal justice policies. The public, the
media, politicians, and the politically and economically powerful sustain these myths.

Case Study: Officer Bricknell

Peter Moskos is an associate professor of law and political science at the John Jay College of
Criminal Justice. Moskos earned a PhD in sociology from Harvard University in 2004 and also
served as a police officer in the high-crime Eastern District of inner-city Baltimore from 1999
to 2001. He combined his lived experience as a patrol officer with his scholarly insight into
criminal justice issues in an award-winning book titled Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Bal-
timore’s Eastern District (Moskos, 2008).

This book provides tremendous insight into a series of criminal justice issues. Moskos presents
a scathing evaluation of the police academy. He advocates for individual police officer discre-
tion, especially for low-level crime. He criticizes the war on drugs and articulates the challenge
of enforcing the war on drugs in neighborhoods where robust open-air drug markets flourish.
Moreover, he provides insight into issues of police culture, socialization, and corruption.

(continued on next page)

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Section 10.2 Myths and Misconceptions About Crime

The Myth That Crime and Criminality Can Be Accurately Measured
It is a myth that crime statistics accurately show what crimes are being committed and what
crimes are most harmful (see Chapter 1). Most crime and violence is unreported. Researchers
refer to this as the dark figure of crime. When law enforcement is unable to accurately count
crime, society has an inaccurate picture of offenders.

Increases in the number of arrests do not necessarily correspond to an actual increase in the
number of offenses being committed. For example, sometimes the police will adopt a policy
of proactive policing—that is, taking the initiative to address public order offenses such as
clearing streets of people who are loitering and may be homeless, rather than responding to
calls from the public in response to crimes after they have been committed. Police activity
will be increased, but it is in part due to their proactive policies not because crime rates have
actually increased.

While still imperfect, the best measures of crime include all major available data-collections
methods to unearth common themes and trends. While crime cannot be accurately mea-
sured, the best criminal justice policies will be grounded in data trends that are supported
by the Uniform Crime Report (UCR), the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS),
the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), and self-report studies. Relying exclusively
on “official” measures of crime presents an inaccurate picture of crime and criminality
in America.

Case Study: Officer Bricknell (continued)

A major theme of Cop in the Hood, is the controversial role of arrests in modern policing. As
noted, police arrests are a major contributor to the UCR, America’s “official” repository of data
about crime. Moskos emphasizes that the number of arrests made do not necessarily always
reflect the prevalence of crime in a given area. He argues that the decision to make an arrest for
a low-level crime is often somewhat arbitrary and guided more by officer preference, the time
required, and other factors that are unrelated to the crime itself. Moskos argued that arrests
are appropriate in some situations, but often a patrol officer can be more effective preventing
crime or resolving contentious situations without making arrests. While Moskos was never
subject to an official arrest quota, officers in his unit were regularly encouraged by high-level
administrators to increase the number of arrests that they made in a given month.

Moskos demonstrates the controversies surrounding the arrest-based initiative through the
case of Officer Bricknell. This case also illustrates how official data on crime can be shaped by
factors other than the prevalence of crime itself. In response to law enforcement administra-
tors encouraging patrol officers to make more arrests, Officer Bricknell set out to make more
arrests than any other officer in the history of the department in any one-month period. In
March of 2000, Officer Bricknell made a total of 26 arrests and in fact set the monthly arrest
record. Every single one of his arrests that month was for violations of bicycle regulations,
like not wearing a helmet (Moskos, 2008). The narrative of Officer Bricknell reinforces that
law enforcement discretion and resource allocation decisions play a significant role in official
crime data.

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Section 10.2 Myths and Misconceptions About Crime

The Myth That White-Collar Crime Is Only About Financial Loss
It is a myth that white-collar crimes do not cause significant and tangible harm to individuals
and society. In The Rich Get Richer, and the Poor Get Prison, Jeffrey Reiman (2007) points out
that white-collar crime, perpetrated through business and industry, in medical malpractice,
and by the government, does more harm to society than street crime. Greater damage is done
to society by the number of people who are injured and killed in industrial accidents, medical
procedures gone wrong, and lost retirement and investments funds, for example, than is done
by street crime each year. While people are socialized to fear the stranger lurking around the
corner waiting to attack, the decisions made by executives may have more negative effects on
more people than do the actions of street offenders.

Hazardous work conditions and consumer products cause significant harm to our society.
For example, workers exposed to substances such as asbestos and lead have long-term
health problems. The workers who cleared the piles of debris from the destruction of the
attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11 were locked in a decade-long legal battle with the gov-
ernment, which initially denied that any of their health problems were related to their work.
The mining industry is one of the most dangerous with mine collapses causing fatalities on
a regular basis.

Food products are another source of danger to the public. During the Winter of 2019, there
was an outbreak of E. coli due to contaminated romaine lettuce. Pharmaceuticals are another
industry that has disbursed dangerous products that have had to be recalled. The Ford Pinto
that exploded when it was rear-ended by another car, and Firestone tires that were unsafe are
more examples of industries releasing dangerous products that put the public at risk.

An often-overlooked type of white-collar crime is environmental crimes such as toxic waste
dumping. Releasing poisonous substances into the water and ground of communities can
have negative health effects on generations of people to come. Factories and plants that gen-
erate these toxic substances are most commonly located in economically disadvantaged com-
munities. Thus, many experts contend that environmental crimes dovetail with issues of envi-
ronmental racism.

Reiman describes these white-collar crimes as “crime by any other name” (Reiman, 2007,
60). A “crime by any other name” refers to corporate crime that is often overlooked by the
criminal justice system. But in addition, this concept refers to corporate-related behavior that
does not violate criminal statutes, thus are not “crimes” in the strict sense, but cause mas-
sive harm to society. He argues that if the criminal justice system was truly and neutrally
concerned about harms to society, law enforcement and legal system actors would vigorously
examine the harms caused by corporations. Thus, some experts contend that the criminal
justice system could be reformed with an increased focus on white-collar crime and “crime
by any other name.”

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Section 10.2 Myths and Misconceptions About Crime

The Myth of Differentiation in the Classification
of Dangerous Offenders
It is a myth that “criminals” are significantly different from “noncriminals.” While it is com-
forting to believe that criminals are somehow inherently different from the rest of us, there
is no categorical evidence that supports this claim. According to early Positivist criminology,
offenders were less evolved than nonoffenders. Today, science suggests that criminals are not
a unique breed of human. While people differ in terms of mental development, there is no
criminal man (see Chapter 1) as suggested by Cesare Lombroso (1876/2006) nor can crimi-
nology, psychology, or any other science distinguish between “good” and “bad” people. It is
not possible to categorize people according to biological, physiological, or social characteris-
tics and determine their criminality.

The ability of science to differentiate between who is likely to engage in serious crime and
who is not is questionable at best. The error rates of predictions are high. One of the stron-
gest principles psychologists have is that future behavior is best predicted by past behavior.
When scientists consider demographic (e.g., age, gender) and clinical (e.g., substance abuse,
diagnoses of psychopathy) factors, combined with knowledge about past behavior, they are
best able to make statements about people’s likelihood of future offending. However, there is
no mathematical formula that can correctly predict anyone’s future behavior. The so-called
actuarial method, which uses survey instruments to make predictions about people, has been
found to be no more effective than the clinical method that uses human judgment to collect
information and diagnose people.

While the media sensationalizes crime and criminals, there is no evidence that offenders dif-
fer from nonoffenders in a discernible, biological way. There is no criminal gene. Rather, a
complex series of biological, psychological, and sociological factors often contribute to the
commission of crime. The future of criminal justice must realize that criminals do not exist
in a vacuum but are profoundly shaped by social structural dynamics; thus education, the
economy, housing, and health care are likely critical in crime prevention.

Understanding the theoretical and empirical evidence about crime and criminal behavior is
essential to debunking, or challenging, these prevalent myths about crime. Reiman (2007)
argues that the relatively lenient treatment of white-collar crime, and the relatively vigorous
treatment of street crime, presents a distorted image of the crime problem to the American
public. Moreover, since those of the upper class benefit from a series of structural advantages
in the criminal justice process, crime is also presented to the American public overwhelmingly
as a problem for the lower classes. Reiman (2007) describes the connections between crime
myths and the American public using a concept that he calls “the carnival mirror image.” He
notes, “The American criminal justice system is a mirror that shows a distorted image of the
dangers that threaten us—an image created more by the shape of the mirror than by the real-
ity reflected” (p. 62).

Reiman contends that the criminal justice system and the media present an image of the “typ-
ical criminal” who is “a he . . . young . . . predominately urban . . . disproportionately black . . .
[and] poor” (Reiman, 2007, p. 63). This image of the typical criminal discourages a critical
examination of the role of social class in the criminal justice system. It discourages a vigor-
ous study of the harms of white-collar crime. Debunking these popular misconceptions about
crime and criminal justice is essential to creating fair and effective criminal justice policy.

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Section 10.3 Crime Reduction: According to the Evidence

10.3 Crime Reduction: According to the Evidence
One of the reoccurring themes throughout this textbook has been the social conditions that
influence criminality. When society considers how to reduce crime, social structural factors
play a central role. Thus, many criminologists advocate addressing larger social structural
issues in American society as a method to reduce crime and its attendant harms. Society’s
response to crime is just that—a response. An alternative is proactive interventions, those
that are put into place to prevent rather than react to problems that can lead to criminal-
ity. Addressing large-scale, society-wide social problems is likely a prudent strategy to
reduce crime.

Many promising crime-control and crime-prevention strategies are grounded in cornerstone
criminological theories. As discussed in Chapter 1, many influential theoretical schools
in criminology link crime with larger social issues and social problems. For example, self-
control theory identifies quality education and the socialization that it can provide as key
in controlling criminality. Strain theory suggests that an accessible economy and traditional
routes to upward social mobility are critical to avoid pushing individuals toward crime.
Social disorganization theory clearly and explicitly links crime with community-level social
problems. And various critical perspectives highlight inequality in society as the facilitator
of crime and negative labeling. Many of the policy suggestions in the following sections are
intimately connected with these fundamental theoretical perspectives on crime.

The following sections examine social-structural strategies that the evidence suggests may
contribute to a significant and sustained decrease in crime. However, this is not an exhaustive
list. The following approaches represent some of the most promising strategies, but there
are likely viable crime reduction strategies beyond the scope of this single chapter. Moreover,
these strategies are not mutually exclusive. That means that using any one of these approaches
alone is not the most prudent choice. Rather, the most effective strategies to reduce crime will
likely require the simultaneous use of many, if not all, of the following approaches.

Stratification, Poverty, and Employment
America is an outlier among Western democratic societies because of the high levels of
inequality and stratification among its population (see Chapter 3). Inequality, stratification,
and poverty all correlate with crime. Moreover, issues like education, employment, and health
care, which are fundamentally shaped by stratification and larger economic dynamics in the
country, have a significant impact on crime dynamics.

Job training and employment skills can interrupt the cycle of unemployment and crime. Bring-
ing jobs to inner cities and rural areas can also reduce poverty while investing in communi-
ties that would otherwise be left to growing levels of disorganization as the United States’
economy suffers. Many criminologists would argue that increasing the rewards of the legiti-
mate economy might be a very persuasive way to deter individuals from entering into the
illegitimate, criminal economy.

In Crime and Punishment in America, renowned criminologist Elliott Currie (1998) explores
the relationship between social-structural problems, like poverty and employment, and crime.
Currie’s argument fits squarely within Robert Merton’s classic version of Strain Theory: that
individuals adapt, in sometimes criminal ways, if they cannot meet the prescribed goals of

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Section 10.3 Crime Reduction: According to the Evidence

society via the available means (see Chapter 1). Currie notes that in the last part of the 1970s
and throughout the 1980s America’s dramatic increase in incarceration rates corresponded
with an increase in social structural marginalization:

The vast increase in imprisonment . . . coincided with a sharp deterioration
in the social conditions of the people and communities most at risk of vio-
lent crime. Thus, while we were busily jamming our prisons to the rafters
with young, poor men, we were simultaneously generating the fastest rise in
income inequality in recent history. (Currie, 1998, p. 30)

Currie then argues that American social norms are no longer focused on long-term prosper-
ity and responsible economic management reminiscent of the Protestant Work Ethic. Rather,
the norms and values of America focus on “a particularly virulent ethic of consumption
and instant gratification” (Currie, 1998, p. 31). Unrealistic economic goals, combined with
increasing inequality and stratification, exemplify the dynamics of Strain Theory; the rewards
of the legitimate economy decrease, crime increases, and prison becomes a reactive, catch-
all response to a combination of social problems. Thus, many experts contend that reducing
stratification in America is central to reducing crime and its attendant harms. In his 2012
piece Reaping What We Sow: The Impact of Economic Justice on Criminal Justice Currie (2012)
reflects on the connections between criminal justice challenges and larger issues of economic
and social justice:

America’s extraordinary level of violence—including wide and growing eco-
nomic inequality, the advanced industrial world’s deepest and most con-
centrated poverty, and mass joblessness that is only partly captured by our
conventional unemployment rate. In a very real sense, our swollen prison sys-
tem has functioned as a costly and ineffective alternative to serious efforts to
address those enduring social deficits. (Currie, 2012, p. 46)

High-quality education programs for young people are likely one of the most effective anti-
crime policies available (Currie, 1998; Reiman, 2007; Bourgois, 1995). Educational interven-
tions that prepare children, especially those underserved by public education in poor com-
munities, can help reduce the high rates of school dropout. Dropping out of school is related
to delinquency and reduces job opportunities. In fact, 30% of prisoners have not obtained
a high school degree and regularly score lower on tests measuring literacy and math skills
(Tofig, 2017). By investing in schools where rates of poverty are high, society may be able to
change the trajectory that often leads from poor school performance to later criminality.

Tragically, the dramatic increase in prisons in America has come at the expense of educa-
tion, possibly one of the most effective institutions for preventing crime. According to the
self-control theory posited by Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi (1990; see Chapter 1),
the school system is the critical institution for preventing crime and delinquency. More spe-
cifically, schools might be best positioned to socialize students to embrace self-control and
sound decision making. School-based socialization may be particularly important in house-
holds with full-time working parents.

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Section 10.3 Crime Reduction: According to the Evidence

In the Field: Experts Weigh In on Educating Prisoners

Do prison education programs have impacts on criminal justice reforms?

Jody Lewen

Strong prison education programs are, among other
things, leadership development programs. The more
people in prison are able to represent themselves in their
own voices, and tell their stories and share their perspec-
tives in the public sphere, the more easily the public will
come to understand that crime can be both prevented
and responded to through rational and humane meth-
ods. Our hope is that the more the public sees people in
prison as fully human, the less interested they will be in
supporting costly, punitive measures that increase suf-
fering but do little to protect public safety.

Can you please tell us more about the College Program at
San Quentin State Prison, its students and its faculty?

David Cowan

The central project of PUP is the College Program at
San Quentin. The Program provides college prepara-
tory classes in math and English, as well as college credit
classes in the humanities, social sciences, math, and sci-
ence, leading to an associate of arts degree in liberal stud-
ies, to over 300 students at the prison. Most instructors
with the program are graduate students or faculty from

Courtesy of Jody Lewen
Jody Lewen, executive director
of the Prison University Project
at San Quentin State Prison in

The relationship between education and punishment is cyclical and critically important to
criminal justice system reform. As incarceration rates increase, often funding available for
education decreases. Decreased quality of education then increases crime and the need for,
and expense of, incarceration. Currie (1998) notes, “The money spent on prisons in the 1980s
and 1990s, then, was money taken from the parts of the public sector that educate, train,
socialize, treat, nurture, and house the population—particularly the children of the poor”
(p. 35).

The inverse relationship between education spending and prison spending is demonstrated
empirically by Stephen Bainbridge, a distinguished professor of law at the University of Cali-
fornia at Los Angeles School of Law. Dr. Bainbridge compared prison spending in the state
of California to spending on the state’s public universities. What he discovered was that as
spending on public universities went down from 1967 to 2008, spending on the correctional
system went up. His analysis demonstrates that correctional system expenditures may come
at the direct expense of one of the best institutions for crime prevention: education. The evi-
dence suggests strongly that any systemic approach to reducing crime would rely heavily on
increasing the availability and quality of public education in America (Bainbridge, 2012).

(continued on next page)
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Section 10.3 Crime Reduction: According to the Evidence

the University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco
State University, the University of San Francisco, Sonoma
State University, and Stanford University; all teach as vol-
unteers. The Program receives no state or federal fund-
ing and relies entirely on donations from individuals and

To enroll in the program, students must hold at least a
high school diploma or GED. Most completed their GED
while in prison. If they are part of the mainline, general
population of San Quentin, which means they are classi-
fied as medium security, then they are eligible.

What impacts do such education programs have on pris-
oner rehabilitation and reintegration?

Jody Lewen

Unlike the violent, racist, hyper-masculine dominant
culture of most California prisons, the College Program
at San Quentin creates an environment of physical and
emotional safety, in which people feel comfortable doing
things like asking for help, showing vulnerability, and interacting with others across racial
lines. This happens almost nowhere else within the system, where the population has often
been isolated for an extended period of time, and yet these are precisely the kinds of skills
that people need to function in a healthy social or professional environment. PUP’s education
program also uniquely impacts reintegration because of the presence of the large volunteer
faculty, who genuinely care about their students and treat them with respect. They not only
provide instruction in course material but also reinforce important community values and
norms that would not and could not normally be reinforced in the prison environment.

Is there a method for measuring the relationship between such prison education programs and
recidivism? How do such programs affect recidivism?

Jody Lewen

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 barred people in prison from
receiving Pell Grants, which led to most prison higher education programs around the United
States being shut down. As a result, most the data on the impact of such programs is quite old.
Nevertheless, the data that does exist, both from before and after 1994, consistently demon-
strate that the more education a person receives in prison, the less likely they are to return.

While the state-wide rate of recidivism in California is 70%, according to some studies, stu-
dents who complete an associate’s degree while in prison return at a rate of less than 10%.
Eventually we also intend to develop long-term case studies examining the impact of program
participation on educational attainment, income, employment, civic engagement, mental
health, substance abuse, and other indicators of individual and community wellbeing.

Courtesy of David Cowan
David Cowan, Prison University
Project graduate and current
Prison University Project
director of operations.

In the Field: Experts Weigh In on Educating Prisoners (continued)

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Section 10.3 Crime Reduction: According to the Evidence

Health Care
From a criminal justice perspective, the evidence is quite clear that universally obtainable,
quality health care prevents crime. Health care services, both physical and mental, during
childhood are important given the cycle of violence (the connection between physical and
sexual abuse victimization and later offending). Children who grow up around violence,
whether in their homes or their neighborhoods, can benefit from mental health care to inter-
rupt the cycle of violence. Anger management, counseling, and support services thus should
be a central feature of domestic violence law.

Quality health care can also prevent crime early in the life course. The evidence suggests that
both prenatal care and nutrition early in life are essential for brain development. Healthy cog-
nitive development is essential for decision making and impulse control in every stage of life.
Thus, interventions that provide prenatal care and nutrition to families who otherwise could
not obtain them has a twofold benefit: increases in human health and decreases in crime and
crime victimization (Tibbetts, 2012).

Criminological research has long supported that regular home visits by registered nurses and
other medical professionals are very effective in preventing crime in “at-risk” populations
(Tibbetts, 2012; Currie, 1998). These medical professionals can work with parents on effec-
tive and healthy childrearing practices. Moreover, they can diagnose and begin treating any
serious health issues like head trauma, hormone imbalances, and exposure to toxins (expo-
sure to lead most notably). Pilot home visit programs have shown promising results in both
New York and Hawaii (Currie, 1998).

Charles Tibbetts, a criminal justice professor at California State University at San Bernardino
and criminology theory expert, enumerates the importance of health care services for the
prevention of crime. He astutely summarizes the importance of health care availability in
the context of crime reduction strategies, grounded in a biosocial perspective on criminality.
“Another obvious policy implication derived from biosocial theory is mandatory health insur-
ance for pregnant mothers and children, which is quite likely the most efficient way to reduce
crime in the long term” (Wright et al., 2008, as cited in Tibbetts, 2012, p. 80).

Guns and Gun Crime
Gun control is a very controversial and politically divisive issue in contemporary America.
Moreover, gun control is embedded in constitutional debates and issues of civil liberties and
responsibility deeply rooted in American culture. Despite these complexities, the evidence
about the role of guns in facilitating crime, and violent crime in particular, suggests that criti-
cally examining gun control policy is essential to a viable crime reduction strategy.

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Section 10.3 Crime Reduction: According to the Evidence

Compared to other industrialized democracies, the United States has the highest firearm
death rate by a significant margin (Naghavi, 2018). Fueled in part by a dramatic economic
downturn, a combustible drug economy, and the rise of powerful street gangs, the 1980s and
early 1990s saw a dramatic increase in firearm-related death, particularly among America’s
youth. Reflecting on these dynamics, Garen Wintemute, a nationally recognized researcher
on gun policy and regular advisor to government agencies, noted, “The entire increase in
homicide in the United States through 1993 was attributable to firearm homicide” (Winte-
mute, 2005, p. 52; cited in Reiman, 2007, p. 34). By 2006, guns were the weapon of choice
in almost 12,800 homicides, 28,000 total deaths, and 500,000 assaults and robberies (Cook
et al., 2011). As demonstrated in Figure 10.1, guns are the most frequently used weapon in
homicides in America. Clearly, the evidence suggests investigating measures to reduce the
impact of guns on society and their role in the commission of crime is essential to effective
criminal justice policy.

Figure 10.1: Murders and weapon types, 2014–2018

Firearms are used in a majority of murders in the United States.

Adapted from “Expanded homicide data table 8: Murder victims by weapon 2014–2018,” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
in Crime in the United States 2018, 2019 (








2014 2015 2016 2017 2018

Firearms Other Knives or cutting instruments

Personal weapons (hands, fists, feet) Blunt objects (clubs, hammers)

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Section 10.3 Crime Reduction: According to the Evidence

In the Field: An Expert Weighs in on Gun Violence Intervention

Joshua Gryniewicz

How does CeaseFire’s form of intervention differ from
other forms of crime intervention?

It is important to note that CeaseFire focuses specifi-
cally on violence prevention. CeaseFire is not a catch-all
model. It has a very focused, very strategic point of inter-
vention. The model has been demonstrated effective at
reducing shootings and killings. In part, these results and
the workers’ reputations as credible messengers rely on
a harm reduction mentality of meeting the client where
they are. In other words, our workers are nonjudgmen-
tal. They do not address crime as a whole, but intervene
to reduce shootings and killings. Again, we also are inter-
ested specifically in those who are at the highest risk for
shooting and killing. A youth can be high-risk, involved in a certain lifestyle, but not necessar-
ily at risk for shooting or killing; and those individuals are more likely to be referred to another
type of program.

Frontline aired The Interrupters, a documentary directed and produced by Steve James. This
documentary presents 1 year in the lives of three violence interrupters who work for CeaseFire.
How did the release of this documentary impact CeaseFire and the communities being helped?

There is this amazing story that appeared in the Chicago Defender (December, 2012) where a
young man, Jason Harrison, was “close to giving someone the business.” He had no real rela-
tionship with CeaseFire; there were no personal connections to any of our workers, but he had
seen the documentary and it had a profound impact on him. Harrison explained to the Chicago
Defender, moments before he carried out a plan that could have taken a life and cost his free-
dom: “Something just clicked in my head. I thought about the movie about CeaseFire. I just
couldn’t do it.” It sounds like one of those too-good-to-be-true stories, but this is exactly what
our public education component—communication with a behavior change bent—is aimed at
achieving. That is what happens when community norms begin to shift.

In addition to the statistically significant decline in either homicides or nonfatal shootings or
both in each of the communities, researchers discovered the positive effects (less shootings
and/or killings or both) diffused into the neighboring communities as well as people not even
involved in the program directly! In other words, high-risk people in the neighborhoods where
the CeaseFire model is being implemented were changing their thinking and attitudes toward
violence even if we weren’t directly working with them. I think these benefits, the effect of the
film on individuals like Jason Harrison, were worth more than any award the film won.

Courtesy of Joshua Gryniewicz
Joshua Gryniewicz, former
communication director for
CeaseFire in Chicago, Illinois.

Reform the War on Drugs
Since its declaration in 1972, the war on drugs has had a massive cumulative effect on jails
and prisons in the United States. When examining local jails, state and federal prisons,
nearly 20% of everyone incarcerated in the United States is incarcerated primarily for a
drug offense (Sawyer & Wagner, 2020). In addition, drug offenders are among the groups
with the highest rates of recidivism (Clarke, 2019), and research has consistently shown

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Section 10.3 Crime Reduction: According to the Evidence

that the vast majority of drug offenders are nonviolent (Mohamed & Fritsvold, 2010; King
& Mauer, 2002). In fact, some studies have shown that approximately 75% of drug offend-
ers incarcerated in state prisons have no prior convictions for violent crime (King & Mauer,
2002). Moreover, these nonviolent offenders are also disproportionately relatively low-level
players in the drug-dealing hierarchy.

Despite the kingpin rhetoric that is often included in drug crime legislation, overwhelmingly
the War on Drugs has incarcerated relatively low-level drug offenders. In 2008, Kentucky Jus-
tice and Public Safety Cabinet secretary J. Michael Brown provided the following testimony
to the Kentucky Senate Judiciary Committee. Brown reflected on the War on Drugs and both
its massive impact on the American correctional system and its propensity for incarcerating
low-level offenders:

We have too many people in jails, too many people in prisons. Our capacity to
care for them has been strained to the limit. . . . I don’t think we’re getting the
worst drug lords into the prisons. We’re just getting the people who went out
and got caught. . . . It’s the low-hanging fruit. (Kentucky Senate Judiciary Com-
mittee, 2008, p. 1)

From an agricultural perspective, low-hanging fruit are easy to pick because they are low on
the tree, ripe, and easily harvested. From a law enforcement perspective, the low-hanging
fruit in the drug trade are often user-dealers, who occupy the most vulnerable positions in the
drug dealing hierarchy, often doing hand-to-hand drug sales in urban open-air drug markets.
Moreover, these most vulnerable players in the drug dealing game are likely to be young and
poor and thus not able to rely on private attorneys, to post bail, or to benefit from the other
resource-based advantages available to members of the middle and upper classes.

Troy Duster, the Silver Professor of Sociology at New York University, examined why the war
on drugs incarcerates so many low-level offenders. In Pattern, Purpose and Race in the Drug
War: The Crisis of Credibility in Criminal Justice, Duster argues that low-level drug dealers
are not only vulnerable but also suffer from additional structural disadvantages in the crimi-
nal justice process. He presents evidence that higher-level drug dealers have a significant
advantage in the plea-bargaining process. Higher-level dealers likely can provide valuable
information to law enforcement about the illegal drug industry and possibly other major drug
dealers. Historically, high-level drug dealers may provide information about members of their
own organization but prefer to provide information to authorities about the operations of
rival organizations when possible. The accused can use this information to leverage a more
favorable plea bargain. In contrast, the lower-level drug dealers likely do not have valuable
information to provide to authorities and thus have far less leverage if they choose to pursue
the plea-bargaining process (Duster, 1997).

Many states are experimenting with alternative, less-punitive approaches to the war on
drugs. Some experts advocate for a public health approach to drugs that emphasizes medical-
ization. From a correctional perspective, key in this approach is institutional and transitional
treatment for drug offenders in hopes of reducing recidivism rates (Gupta, 2012). The LEAD
program, developed in Seattle, WA, in 2011, essentially decriminalizes drug use by divert-
ing low-level, nonviolent offenders to social service programs and intensive case manage-
ment (Kristoff, 2019). The program has shown success and, as of early 2020, 20 states are
operating LEAD programs, with another 16 in the process of either developing or exploring
programs (LEAD National Support Bureau, 2020). The state of Texas saved approximately $2

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Section 10.3 Crime Reduction: According to the Evidence

billion between 2007 and 2012 by diverting low-level drug offenders away from traditional
incarceration facilities and providing drug treatment for drug offenders in the traditional
correctional system (Gupta, 2012). The abandonment of some aspects of the war on drugs
has allowed states to experiment in legalizing marijuana for both medical and personal, rec-
reational use. Early studies indicate that legalization may result in fewer marijuana-related
arrests and court cases (Farley & Orchowsky, 2019). However, long-term results remain to be
seen, especially since the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal substance
and it is unclear if the it will continue to look the other way as states contradict federal law.

The evidence suggests that reforming the War on Drugs may be an essential component of
systemic criminal justice system reform. Since declaring the War on Drugs in 1972, illegal
drugs are more available, more potent, and relatively less expensive (controlling for inflation)
in America’s communities (Mohamed & Fritsvold, 2010). Moreover, because incarceration is
so expensive and recidivism rates are so high (see Chapter 2), treatment-based diversion pro-
grams may be most cost effective and practical. The recent economic downturn has increased
the incentives for states and the federal government to consider viable alternatives to the
punitive prohibition of the war on drugs.

Case Study: Needle Exchange Programs

A vigorous debate is ongoing among experts about how society should manage drug use, as a
victimless crime. Some countries, like the United States, tend to treat drugs as a criminal jus-
tice system issue. Other countries have tried less punitive approaches, as exemplified by Swit-
zerland’s Needle Park. In an attempt to control heroin use, Switzerland opened Needle Park in
the early 1990s. Needle Park was created to provide a place where heroin addicts could use,
buy, or sell drugs without legal sanction. The park received 4,000 visitors a day. This strategy
did have some public health benefits, and it contributed to a 90% reduction in new cases of
HIV in the region. However, complaints from residents caused the closure of the park in 1992.

Countries around the world have developed other harm-reduction strategies for drug users.
Needle exchange programs were established where addicts could receive clean needles and
“shoot up” in injection rooms sometimes referred to as safe injection facilities or SIFs. Injec-
tion rooms provide a clean and safe environment off the streets and trained medical personnel
are available if medical assistance is needed.

In 2017, the United States adopted a progressive strategy Australia has been using to reduce
the harms associated with the intravenous use of illegal drugs: syringe vending machines. In an
effort to control HIV and hepatitis C, Nevada implemented its first syringe vending machines
in the city of Las Vegas. The machines are located in convenient locations, and drug users who
have signed up for a vending machine card can discretely access sterile needles and other
injection equipment.

For more information about Nevada’s syringe vending machines, read the following article:

Critical Thinking Questions
1. Many people have criticized needle exchange programs for potentially encouraging drug

use. What are your thoughts?
2. Do these public health measures help the drug problem or make it worse?

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Section 10.3 Crime Reduction: According to the Evidence

Reduce the Prison Population
In Reaping What We Sow: The Impact of Economic Justice on Criminal Justice, Currie (2012)
begins by declaring,

The most important change we could make in our criminal justice system over
the next 25 years would be to bring our level of incarceration down to some-
thing resembling that of the rest of the advanced industrial world. Whether
we can do that, however, is an open question. (Currie, 2012, p. 46)

As Currie notes, the criminological research reveals two major dynamics that have led to
America having 5% of the world’s population, yet 25% of its incarcerated population (see
Chapter 2). The research demonstrates that the levels of serious violent crime—murder, rape,
and gun crime—are higher in America than in any other Westernized democracy (Lynch &
Pridemore, 2011). Moreover, America is much more likely than its peer nations to use more
punitive sentences, including mandatory minimum and determinate sentencing structures
(see Chapter 2) for first-time offenders, drug offenders, and nonviolent offenders (Currie,
1998; Currie, 2012). Rethinking these punitive and rigid sentencing policies for low-level
offenders may be important features of a more equitable and effective criminal justice system.

The United States federal government passed the First Step Act in 2018 in the hopes of reduc-
ing federal prison populations. The Act is an attempt to reduce recidivism levels via inmate
risk assessment and subsequent assignment of inmates to appropriate recidivism reduction
programming. Inmates who successfully complete the programming can earn time credits
toward early placement in prerelease custody. Promising outcomes of similar state-level
prison reform efforts enacted prior to the Act’s passing suggest the federal effort may achieve
similarly positive results (Bergmann, 2018).

Reducing America’s relatively high levels of crime, violent crime in particular, is likely inti-
mately intertwined with larger issues of social justice and equality. A legacy of research in
criminology and sociology links many varieties of criminal behavior with social structural
marginality and economic exclusion. A series of experts advocate for the federal government
to take an active role to create a national strategy to reduce poverty, create a more robust
and accessible economy, and reduce social structural marginalization more generally (Derber,
2009; Currie, 1998; Currie, 2012). Currie advocates for . . .

strategies to reduce the deepening poverty, widening inequality, growing con-
centration of disadvantage and obliteration of opportunities for a productive
and inclusive life for too many of our citizens. Chief among those policies must
be a commitment to full employment at living wages—a commitment that,
as we increasingly understand, is highly unlikely to be fulfilled by the private
economy alone. That means we will need a publicly funded employment pro-
gram that centrally includes direct job creation as well as relevant training.
(Currie, 2012, p. 47)

While the role of the federal government in economic reform may be controversial, economic
reforms are likely central to reducing crime and thus reducing America’s correctional system,
which is currently the largest in the world. While Currie may focus on economic factors, a sus-
tained reduction in the size of the correctional system in America will likely require embrac-
ing a series of social-structural reforms suggested in this chapter.

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Section 10.3 Crime Reduction: According to the Evidence

A major theme of this book is that crime is complex and deeply rooted in larger social issues.
Centuries of gathering evidence about crime and constructing theories about its origins sug-
gest that there is no single approach to the crime problem. Rather, the complexities of crime
dynamics mandate an equally complex response involving a host of prevention and evidence-
driven strategies. In addition, any criminal justice system reform is inherently linked with
larger issues of ideology; the future of American criminal justice must critically reflect on the
“tough on crime” ideology that has profoundly shaped our criminal justice system since its

In the Field: An Expert Weighs in on Influencing
Policy toward Nonincarcerative Alternatives

Georgia Lerner

What role do organizations such as WPA have in criminal jus-
tice reforms or policy reforms?

WPA and comparable organizations can educate and provide
feedback to government and policy makers about the condi-
tions of the facilities they operate and impact of their deci-
sions on women and on people who are indirectly affected.
For example, prisons and jails are not mandated to pay atten-
tion to child welfare issues, but educating child welfare and
corrections officials about the shared populations they serve
and affect can foster productive discussion and thinking about
how they can reduce the harms caused by their systems.

WPA receives a wealth of information and perspective from
clients and from staff and colleagues, and we seek to improve
conditions, either through our own efforts or by working
with colleagues. WPA operates a program for women with
criminal justice histories who want to become advocates;
they select issues and develop and present recommendations
for reform to the policy makers who have the power to make change. For example, our recom-
mendations caused the local jail to create a new law library in the women’s jail and to include
materials related to the child care and custody issues.

Our recommendations often focus on local practices that create obstacles to women’s success
in the community. For example, when jails release women on weekends or late at night, it is
impossible to take them directly to drug treatment programs for intake (as intakes are gener-
ally conducted during typical business hours). WPA met with jail officials who had expressed
a commitment to doing what they could to reduce readmissions to the jail, and, as a result, the
time and days of discharges was changed. Now, women are more successful at engaging with
the services they need.

On a broader scale, WPA promotes the use of evidence-based tools and practices to inform
responses to crime that do not include incarceration. For many years, WPA operated a resi-
dential alternative to incarceration, and we always try to advocate for our clients to receive
sentences that can address the underlying issues (usually substance abuse, parental stress,
mental illness, unsafe housing, or poverty) that contributed to their criminal involvement.
We participate in national conferences, are part of the team that implemented and guides
the National Resource Center for Justice Involved Women, respond to inquiries from all over
the world, and use every opportunity to educate people about the tools we have available to
enhance public safety through nonincarcerative responses to crime.

Courtesy of Georgia Lerner.
Georgia Lerner, executive
director for Women’s
Prison Association in New
York, New York.

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Section 10.4 Paradigm Shift: From Retributivism to Restorative Justice

10.4 Paradigm Shift: From Retributivism
to Restorative Justice
Society’s classic reaction to crime tends to be characterized by one of two approaches: retri-
bution (or punishment of lawbreakers) or rehabilitation (treatment to transition lawbreak-
ers into law-abiders). There is a third model: restorative justice.

According to restorative justice, crime harms not only the victim but the larger community
and the offender as well. As a result, all three groups of stakeholders should come together
and actively participate in the resolution to the crime. This inclusive method stands in con-
trast to the traditional American approach to criminal justice that includes the offender with
the victim virtually removed from the process and replaced by the state. Restorative justice
attempts to repair the damage to the victim and the community, while also reintegrating the
offender. It is important to note that restorative justice is not available for every criminal case,
and many states require the process to be initiated by the victim (Beitsch, 2016). As of 2016,
all but 10 states had some form of a restorative justice program codified by statute (Pavelka,
S. 2016).

There is no single definition of restorative justice, and some researchers argue that the
approach can include any future-looking activities. For example, giving offenders the oppor-
tunity to make amends and demonstrate their value and potential while making positive con-
tributions to the community (Maruna & LeBel, 2003). Restorative activities hold offenders

accountable for their crimes while allowing
them to make restitution by helping others.
Being provided with the opportunity to help
and engage in altruistic activities (Toch,
2000) can enable the offender to reinte-
grate back into society. The restitution can
transform how offenders relate to others.

Many programs allow inmates to engage in
activities that provide them with the oppor-
tunity to provide restitution through their
efforts. At Angola Penitentiary, men restore
bicycles and build toys for underprivileged
children. In Wisconsin, maximum-security
inmates also build birdhouses for conser-
vatory groups and rocking horses for Head

Start programs. In Maine, juveniles convicted of serious offenses can participate in the Blan-
ket Program where they learn to crochet blankets and hats. The blankets are donated to day-
care centers, homeless shelters, and retirement homes.

Tim Hacker/East Valley Tribune/Associated Press
Repairing children’s bicycles is an example of
an activity inmates may take part in as part of
a restitution program.

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Section 10.4 Paradigm Shift: From Retributivism to Restorative Justice

When offenders make amends to those they harmed in society, it is a way for them to poten-
tially earn back the trust of the community. However, this requires forgiveness on the part
of society. Society must demonstrate mercy—not necessarily forgiveness of the offenders’
actions—once the offenders have made reparations for the harms they perpetrated. Long-
time human rights activist and the first Black South African Archbishop of Cape Town, South
Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Forgiveness is not for sissies” (as cited in Peyper &
Coetzee, 2009, para. 1). It is not easy to forgive those who have done us harm. Like the anger
and desire for revenge that often accompany retribution, restorative justice, too, has an emo-
tional component. With restorative justice, however, there is the opportunity to build a bridge
of goodwill based on trust and a need to heal. A community’s response to crime impacts how
offenders see themselves, so a restorative response creates the chance to show offenders
respect for their courage to confront what they have done, acknowledge the harm they have
committed, and work to make reparations. When the community demonstrates compassion
and trust, offenders can learn that many are not hopelessly evil or bad.

Web Field Trip: A Different Kind of Punishment

While prison systems in the United States tend to focus on punishment and deprivation, some
Norway prisons take a different approach. Indeed, parts of the Norwegian correctional philos-
ophy focus on preparing prisoners for reintegration by cultivating skills needed once released.
This system has seen some good results, with just 20% of Norwegian prisoners who go through
the system reoffending within 2 years. Although Norway does have many high security prisons
for offenders deemed unfit for rehabilitation, there are several facilities where prisoners are
free to roam the grounds and have a great deal of choice in how their days are structured.

The Bastoy prison, for example, does not have armed guards, and prisoners carry their own
keys to their rooms. Prisoners get a stipend to buy groceries, and they work from 8:30 a.m. to
3:30 p.m. on weekdays. Available jobs include farming and cutting firewood, which requires
that convicts are trusted to use axes. Bastoy cultivates a community vibe instead of a locked
prison facility, and its model is designed to rehabilitate criminals and transform them into
productive members of society.

Learn more about Bastoy Island and the prison system of Norway here: https://www.cnn

Critical Thinking Questions
1. Do you think it is rewarding to criminals to serve sentences at Bastoy, or that time

served there still functions as punishment for committing crimes?
2. Why is Bastoy’s method successful in your opinion?
3. Do you think this type of system could work in the United States?

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Chapter Summary

A central concept to restorative justice is its forward-looking nature. Rather than simply blam-
ing people for their past acts, they are able to learn how to redeem themselves. Learning and
taking responsibility for their actions promotes active responsibility. While passive respon-
sibility leaves people liable for what they have done in the past, active responsibility holds
people accountable for putting things right in the future (Braithwaite, 2005). The improve-
ment or transformation within the offender that can follow may aid in the desistance from
crime, or end of criminal behavior. Through participation, offenders hopefully recognize their
responsibility for their actions while at the same time they engage in a self-healing process.
Restoration comes from this acknowledgement and truth telling. The cycle of harm—punish-
ment as retaliation, and inescapable stigmatization and suffering—is interrupted when all
parties seek to transform bad into good. Within a restorative justice framework, offenders
acknowledge that they have responsibilities to society, and through their work they attempt
to break from their past and transform themselves. Thus, restorative justice has the poten-
tial to reshape the ideology of the American criminal justice system with potentially positive
impacts on individuals and communities.

Chapter Summary
This chapter explored possible strategies to reduce crime and reform the criminal justice
system in America. Evidence was presented about the financial obstacles to possible
reforms including the crime control industrial complex and large criminal organizations that
currently profit from crime. Similarly, cornerstone pieces of research in modern criminology
were presented that focused on the ideology of criminal justice policy and how those
ideologies may translate into barriers to potential reforms.

The bulk of this chapter explored evidence-based strategies to reduce crime. The vast
majority of these strategies involve addressing what many consider the root causes of many
types of crime: poverty, unemployment, underemployment, a lack of universal health care,
and a lack of universal access to high-quality education.

Similarly, possible criminal justice system reforms were explored. Potentially, the artery of
criminal justice policy most ripe for reform is the War on Drugs. Drug offenders contribute
significantly to our correctional population, are often low-level and nonviolent offenders,
and have relatively high recidivism rates. Diversion programs and public health approaches
might be practical alternatives to the current punitive prohibition approach. Many experts
contend that reducing the overall size of the American correctional system would have a
series of social and criminal justice benefits.

It seems that systemic criminal justice system reform will depend on an ideological shift in
American society. Arguably, the punishment-based mantras of retributivism have shaped the
crime-control policy in the United States. Many experts argue that in the new millennium,
policy makers should consider implementing notions of restorative justice in conjunction
with larger structural changes toward equality and social justice.

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Chapter Summary

It is important that the suggestions presented in this chapter for how society can respond
to crime are not viewed as individual strategies. A broad national plan that incorporates all
of these factors has the greatest likelihood of being effective. Crime is not a simple social
problem, as each of the chapters in this textbook has demonstrated. Only by including
individuals, families, schools, employment, and communities will society have a chance at
changing the current trajectory of this country: billions spent on prisons and criminal justice
policy that are not only ineffective but often create further harm to society.

Sociologists, criminologists, and other social scientists have a critical role to play in these
criminal justice system reforms. Armed with sound research methodologies and critical
thinking skills, interdisciplinary science is critical to study these issues and communicate
the empirical reality of criminal justice to policy makers and the American public.

Critical Thinking and Discussion Questions
1. In what way can the fear of crime be more significant than crime itself ?
2. What is meant by the terms “crime control industrial complex” and “prison indus-

trial complex”? Who benefits from them? Who suffers as a result?
3. How do modern international crime organizations differ from those of the past?
4. How do you think society might most effectively reduce crime’s profitability?
5. What is your opinion of the broken windows theory of crime prevention?
6. What myths, according to the author, are used to justify “the penal state”? What

impact does this have on the day-to-day lives of noncriminal


7. How do white-collar crimes and “crimes by any other name” impact average


Key Terms
dark figure of crime A term used to
describe the difference between the
prevalence of crime in society and the rates
of crime measured by law enforcement.

prison industrial complex The
overlapping bureaucratic, political,
and economic factors that encourage
increased spending on prisons, whether
they are needed or not.

proactive policing Law enforcement
taking the initiative to address public order
offenses such as clearing streets of people
who are loitering and may be homeless,
rather than responding to calls from the
public in response to crimes after they have
been committed.

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