Crime & Delinquincy

Group 6

David Wedge

Inside Prison : David Wedge

On page 296, Sullivan writes, “One third of all felony convictions in state courts in the U.S. today are for drug offenses, up from 18% in 1980”. This statistic signifies the impact of both a culture of criminality and drug abuse to me; I’m including alcohol in drugs as alcohol “is a psychoactive drug” (pg. 297) “that can be legally purchased by any adult” (pg. 297). As I mentioned in my introduction post I have been going into jails or prisons for 20 of the last 25 years as a 12 step volunteer. Through this experience I have come to believe that so very many of the inmates I’ve met have been under the influence of “drugs” when they committed their crime. One could say “Of course, you were trying to get inmates to a 12 step meeting” which indeed I was, but even with that aside, conversations with guards, administrators, and inmates has shown a serious number of the overall population as “users”.

From the Alcohol and Drug Commission report to Governor Kulongoski in May of 2010 the following is stated:

The statistics on substance use within Oregon demonstrate the depth of the problem:

  • Almost 70 percent of inmates in state prisons need treatment for drug and alcohol problems.
  • The number of Oregon 8th graders who have had an alcoholic drink in the past 30 days is nearly twice the national average.
  • Healthcare expenditures associated with alcohol and drug abuse were $813 million in 2006.
  • There were 229 overdose deaths in Oregon in 2008.
  • 56 percent of parents whose children are abused and neglected have issues with drug and alcohol addiction.
  • In 2008, 33 percent of traffic fatalities involved alcohol-impaired drivers. The impact of drug-impaired driving is unknown.
  • Alcohol abuse costs Oregon’s economy $3.2 billion per year, more than eight times the amount of tax revenue from alcohol sales. (Links to an external site.)

These overwhelming numbers show exactly how rampant alcohol and drugs are involved in criminality and can be shown through Edwin Sutherlin’s “differential association theory” defined by Sullivan on page 268. Frankly, my experience in the prisons and jails, along with the laws created in the last 20 years for drunk driving has in my opinion created a social justice system designed to punish rater than prevent. Should you look up the aforementioned report you too can read confirmation of this novice’s understanding as it is reiterated over and over in the report. Therefore, I am approaching crime and delinquency with alcohol and drug usage as compelling failures by society to satisfy their guilt in failing to create a more level playing field for poor, minorities, and other subsets of society. By creating laws to justify oppressing others (criminals to be sure) society, specifically those with privilege and money can incarcerate those with deviant behaviors and keep the majority safe. There certainly may be some truth or justification in this approach, but in so doing are we not creating a subset of society as felons without hope for a future? Recidivism is responsible for 2/3’s to ¾’s of all inmates in state and federal prisons” (pg. 284) and the idea of rehabilitation are nearly forgotten as funds are spent on prisons, jails, and the infrastructure to operate it. If not for volunteer organizations going into these institutions hope for many of those incarcerated will be eliminated. 12 Step organizations are not the only volunteers, there also is Prison Fellowship, Parenting organizations, Girl Scouts, Toastmasters, and many others.

In 1981 or 1982, I owned a Sonic Drive In, located in Gilmer, Texas, (East Texas) and an individual whom was drunk and aggressive came into my Sonic broke up some equipment, verbally abused my staff and myself. Being youngish and male I lost my temper as well, chased him down, and fought with him, including breaking his arm. Both of us involved were white, youngish males, I was a local business person, my victim or assailant was an upper-class white male who had been in trouble with the law for years, almost always getting off due to his father’s influence in the county and town.

Certainly a violent crime including property damage and aggravated assault as shown on page 270 in our text, Table 10.1., however one was charged with aggravated assault (the other man) while I eventually plead guilty to misdemeanor assault. Clearly status in this small community was awarded to me for my affiliation as a “respected” local businessman and his previous record with the law counted against him and did not allow any leniency for him. Although our ages were similar and our gender the same, male, “the propensity for daring, action, and aggressiveness” (Sullivan pg.276) was apparent and very real.

This young man was the county sheriff's son and the sheriff wanted me charged with assault as well as his son being charged. Yet as Sullivan points out “property crimes are rarely reported 1 out of 3 (pg. 279) because of the violence in our fight this case was handled differently by the police they choose to charge the Sheriff’s son with aggravated assault demonstrating their “discretion in dealing with offenses coming into their attention” (pg 279).

So I was charged with a misdemeanor crime of assault, again showing police discretion in never being arrested, but had to report to a judge for my crime. “Social factors influence the discretionary behavior of police” (Sullivan pg. 279) which proved quite accurate in this incident as the sheriff’s son had a record of assaults and violence so the local police aggressively sought conviction for him and would have done nothing to me had it not been for pressure by the county sheriff.

Of course, as I stated his sheriff father wanted me to be accountable too. However, as stated by Sullivan on page 280 “the prosecuting attorney is perhaps the most powerful position in the criminal justice system and in this case prosecuted the young man to the fullest extent of the law and he was sentenced, after being found guilty, to 7 years in Huntsville, Texas, a state prison. Of course, as I stated his sheriff father wanted me to be accountable too, yet the prosecuting attorney choose to not prosecute me and I was served with a summons to appear in a local judge’s courtroom for misdemeanor assault. Partially due to my status in this small community, I was never arrested, just charged. When I went before the judge it was just him and I in a room and he explained to me he could not legally advise me, but if for instance someone like you came before me in a situation like this I might waive their conviction, should they plead guilty, and sentence them to 30 days in county and a 1,000 dollar fine which all would be waived if that person stayed out of trouble for say the next year. Consequently a plea of guilty was established and consequences were waived so that I could go back into the community and continue my business without any disruption. So in this class with our discussions about privilege, social injustice, etc., I just thought telling this story would demonstrate the imbalance of power even in a traditionally white area with regards to inconsistency in the justice system. I confess I never did any time, county or other, and took complete advantage of what the judge said and did for me.

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Shadell Bernhardt-Castillo

My name is Shadell and I am 25 years old, I have a son who just turned five years old and we live happily together with my partner of three years. We reside in Louisiana to my dismay, thus, when I speak of the law or state law I am speaking of Louisiana state law, which as we know state law differs greatly from state to state. The story that I am going to share with you is my personal experience with crime and my dreaded, anticipated saga with the Criminal Justice system. The experience involves the biological father of my son, my “buddy” who was a “bad boy”—to be completely honest. The only reason we were even involved was due to pure rebellion from my parents who had kept me extremely sheltered in their strict, borderline oppressive household. Thus, once I gained freedom or what I thought it was at the time, I began to hang out with people who I had no business to be around. Long story short, I always rooted for the underdog so to speak and believed in “rehabilitating” someone who lacked a strong social background as a child. He was my project and I believed in him! I remember that feeling and that feeling has vanished throughout the years. The boy I thought was just a confused, misunderstood “bad boy”, who simply lacked the same opportunities I did—was arrested for a slew of drug charges and four counts of “Solicitation of Murder” (which is the same as “hire to kill”). Yes, an egregious criminal violent crime! I went from being a very good girl from a very “good family” to pregnant for an alleged killer. Not only a killer, but someone who was hiring, thus premeditating, to kill his half-brother and three other people. I had also just found out that I was pregnant—I had hit rock bottom!

Little did I know I was involved in a sting operation with an undercover cop that posed to be a drug dealer and everything! It was like a movie and my worst nightmare! I was so naïve and didn’t know what was going on or who I was truly involved with. He was held with no bond and after a lengthy process, he had plea bargained his 20-year sentence to a 10-year sentence. According to Sullivan, “plea bargaining has been criticized because it involves an informal dispensing of justice” (p 280)—which is in my opinion, absolutely accurate and scary!

I did not understand all of his charges or get the true story until he had been incarcerated for over three years. That is when I actually looked at the very large organized binder with all of his crimes laid out for me with audio tapes to go with the script. It was horrifying and life-changing—I decided that it was more important for my son to be safe, away from him completely, than to know his biological father. Besides prison is not an environment for a young child to thrive in! It was a difficult decision because family is extremely important to me, but my son’s safety trumps anything. I have reared my son in a fun, happy, a household with my partner yet the judicial system will ultimately control what happens to me and my son! By rebelling at 18, I managed to give up my right as a mother to protect my own son; I have to live guilt and fear daily. When I share my story with anyone, they are of course utterly shocked and often say that I have an “easy case” but as an educated person I understand that the Criminal Judicial System only provides the law, not justice. So I can only hope that when the day comes, I either live in a state whose laws favors my needs or that the randomly selected Judge does not sacrifice my son’s safety and introduce a criminal to my innocent son as his father, for a belief of a rehabilitated criminal. Again, someone else’s views and interpretation of my state law is in control here, not me!

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Michael Levingston

My name is Michael Levingston. I am from Charleston SC and I run a landscape nursery and construction company. We are a family run organization with a 3 acre retail space and a full time construction division. Much of our business revolves around the purchasing and reselling of bulk goods. Things like truckloads of dirt and gravel are a regular part of my routine. These things are usually paid for by check, given the blue collar nature of the industry, and credit cards or other more secure methods are not always possible. We do our best to maintain operational security of our financial information, but every now and then someone has the right opportunity and the right motive to steal. A lock will only keep an honest man honest.

One of our new construction employees got his hands on a blank check and decided to give himself a bonus. We received a phone call from a mom and pop store where this individual was trying to cash a check. We told the clerk not to cash the check, but the clerk gave the check back to the individual and he left the scene. We contacted the local authorities, including the check fraud division of the Sheriff’s Department. After much paperwork and explaining what had happened, the Sheriff’s Department told us that they are aware of who the individual is and where he is living. They then told us that they would not be going to pick him up and that if he was taken into custody for something unrelated, then they would possibly explore the case. We had to cancel our business checking accounts, which took weeks to recover from given that we had checks that were actually verified still waiting to clear. Even when we appealed to the Sheriff’s Department to pursue this individual further based on the very real damage he had done and the unlimited amount of proof that we had, they still declined. They were too busy. This was my most recent run-in with the criminal justice system. I experienced an overloaded system that is forced to let criminals go free for the mere sake of not having enough resources to pursue them. This is not unknown to these criminally minded people. They know the system is broken. They know there isn’t much you can do to stop them and that the law won’t pay them any attention unless they are caught in the act.

The conflict theory describes how certain groups of people in society are more likely to commit crimes. Many times this is people whom are considered to have less power in society. Often times the type of crime will predict how law enforcement will handle the crimes. “Generally, it is the powerful who establish legislation defining what activities will be considered criminal and who decides what the penalties will be for those crimes. (Sullivan, 267). “It is also the powerful who can get the police to enforce the laws against some crimes while ignoring other fractions of the law”. (Sullivan, 267). When the police told me they were too busy to deal with this criminal, it showed how they prioritize the crimes they are dealing with and can be dependent on who is reporting the crime.

Crimes are often defined by society. “A crime is an act that violates a criminal code enacted by an officially constituted political authority”. (Sullivan, 269). Their importance is socially predetermined to mold to the views that are considered the norm. There are many approaches to explaining criminal behavior. Some believe people are biologically disposed to criminal behavior, although there has been little proof to suggest this is the case. Other theories explain crime and deviance as a psychological disorder that may stem from earlier childhood experiences. Sociologists believe that while biology and one’s physiological mindset are influential factors, criminal behavior can be explained by looking at one’s social conditions. “In other cases, it can be the criminal lifestyle, along with the stigma and fear of imprisonment, that leads people to develop unique personality characteristics rather than the other way around”. (Sullivan, 264). Sociological theories explain criminal behavior and deviance by connecting this behavior with the social environment and how society classifies what is deviant behavior. Crimes are often linked to one’s social class, which provides evidence to sociological theories on crime and deviance. “For example, crime rates, especially in property crimes, are higher in communities with greater economic inequality or with a larger disparity between incomes among groups”. (Sullivan, 266). The conflict theory further describes how capitalism creates disparities, and with such, crime and deviance emerge and how criminal behavior is handled. The interactionist perspective explains criminal behavior by looking at people’s interactions with one another and how criminal behavior is a learned behavior based on these interactions. If we look at crime from a sociological standpoint, we can establish patterns in criminal behavior. In doing so, it is important that we as a society doesn’t further label certain social groups based on these assumptions. Finding the root cause of the problem is needed to help solve the problems surrounding crime and deviance.

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Kara Drechsler

Sociological Impacts

There are problems within the justice system including social injustice and criminal proceedings. The criminal justice system is molded around powerful groups in society, and these groups can influence who and what crimes are being prosecuted. The conflict theory describes how society can often influence how crimes are prioritized and this can influence hoe they are prosecuted.

The conflict theory also predicts which social groups are more likely to commit certain crimes and the likelihood of the people committing these crimes being fully prosecuted. Sexual violence against women on college campuses is a huge social problem which often gets overlooked. Social theories describe how sexual violence against women with emphasis on male aggression can be explained by the conflict theory and how the justice system can benefit certain dominant groups in society and leave other groups with little justice. There is a lack of victim restitution or follow ups including counseling for people who now suffer PTSD from crimes committed against them.

Society often puts emphasis on punishment rather than rehabilitation. A large percentage of crimes are being committed by people suffering addiction. It is very common that the main focus is putting these people in jail rather than offering actual rehabilitation and a support system to help people get help with their addictions. The differential association theory describes how people can learn criminal behavior and social interaction and motives such as addiction can predict criminal behaviors.

The interactionist perspective describes how people closely related to our social circles can influence people’s lives and how their criminal behavior can affect others. People can become involved in crimes unknowingly and their lives are greatly affected. Plea bargains are often given, but with criticism in many circumstances. Social justice in criminal proceedings can many times be based on how society views particular crimes and who they’ve deemed more of a threat to their social circles.

College Campus Crimes

Our group’s discussion on Crime and Delinquency really hit home for me. During my sophomore year of high school (2012), my family experienced quite a tragic event that ultimately changed my life. My sister, who is now 26 years old, was in her second year at the University of Arizona when this tragic event occurred. As an active member of her sorority, she attended various fraternity events and parties with her fellow sisters. Prior to entering college, most parents usually sit down with their children and try to discuss what may happen in college and how to go about the situations that arise. My parents had this discussion with my sister. Both of my parents were Greek life members during their college days and knew what could happen if you let your guard down. However, some situations you can never prepare for. During a fraternity party that my sister attended with other sorority members, two of the men slipped drugs into my sister’s drink and one of her friend’s drinks. After they put these drugs into their drinks, they took them upstairs and sexually assaulted both women. Eventually the women were split up and one of the guys ended up kicking my sister out of the house while she was clearly still drugged and unsure of her whereabouts. As she was attempting to walk home, a lady noticed her on the side of the road and picked her up and took her home. After this traumatic event occurred, my sister experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and still does to this day. Ultimately, the PTSD was so horrific and the other women in the sorority tried to blame my sister for what happened to her, leading her to transfer to Colorado State University.

Once my sister was able to somewhat function normally again, she began to do research and talked with lawyers about her case. She knew the 2 men that committed this act, but being able to prove it in a court of law was going to be challenging. Her research into sexual assault and women’s rights on college campuses led her to write a document that was eventually part of a title IX case and has helped others who have been affected by this same sort of crime. For the men that did this to she and her friend, the university banned one of the men from attending the university for a period of 4 years and the other male wasn’t tried in a court of law. According to the conflict perspective, the legal and criminal justice systems are geared to benefit the dominant groups in society (Sullivan 266). Were these men really treated the same way a woman would have been treated in a court of law? This is something that we will never know, but can ultimately study cases and further understand if men and women are still treated differently in this country.

In Chapter 10, we learn about many different types of criminal activities, who typically is involved in the crimes and why this tends to be the case. “Males have higher rates of involvement than females in practically all forms of criminality” (Sullivan, 275). This tends to be very relevant on college campuses, where 23% of women said they have experienced unwanted sexual contact (Wallace, 2015). Men feel as though they have the power over women, especially when drugs and alcohol are involved. According to the FBI, males commit 81% of violent crimes, with 59% of those crimes being committed by white men (Sullivan, 276). In general, men are much more aggressive than females, most likely due to the testosterone in their genetic makeup. This aggressiveness helped to fuel the men’s decisions and led to criminal activity. I understand that sometimes people make mistakes, however, intentionally putting drugs in someone’s drink and then taking advantage of them is a criminal act that shouldn’t be tolerated in this country.

Wallace, Kelly. "Study: 23% of Women Sexually Assaulted in College." CNN. Cable News Network, 23 Sept. 2015. Web. 05 June 2016.