Preventing Crime What Works What essay

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Post-arrest, the promising programs included: drug courts, drug treatment in jails, intensive supervision and aftercare of juvenile offenders, and the use of fines and other penalties in lieu of incarceration for technical violations. (Sherman, 1998, p. 82-85).

From the results, the reviewers were able to come to several different conclusions. First, they concluded that there is widespread interest in the use of scientific evidence in criminological policy-making. However, they also concluded that "the current development of scientific evidence is inadequate to the task of policymaking." (Sherman, 1998, p.86). They suggest the use of control groups to help increase external validity. They also suggest looking at the geography of crime. Finally, they believe that there is simply a need for a greater number of impact evaluations. All of these recommendations make sense and help explain how the scientific process can help policymakers identify appropriate crime-prevention strategies.

One of the most encouraging things that the research revealed is that family-intervention programs can help reduce the rate of child abuse. At least five studies substantiated the idea that "frequent home visits to infants aged 0-2 by trained nurses and other helpers reduce child abuse and other injuries to infants." (Sherman, 1998, p.79). While the researchers do not go into an explanation of why these visits are promising, it easy to hypothesize several different reasons for their success. First, parents know that their babies are being monitored, and are, therefore, probably going to be less likely to engage in any type of behavior that would cause injury to the infant. However, it is also likely that these new parents receive support and training from the nurses and helpers who are visiting their homes. It is impossible to know with any real certainty how much child abuse stems from poor-parenting skills, but the cyclical nature of child abuse certainly suggests that parenting skills are related to family violence. Child abuse has been definitely linked to stress, therefore having a trained visitor who may be able to provide stress-reduction tips may help decrease abusive behavior. For example, new parents may not realize that a fussy-seeming baby might be suffering from a treatable condition, such as an ear infection or teething, because young babies often do not manifest signs of illness. Moreover, accidental injuries in the household likely stem from parents not knowing how to adequately baby-proof their homes or supervise their infants. One of the things that the researchers neglected to mention was that it would be interesting to follow-up on these studies and see if early intervention in homes reduces the lifelong likelihood of child abuse, or whether the positive impact of the early-childhood visits ends when the visits end.

Another interesting program that works is the mandatory arrest of some domestic violence offenders. Domestic violence advocates have long advocated for the mandatory arrest of domestic violence offenders, because police departments had a long history of treating domestic violence as if it were not a crime. What the research reveals is that arresting domestic violence offenders who are employed or live in neighborhoods where most homes have an employed adult reduces domestic violence. (Sherman, 1998, p.80). This makes sense, because employed individuals face greater consequences from arrest than unemployed individuals face. Therefore, it is not surprising that those results are not the same when the offender is unemployed. In fact, the most interesting aspect about mandatory arrest policies is that arresting unemployed domestic violence offenders actually increases the rate of long-term recidivism. (Sherman, 1998, p.82). These two studies, when viewed together, demonstrate that it is impossible to generalize from one population to another population. They also pose a problem for policymakers. People with unemployed spouses or in neighborhoods with high unemployment rates, while not more likely to be victimized by domestic violence, are frequently more vulnerable to the impact of domestic violence, because they lack the resources to leave the abuser. Moreover, unemployment and poverty are correlated with race in the United States. Therefore, the proper application of this information, if the goal is to reduce overall repeat domestic violence offenses, might mandate a different approach to domestic violence, depending on the neighborhood where the offense occurred and the employment status of the offender. Such an approach would almost certainly violate the 14th Amendment's guarantee of Equal Protection, because it would have a disparate impact based on race, and the science supporting the difference is simply not strong enough to provide the necessary rational basis for such a discriminatory impact. Therefore, it is impossible to make a policy recommendation based on the evidence of even multiple valid studies, unless those studies discuss all of the population types contained within a state or local governmental unit.

Sticking with the issue of domestic violence, what makes it even more difficult for policy makers is the fact that it has been discovered that "home visits by police to couples after domestic violence incidents to provide counseling and to merely warn them or use other alternatives to formal charging" do not reduce recidivism. (Sherman, 1998, p.82). Combined with the evidence from the other two studies, one can see a difficult scenario for lawmakers. Not only can they not rely on a blanket policy of mandatory arrest to drive down repeat occurrences of domestic violence, but they also cannot trust in the fact that simply increasing monitoring of known spousal abusers will result in a reduction of violence. Because the arrest has a definite impact on the abuser, it is clear that arrest sends a message that monitoring fails to send. Unfortunately, that message can either help or hurt the victim, depending on the circumstances of the abuser. However, what those studies make clear is that treating the incident like something less than a serious criminal offense can be very detrimental to the victim. It also suggests that more creative methods, such as using the employment status of the offender as a condition for bail, perhaps by linking it to flight risk, might need to be employed to help reduce future incidents of violence.

One of the other interesting programs that failed to work is the "Scared Straight" programs. These programs involve "bringing minor juvenile offenders to visit maximum security prisons to see the severity of prison conditions." (Sherman, 1998, p.82). What is even more surprising is that these programs may actually increase crime. While the authors do not provide an explanation for this phenomenon, and it seems very counterintuitive, the assumption is based upon the idea that delinquent kids will be frightened by prison life. What the "Scared Straight" programs ignore is that prison life is celebrated by many of the same children who engage in delinquent behavior. Rather than being frightened by prison life, they may feel excited and invigorated to be around cons, who may make up a large percentage of their peer groups. Moreover, the true horrors of prison life, such as sexual abuse, physical assaults, and the demoralizing truth of having no personal freedom are not things that these offenders directly experience in a "Scared Straight" type of program. Instead, these programs must insulate juvenile offenders from some of the harsher aspects of prison life. Furthermore, the reality is that prison is not a real deterrent for people who are actually incarcerated. Instead, incarcerated offenders have very high recidivism rates, which may have been a good preliminary argument against the idea that such programs would be successful.

The most interesting aspects of the research involved the programs that the researchers found to be promising. For example, some community mentoring programs have been shown to be very effective at reducing drug abuse. This is very significant because children in some areas are statistically very likely to be involved with drugs. What is alarming is that older studies of other community mentoring programs have not revealed the same results. There is no explanation for why the studies had different results, except for the fact that the successful mentoring programs were fun through Big Brothers / Big Sisters of America. Therefore, it would be interesting to compare different Big Brothers / Big Sisters programs in different areas and see if their mentoring program is successful in a variety of environments. If so, it may be that their specific approach to mentoring is what is needed to help curb drug abuse. Because drug abuse is linked to criminality, given that the possession, purchase, and sale of drugs are all crimes, and because drug abuse increases the likelihood that a person will be involved in related crimes, it would be interesting to see the results of mentoring programs on the criminality of the mentored children, and whether those results also differ according to the particular mentoring program used.

Another interesting promising program is the idea of performing field interrogations of suspicious persons. (Sherman, 1998, p.84). According to the research, these field interrogations reduce crime without "harming the legitimacy…[continue]

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