Thursday, June 27, 2013

Blog 1:2 Fletcher

In the article written by Michael Fletcher, his thesis is that when the incarceration rate increases, so too does the crime rate because the community is destabilized when the incarceration rate increases.


The paper written by Fletcher describes how a community reacts when citizens are incarcerated increasingly.  One of the major reasons for the destabilization of the community is that when the population begins to be arrested at higher rates, the members of the community begin to see prison as their fate and act accordingly.  This means that community crime is going to go up because of the attitude that they will go to prison eventually anyway, so why not “get theirs” while they can.  Also, when the community members are being arrested, there is an economic impact to that community which means that individuals will begin to make ends meet by committing crimes.

Fletcher also talks about how the social impact goes beyond how individuals view their situation.  The impact of incarceration also includes that when criminals are released back to their community, they have a limited role to contribute to society.  When an individual commits a felony and is incarcerated, they lose certain rights, including voting, and the ability to own a business.  Also, being released from prison allows for less job opportunities, which in turn leads them back to crime.  Felons may see their future as not including a proper career, and they see illegal activity as a way to supplement their income.  Another economic impact is that of social programs.  When an individual gets released from prison and cannot find a job, they must rely on social programs, such as welfare, which put an economic strain on, not only the community, but the county and state as well.


I agree with Fletcher’s thesis in that it is understandable to see how a higher incarceration rate may lead to a higher crime rate.  Examples given by Fletcher through his investigation of the Tallahassee community, leads me to agree with his thesis.

Blog 1:1 Blumstein

Blumstein’s main thesis of his paper is that since 1993 we have had a steady decrease in crime rates that in turn should lead to a lower incarceration rate.  Part two of the thesis is that we need to investigate the statistics to narrow down the reason for the downward fall, so that we can continue the trend.


Several reasons Blumstein gives for the reduction in crime rates include, the restriction of weapons, a decrease in the control of the drug trade on crime, and the changing of demographics.  The first reason for the decrease in crime is the decrease in the availability of weapons.  The Brady Act, in 1994, exacted the 5-day waiting period for purchasing handguns.  However, guns are still available through illegal means.  Another way that the use of handguns is controlled is through police departments “stop and frisk” policies.  Police officers can use pretext stops which allow them to investigate whether occupants of a vehicle or carrying handguns.  Another part of stop and frisk could be patrolling on foot, and making contact with pedestrians who may be carrying firearms.  Blumstein argues that when the availability of handguns, or the threat of arrest from carrying a handgun, crimes involving handguns decreases.

Blumstein marks another reason for a drop in the crime rate: crack cocaine.  When crack cocaine was introduced in the 1980’s, it had a trickle-down effect on crime rates.  The use of drugs, and the threat of robbery, led individuals, whether dealers or users, to carry weapons.  The carrying of weapons led to citizens (even those not involved in drugs) carrying guns for their own protection.  By more individuals carrying weapons, it led to a higher crime rate.  However, by 1993 the use of crack had decrease for two reasons, according to Blumstein.  One is that crack became an undesirable drug.  Although it is a very addicting drug, the rumor of the less desirable drug led to less new users.  The second reason is that because there were less new users, there was less need for street dealers, which led to less weapons, and a lowered crime rate.

The last reason that is given for the drop in the crime rate since 1993 is the shift in demographics.  The population of younger people, who would be most of the issue for crime, had lowered.  With this decrease in younger population, it is safe to assume that crime rates for areas with the biggest reduction would have the biggest reduction in crime rates.


The thesis laid out by Blumstein in this article has validity.  I agree with the fact that we can learn about trends that lead to lower crime rates by investigating the overall effect of crime.  Although this can only be done after the fact, there is a chance that if we can pinpoint specific ways of crime reduction, we may be able to combat crime overall.

Lynch Chapter 3

In reading Lynch’s chapter regarding the growth of the American prison system, I believe that his thesis is that 1973 was a focus point for understanding the rate of growth or decline for incarceration rates.  Lynch examines the different rates of incarceration compared to police efforts to combat crime from 1925-2005, however he uses 1973 as a focal point.


Lynch uses many examples throughout the chapter to confirm his thesis.  The chapter describes how the rate of growth between 1930 and 1976 had doubled to 262,833 inmates.  While the incarceration rate had doubled, the population of the United Stated had increased 74 percent over the 1930 level.  This is the first of many confusions regarding the growth of the prison system. 

The thesis is stated implicitly after graphing prison populations saying, “The year 1973 marked the beginning of a period of expansive prison growth regardless of how the growth is measured.”  This statement describes how Lynch feels about the statistics of prison inmate growth.  I believe that he feels that there is no defining reason for growth or decline in any particular year. 

There are three examples given as to possible reason for the expansion of the prison system.  One is that the expansion correlates to the rise of crime across the nation.  Another is that there has been changes in law enforcement policies which may lead to higher incarceration rates.  Lastly, Lynch states that there may be social economic issues that may require an increase in social control, leading to a need to expand our prison system. 

An example of how the incarceration rate increased after 1973 is that the prison population from 1930-1972, doubled only once.  Since 1973, the inmate population doubled over ten years from 1973-1983, and again for nine years from 1983-2002.  However, it is important to note that this chapter merely describes the increases and decreases.  Lynch’s book does not implicitly explain any single reason why the inmate populations changes during certain periods.  One of the confusions relates to the “baby boom effect”.  The theory is that as the baby boomers reached ages between 18 and 24, the thinking is that the crime rate and incarceration rate would increase.  However, the increase in crime rates does not happen until 10 years after the effect should be taking place.  Meaning that the increases are when the people are ages 28-34.  We would think that people of this age group would have outgrown the need for misdemeanors or non-violent felonies.

A summary of the two periods (1925-1973, 1973-2005) explains that the first period is inconsistent with regards to growth.  This period is viewed as having increases and decreases throughout the period.  However, the second period, after the expansion of the prison system in 1973, is marked with a consistent growth for the entire period.  Again, there is no single reason for the increases.  There are many theories from social economic policies, to changes in law enforcement efforts, to government involvement, including World War II.


The thesis that I have pinpointed is explained throughout examples in the chapter.  I believe that Lynch is correct in his thesis in that the expansion in 1973 has led to an increase in criminal incarceration.  One thing that I found concerning is that Lynch cannot narrow down an explanation for either an increase or decrease.  Each period is explained by one reason or another, however each reason is different for each period.