Sociologists might not be able to make a time machine, but we’re certainly good at mythbusting! Social mythbusting that is! Our first topic to bust: Crime. Citizens of any society have preconceived notions of crime, and these ideas can tell us something about the dominant social order, morality, and normative behavior. So, let’s discuss! Are we living in the most violent time? Trump wants to blame everything on “undocumented criminals,” but are undocumented immigrants accountable for a large portion of crime? Oh– and prison/jail, that’s the same thing, right?
Crime, criminology, criminal justice system
- Criminology by Edwin Sutherland (1974) defines the field as, “the study of law making, breaking, and law enforcement.”
- Franklin Zimring’s (2011) book, The City That Became Safe: New York’s Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control (Studies in Crime and Public Policy) outlines the huge drop in crime in New York City.
- Another good source on the national crime drop is Steven Pinker’s (2011) The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
- Lorna Rhodes’ Total Confinement: Madness and Reason in the Maximum Security Prison (California Series in Public Anthropology) (2004) talks about how detrimental incarceration is on humans.
- Definition of Antisociality: “a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, [and] the rights of others” (American Psychiatric Association)
- Trump’s false dialogue on immigrants (Washington Post)
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
- Immigrants do not actually commit more crimes than native-born Americans.
a.Contrary to Trump’s Claims, Immigrants Are Less Likely to Commit Crimes
b. The Mythical Link Between Immigrants and High Crime Rates
c. Immigration Myths – Crime and the Number of Illegal Immigrants
“both illegal immigrants and legal immigrants have incarceration rates far below those of native-born Americans—at 0.85 percent, 0.47 percent, and 1.53 percent, respectively….Immigration restrictionists cannot have it both ways. They cannot assume that illegal immigrants are super-criminals and that their population in the United States is several times higher than it really is. No matter how you dice the numbers, their incarceration rate falls as their estimated population increases. For consistency’s sake, it’s time for immigration restrictionists to choose which myth they want to believe.” (“The first myth is that illegal immigrants are especially crime-prone. The second myth is that there are actually two to three times as many illegal immigrants as is commonly reported.”)
- Statistics on the crimes committed by incarcerated population
- “Stronger Hand for Judges in the ‘Bazaar’ of Plea Deals”(New York Times) talks about how 97% of Federal cases and 94% of state cases are plead out.
- Our suggested texts if you’re interested in criminology:
a. Amy Bach’s (2010) Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court
b. Michelle Alexander’s (2012) The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
c. Marcus Rediker’s (2008) The Slave Ship: A Human History
d. Robert Perkinson’s (2010) Texas Tough (The Tylers of Texas)
2 thoughts on “SOC107 – Who You Gonna Call? The Crimebusters!”
This episode was really disappointing. I would have hoped that this team would steer away from using language like “illegal immigrants,” “legal immigrants,” “criminals,” or “America.” The term “illegal” is so problematic for so many reasons: 1. People aren’t legal or illegal; 2. Unlawful entry is not a crime; 3. This is not people-first language. Likewise with “criminal” — how about “people charged with crimes” or “people convicted of crimes.”
Also, we should not be referring to “America” when we mean The United States of the USA–many Latin Americans also think of themselves as living in “America.” America is a continent, not a country.
I was a big fan of this podcast until this episode.
Sorry for the late response. We had some technical issues with the website and we are just getting to comments now.
We acknowledge that some of our earlier episodes can improve on language. You are correct that people are not “criminals” or “illegal immigrants”. The behavior that is labeled “stealing/theft”, for example, is merely a legal term and external to the individual. Per your suggestion, sociologists should not normalize or naturalize what is considered “criminal activity”. The focus should be on the institution and the agents that operationalize such language, thus using the words “charged with” instead of “committed”.
There are an array of terms that need to be problematized/deconstructed. Instead of “race” we should be using phrases like “racialized” or “people who identify as ‘X’ “. Instead of “slave” we should instead say “the enslaved”. Same is true with gendered categories and so on. This level of attention is also reflected in our writing. However, since this podcast is a public service, we slipped on the delivery through our speech. Sociologists should do all they can to improve the language we use to describe individuals and certain types of discourses. Because we cannot change what happened in the past, we appreciate the feedback and will be more careful moving forward.
We hope you come back to the show.