119 posts categorized "Crime and Deviance"

June 16, 2015

Police Killings by the Numbers

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

If there has been one dominant, sociologically-relevant story in the news lately, it has arguably been the treatment of African Americans by the police. From Michael Brown in Missouri to Eric Garner in Staten Island to the McKinney, Texas, swimming pool incident, there is a heightened awareness, an ongoing conversation, and a growing sentiment of anger about how race influences policing.

As increasing attention has been devoted to this social problem, and more questions have been raised about it, there have been calls for greater accountability from law enforcement. In particular, many people want to know how many citizens are killed each year by police officers. Unfortunately, because the United States government does not keep a systematic record of these deaths, this data has been either unavailable or unreliable. That is, until now.

Continue reading "Police Killings by the Numbers" »

May 14, 2015

Probability vs. Certainty

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

In a recent class discussion, we talked about the connection between children who have parents who are incarcerated and the likelihood of future incarceration for those children. One student had trouble understanding how all kids in this situation don’t end up in prison someday. After all, don’t we all just follow our parents’ examples?

Children with parents in prison do have a greater likelihood of getting arrested in the future, for a number of reasons beyond the scope of this post. The real issue that this student needed to understand was the concept of probability, or the notion of how likely an event is to occur.

Continue reading "Probability vs. Certainty" »

May 05, 2015

How Can Sociology Help Explain the Civil Unrest in Baltimore?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

On our last day of class for the spring semester, I asked my classes this question, in order to apply what they learned during the semester to help understand the civil unrest in Baltimore in late April.

The events were triggered by the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody on April 12, leading many citizens to public protests. After his funeral on April 27, demonstrations took place, and not all of remained peaceful. The news filled with vivid imagery of clashes with police, destruction of property, fire, and looting. In a video that went viral, a mother shown hitting her son and dragging him away from the crowds received praise nationwide.

What was this all about?

Continue reading "How Can Sociology Help Explain the Civil Unrest in Baltimore?" »

April 15, 2015

Getting a Job with a Criminal Record

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

In a competitive job environment, having a criminal record might effectively exclude someone from legal employment. For some jobs, it makes sense to exclude people who have committed specific offenses in the past. No one wants their cable installer to be a convicted burglar, their child’s teacher to be a sex offender, or their accountant to have committed forgery.

But for many people who have past offenses, the charges have less to do with their character than the communities in which they live. Check out this clip from Last Week Tonight, which examines how municipal fines like speeding tickets, parking tickets, and loitering charges can cause low-income residents to end up in jail if they can’t pay the mounting fines:

Continue reading "Getting a Job with a Criminal Record" »

February 25, 2015

Middle-Aged Men and Alcohol

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

We’ve all probably heard the phrase “teen drinking” and thought about it as a social problem. Many public service announcements (PSAs), like the one below, highlight the problem of teen drinking.

But data just released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 35-64-year-olds are the most likely of any age group to die from drinking too much. And three-quarters of those who die are men. Perhaps we should have PSAs for teens’ fathers and grandfathers. More people 65 and older died of alcohol poisoning than those aged 15-24.

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January 21, 2015

Community, Policing, and Accountability

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

In response to the recent murders of unarmed black men by local police officers in Ferguson, Cleveland, Staten Island, and Oakland, to name a few, the Obama Administration created a task force to improve community policing.  The idea is that if police officers are embedded within the communities they serve, instances of racial profiling, and excessive use of violent force would be less likely to happen. The task force also hopes that community policing will help to facilitate greater conversation, interaction, and friendliness between police officers and residents.

Continue reading "Community, Policing, and Accountability" »

December 15, 2014

Police Misconduct as a Social Problem

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Are you angry about the legal system’s decisions about the cases in which have police killed unarmed black boys or men? Or are you angry that people are angry about that?

It is not clear whether the rates of unarmed black man being killed by police are increasing, but we are seeing more media coverage when it happens. It’s about time.

Is this a problem of individuals? Yes, on the one hand. It’s a problem for them personally if it happens to them or someone in their life. But it’s also a problem for society. One of the key tenets in sociology is that the personal isn’t just personal, it’s societal, and it’s political. The things that we experience are linked to larger social structures.

Continue reading "Police Misconduct as a Social Problem" »

October 14, 2014

Understanding Violence Sociologically

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

Violence is ubiquitous. We see it in television shows, movies, video games, and advertisements; we read about it in news articles, magazines, and books; we speak about it—both literally when we recount what’s happening in the world, but more often figuratively with an array of violent phrases that pervade our everyday speech;  we fear it with our security systems, gun purchases, and police forces; and we experience it, directly or indirectly, in our homes, schools, communities, workplaces, playing fields, and battlefields.

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September 11, 2014

Gender and Sexual Assaults on Campus

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

As we go back to school, there has been a lot of talk about preventing sexual assault on campus. This is not a new problem. In fact, I wrote a blog about rape and sexual assault two years ago.

Much of the discussion is about assessing the rate of sexual assault on college campuses, but even after the Clery Act, it’s often difficult to know what the actual numbers are or how to prevent it. However, the prevention tips and policies are one-sided, typically focusing on how potential rape and sexual assault victims can avoid being victimized.

It’s like saying to a murder victim, don’t get in the way of your potential murderer. Blaming the victim is not an effective way to deal with any issue.

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August 25, 2014

Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, and the Invisibility of Race

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

Fans of the Colbert Report are familiar with Stephen Colbert’s long-running routine about not seeing race (here is one of many examples during his interview with Michelle Alexander).  Pretending to be a conservative talk-show host, Colbert often pretends that he does not see race and that we live in a society where skin color is no longer important. He is especially fond of emphasizing this last point given that we have a Black president in the White House.

Although Colbert is playing this role to get laughs from his audience, the sad irony is that the majority of conservatives and a fair number of whites actually subscribe to this point of view.  The idea that race is no longer important in the United States becomes particularly evident when there are confrontations between Black citizens and white police officers. The fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed Black man who was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, offers a prime example.

Continue reading "Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, and the Invisibility of Race" »

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