There are many different social scientific theories about the ever debated issue of the relationship between drugs and crime. The book highlights a few of the major social scientific theoretical perspectives. Although there are many different arguments as to the nature of the correlation, the one thing that is certain is that there is a significant relationship between drug use and crime.
The first group of perspectives are from ethnographic and role theory analyses. They see the drug and crime relationship as being associated with subcultures more than directly causal of each other. Society would term these subculture behaviors as extremely deviant. This includes high frequencies of drug use, high crime rates, and high-risk sexual behavior. These are viewed as an integral part of the societal role of a typical street level drug-user. This perspective argues that drug use and crime are mutually reinforcing, not directly linear in cause.
Another perspective comes from the ecological theoretical analysis. It argues that the relationship between drugs and crime are because the two activities happen in similar environmental conditions. These conditions include lack of social control, poverty, and economic opportunity. This perspective argues that crime is spuriously related to drug use.
The final interpretation is the radical theory. This perspective says that the relationship between drugs and crime is a production of governmental legal policy since 1914, which criminalized many drug using behaviors. These theorists argue that the drug-crime relationship can be fought with the decriminalization of drugs, as well as treating drug use and addictions through social help programs.
It is impossible to pinpoint the exact cause of the drug-crime relationship. But by using several different theories, such as the previous mentioned ones, it is possible to begin to develop an idea of the root cause. It is important to remember that one theory may not fit every single situation, but a group of well thought out theories can help us better explain the overall relationship of a particular problem.
The Goldstein model is a framework for the linkage between drugs and crime. It attempts to explain the three different causes of violence that is linked with drugs. These three different classifications are; the psychopharmacological explanation, the economic-compulsive explanation, and the systematic explanation. Drug use is proven to be a major factor in crime in many cases. The majority of prisoners in the United States are there because of drugs, whether that be selling or using. The Goldstein model gets down to the bare minimum of how drugs affect violent crime.
The first classification is the psychopharmacological violence. In this group, the violence that is committed happens because of the direct effects of a psychoactive drug on a user. This is not motivated by anything except for the compulsive effects of the drug. Drugs cause the body to act differently than normal. Some drugs cause the body to become mellow and calm, while others cause the body to lash out in fits of rage. The majority of people view psychopharmacological violence as mainly due to alcohol rather than any other drugs.
The next classification for the drug-crime connection is the economic-compulsive violence. This happens when offenders commit an offense for the purpose of raising money to support their drug habit. Studies show that this classification is especially true for heroin addicts, but that it can be prevalent in other drugs as well. One of the major economic crimes committed for these drug addicts is drug dealing. Drug dealing is an easy way for the addicts to make enough money to support their habit, and at the same time they can keep some of the drugs for themselves.
The final classification is the systematic violence. This violence happens in the course of struggles for market power. These drug markets have a high propensity for violence, whether that be from other dealers (turf war) or the buyers. A more in depth view of the violence in drug markets reveals that there are four factors that contribute to the violence. These are: the youth of the participants (youths are naturally more violent), the value of the drugs themselves (killing the buyer allows you to keep their money and still have your drugs), the intensity of law enforcement (potential police informants), and the indirect consequence of drug use (drug users are inclined to more violence due to the drug use).
According to Andrew Golub and Bruce D. Johnson there are four phases of epidemics. They argue that drug epidemics usually will follow predictable steps. Their model was originally used to study the Crack Epidemic, but has gone on to be used to study the Heroin Injection Epidemic and the Marijuana Epidemic as well. The four steps are: the incubation phase, the expansion phase, the plateau phase, and the decline phase.
The incubation phase is based on the idea that drug epidemics usually grow out of an individual social context (heroin from the jazz era and crack from inner-city drug dealers). During this incubation phase, the new drug practice is developed and perfected among a small group of adult drug users. Research suggests that the new fascination with marijuana was because of the youth inner-city hip-hop movement. They praised marijuana use in songs, clothing, and other venues.
The next phase is the expansion phase. In this phase, the drug use spreads rapidly among subcultures. These subcultures are usually newly emerging who embrace the new drug use as hip and “their thing”. In the crack and heroin epidemics, this expansion phase took place among adults. Only after it spread through the adults was it embraced by youth. In contrast, the marijuana epidemic was first spread among youth.
Next is the plateau phase of the drug epidemic. This stage is defined by youths becoming adults and wanting to get involved with the widespread drug of choice, currently that is marijuana. The rate of use of the drug of choice would be at high levels. The rate would be stable at this high rate and even slowly increasing.
The final phase is the decline phase. This is just how it sounds. The rate of use for the specific drug would be declining overall, even rapidly declining. These four phases give an outline for the life of a drug epidemic. It is not necessarily a rule, but a general guideline for these epidemics.
The gateway theory is a popular theory of drug addiction. It is widely accepted as true in many circles. It is based on the fact that a lot of research has shown that many American youths, who are involved in substance use and abuse, usually have a progression to their substance abuse. This progression of substance use involves four stages: the nonuse stage, alcohol/tobacco stage, marijuana stage, and finally harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin. The research shows that youths who do not use certain substances in one stage, rarely use the harder drugs in the later stages. However it does not say that every single user at one stage will necessarily progress to the next. This theory has produced the label of “gateway drugs” for substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and even tobacco. Current policies seek to prevent, or at least delay as long as possible, the youth from using gateway drugs. This is in hopes that if youth do not use gateway drugs, they won’t move on to harder, more serious, drugs.
This theory is not necessarily a strong theory. There have been several studies suggesting that this gateway progression may not be very relevant to mainstream youth of today or to inner-city populations. A study from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that youths “coming of age” during the 1990’s were highly unlikely to progress from the gateway drug, marijuana, to cocaine (powder and crack) or heroin. This was compared to youths born previously in decades before. This leads researchers to believe that substance abuse among youth reflects cultural, or even subcultural, norms among the youth. It suggests that substance abuse is acceptable or unacceptable among youth cultures, and that this cultural norm will reflect substance abuse. These cultural norms vary over time and locations as well.
This theory has some credibility, but it is important to realize that theories may be strong one year, but may be weakened by cultural influences the next. Cultures progress and change over time, so it is impossible to assume that trends and patterns will not change as well.
According to Lisa Maher and Kathleen Daly, the basic structure of New York City crack markets is an organized system of distribution. This is in contrast to the commonly characterized unregulated markets of individual crack dealers trying to get rich by themselves as “crack entrepreneurs”. The research suggests that as soon as there is a high enough demand for the crack, the individual freelancers are taken over by a more organized system for distribution. This is evidenced by the crack epidemic in New York City during the late 1980’s. During that time many of the neighborhoods had highly organized street-level drug markets. These markets were dependent on each other and they had a hierarchical structure of organization.
The organizational structure is much like that of the mafia, a highly organized street gang, or a Fortune-500 business. The drug business “owners” had many different “crew bosses” and “managers” or “lieutenants”. These “managers” were in charge of relaying orders from the “owners” to the street-level employees. They had the responsibility to organize and deliver all the necessary supplies and also for collecting the money made by the street-level workers. These managers could hire, fire, and pay the workers as they saw fit. They also handled problems the lower level employees had with each other or even the upper management.
The next level down in the organizational structure, after the “managers”, “crew bosses”, or “lieutenants”; was the street-level drug dealers. These dealers had a specific area that they were in charge of selling to. The dealers were assisted in any way needed by the lower-level members; such as the “runners”, “look-outs”, and “enforcers”. The “runners” are responsible for having a continuous supply going to the dealers. The “look-outs” were in charge of warning the dealer of immanent threats (i.e. cops). And the “enforcers” were in charge of maintaining order, whether by force or presence.
This system of drug dealing was extremely organized and sophisticated. It made it a serious problem for law enforcement officials to fight the already impossible “war on drugs”. This system made it possible for the drug “companies” to run smoothly and efficiently.
In the article “Street Youth and Criminal Violence” Stephen W. Baron and Timothy F. Hartnagel offer three possible theories that explain youth violence. It is important to understand different possible explanations of youth violence because the criminal justice system needs to know the root cause in order to develop prevention strategies. The theories are the street subculture and lifestyle theory, the economic deprivation theory, and the routine activities theory.
The street subculture and lifestyle theory is a popular explanation for violence among youths. It says that peer groups and role models glorify violent behavior rather than shunning it. The highest rates of violence are located in neighborhoods where violent role models are everywhere, such as inner-city neighborhoods with high rates of gang violence. This perspective argues that criminal acts are almost essential to the cultures and subcultures of the street, which slowly make violence more and more acceptable in youths.
The economic deprivation theory argues that violent behavior is rooted in inequality, uneven distribution of wealth, and the deprivation of the “have-nots” compared to the “haves”. The degree of inequality is all a matter of perception by the individual. If the individual has a negative view of others compared to himself, this will create feelings of resentment and bitterness. These feelings can be manifested in expressions of violence and crime.
The routine activities theory suggests that just presenting someone with the opportunity to commit crime can lead to increase in crime, completely dependent of social or structural conditions. This perspective says that violent street crime is merely a product opportunities that are presented to individuals in the daily life on the street.
These perspectives differ because they each attribute the root cause of crime to different factors. In the street subculture theory, the crime is attributed to cultural norms, role models, and peer influence. In the economic deprivation theory, crime is attributed to financial unhappiness. In the routine activities theory, crime is attributed to the availability to commit the crime. All three of these perspectives probably are mostly truth, so it is wise to look at all three of them from a broad encompassing perspective.
There are many etiological factors that predict young adult drug use and delinquency. These factors are not 100% accurate all of the time, but they serve as a means to help direct prevention and detection efforts. The causal factors are concluded from survey data taken of youth in high school. There are some obvious causal factors to youth delinquency and drug use and some not so obvious ones. There is a gender gap that is noticeable in this data as well.
In the data, one of the obvious results was that a significantly smaller proportion of youth had committed a delinquent act in the twelve months prior to the survey than compared to their lifetimes. It also found that women were less likely to get involved in delinquent activities initially, but that after they were involved they were just as likely as men to remain persistent in delinquent acts. Another interesting finding was that about 50% of the individuals who admitted to committing an offense in their lifetime also did so in the previous twelve months leading up to the interview. One consistent finding was the persistence of participation in delinquent acts. If an individual committed an act once, they were much more likely to commit more delinquent acts in the future.
The trend of committing delinquent acts differs from the trend of involvement in illegal drugs among youth. For example, persistent use of illegal drugs is much more likely than persistent commission of delinquent acts. Also, the proportion of continual illegal drug users is much lower for women than for men. Women are also much less likely to become initially involved and then to remain persistent users of illegal drugs than men.
The disparity between men and women has always been large when it comes to crime. This can be due to a number of reasons. The first potential explanation for the disparity could be that the Criminal Justice System is more lenient on women than on men. Another possible, and statistically proven, explanation is that men are just proportionately over involved in crime compared to women. Whatever the reason, we know for sure that women are less likely to be involved in crime and illegal drugs.
An interesting phenomenon has developed over the past twenty to thirty years in the Criminal Justice System. The prison population has more than tripled since the 1980’s, while the crime rate has gone down drastically. It has especially dropped significantly since the early 1990’s, yet the number of prisoners has steadily grown. There are a few different explanations for this seemingly out of control trend. Lana D. Harrison offers a well researched explanation of this phenomenon. She suggests that this wild rise in prison numbers can be attributed to policy changes and the war on drugs.
In the early 2000’s, over 2 million people were imprisoned in the United States. This is more than three times the number of prisoners that the United States had in the 1980’s. Harrison argues that the majority of these drug prisoners were incarcerated in the 1980’s at the beginning of the war on drugs. By 1996, 60% of the federal prisoners were imprisoned for drug offenses, 23% of state prisoners, and 22% of jail prisoners.
The changing criminal justice process and new policies have contributed to this rise, including mandatory minimum sentences and the three-strikes laws. In the 1980’s, the moral drug panics caused lawmakers to pass extremely strict drug laws. This in turn caused the dramatic increase in the numbers of drug prisoners across the board at all levels.
Drug users who were incarcerated because of these stricter penalties went into prison addicted to drugs, and many times they also left prison addicted to drugs. These drug addicts returning to the communities returned no better than when they had gone to prison, still the same person, just older. Since these drug addicts had been to prison beforehand, they were much more likely to be convicted again for crimes they committed. This is a self perpetuating cycle which may be another explanation to the rising prison population.
The rising prison population coupled with the decreasing crime rate is a much studied phenomenon in the criminal justice world. Harrison offers the explanation that it is due to the changing policies and the changes that took place in the criminal justice system itself. The war on drugs had far reaching consequences that caused a major crack down on drugs of all kinds, from the lowest of users to the most organized cartels.
Douglas Longshore and his colleagues pose five different dimensions of the conceptual framework of drug courts. These dimensions include leverage, population severity, program intensity, predictability, and rehabilitation emphasis. Longshore suggests that the first two dimensions (leverage and population severity) of drug courts are structural characteristics. He says that the final three dimensions (program intensity, predictability, and rehabilitation emphasis) are characteristics of the process, which describe what occurs while offenders are processed through the drug courts.
Leverage refers to the seriousness of penalties that offenders face who do not meet the requirements of programs and are dismissed from drug courts. When the participant completes all of the program requirements, the charge is reduced and even sometimes dropped completely. If the offender fails to complete the program, he or she may be sentenced and possibly incarcerated. Longshore suggests that the outcomes will be better when drug courts have more leverage (whether that be actual or just perceived) over the participants. The next structural characteristic is population severity, which refers to the difference in drug courts which are established to handle serious offenders as opposed to minor offenders, or the other way around. Other indicators of severity may include age, gender, or even employment history. Longshore says that courts set up to handle the more serious offenders will have less favorable outcomes. He does say however that there might be other less obvious dimensions that impact population severity as well.
Program intensity refers to the requirements set out by the court for the completion of the drug court. These include urine tests, appearing in court, drug abuse classes and treatment. Optional requirements may be imposed as well such as employment, suitable living quarters, education, and paying fines. The next process characteristic is predictability, which refers to how the participant thinks the court will respond to their compliance or noncompliance. Predictability indicators may be drawn from court statistics and records. The final characteristic is rehabilitation emphasis. This is important when viewing the criminal justice system as rehabilitative instead of punishment focused. Rehabilitation is the focus of most drug courts. This emphasis can include how often the judge talks directly to and listens to the participant, time spent with the participant by all parties involved, and how close the participants sit in relationship to the bench. Longshore suggests that outcomes are better when drug courts are emphasized more on rehabilitation.
Harm reduction is a goal for some policies and programs concerning drug abuse and other criminal issues. It is not a program in and of itself, but simply a goal of the programs. The two conflicting goals that divide people’s opinions are harm reduction and prohibition (demand and supply reduction). While prohibition seeks to completely do away with the illegal activity (alcohol, drugs, prostitution, etc.), harm reduction seeks to make those activities safer for the people who choose to participate in them. Harm reduction is seen by some people as the lesser of two evils. Peter Reuter and Robert J. MacCoun discuss the attempt at harm reduction with illegal drugs.
People who hold the harm reduction point of view believe that it is more beneficial to reduce the harm done by illegal drugs than to try and do away with them altogether. The belief is that people will always be harming their bodies with drugs. The idea of harm reduction accepts this fact that people will always do drugs, and thus tries to make it safer for the people who choose to do so. This is a controversial policy, but may have more merit than it seems to have at face value.
For example, in some countries public health services provide prescriptions for heroin users to obtain heroin legally. In some places, there are designated locations where heroin addicts can obtain and use heroin in a controlled and safe environment. Another example of harm reduction is needle exchange programs. These programs allow heroin addicts to exchange dirty needles for clean ones. This is in hopes of reducing the spreading of diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis C, from one user to another.
Proponents of harm reduction policies argue that it is much cheaper to provide these drug services to every single addict than to imprison the addict. They also say that by providing the drugs for the addicts, they reduce crime that the addict would need to commit in order to purchase the drugs for themselves. Opponents of harm reduction policies argue that making it safer (and thus easier) for addicts to use drugs will cause an increase in drug use.
According to Philippe Bourgeois there are many different regional variations in using methadone as treatment. Methadone is a drug that is used to treat opiate (such as morphine or heroin) addicts. The addicts are given the methadone in small doses to help reduce withdrawal symptoms, and in large doses to block the “high” that opiates give the user. This method of treatment is not accepted 100% in the United States.
For example, in eight states methadone is illegal to use in the treatment of opiate addicts. Even in the rest of the states where it is legal, there are still many divergent opinions about the treatment. Bourgeois argues that this difference in opinions depends on the focus of medical and criminal justice establishments in an area, the amount of street addicts in an area, and the overall culture and politics of the region. Along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, the overwhelming cultural view is that substance abuse is a biological disease that requires medical intervention. Methadone treatment is fairly easy to obtain in these areas. It is also a multi-million dollar industry (for both treatment and research) and has dozens of locations throughout the region. Many of these methadone clinics and research facilities are paid for by the government.
San Francisco is in stark contrast to the Eastern Seaboard. This city is dominated by a more New Age type thinking. This culture honors a healthy and drug free person. Some people (conspiracy theorists) even argue that methadone treatment is genocide against non-white people. Because of these viewpoints held by a majority of the culture, methadone clinics are few and far between. The few clinics that are in this region have very strict entrance requirements to be admitted into their programs. Some of the facilities require proof (from medical, police, or other record) that the user has been addicted for over a year with previous failed detox attempts. They fear that some people who really aren’t addicted to opiates will sneak their way into the program, and consequentially become methadone addicts.
According to Lise-Marie VanNostrand and Richard Tewksbury, individuals desire to operate illegal drug enterprises for three reasons. They discovered these three motives by interviewing 20 dealers who were in drug court program. The three reasons are financial need, greed, and addition to the lifestyle. Most of the drug dealers interviewed in this study began their dealing career with a single one of these motives, but slowly over time the three motives began to overtake them.
Financial need is a very motivating need. This is what motivated some of the individuals to begin their life of dealing drugs. Many people feel like they have no other option to provide for their responsibilities than drug dealing. Some of the people interviewed said that they had a job, but that it just wasn’t able to pay for all of their needs and so they began dealing drugs. The majority of people who said that financial need was their motivation to deal drugs had kids and a family to take care of. These individuals saw drug dealing as the fastest and sometimes the only way to provide their family’s needs.
Greed is also a strong motivation in some people. These people do not necessarily need more money to take care of their needs, but they crave more money to take care of luxuries. Many of the dealers in the study conducted said that drug dealing appealed to them because of the opportunity to make fast and easy money. They often had legitimate employment or even ran businesses, but the desire for money overtook them and led them down a road to drug dealing. These individuals usually did not need to maintain normal jobs for the money, but they maintained normal jobs as a front or sometimes just to have something to fall back on.
An addiction to the drug dealing lifestyle is a unique motivation. Some dealers simply want to live a fast paced lifestyle or have popularity and power. These desires seemingly cannot be filled by legitimate jobs. Many of these individuals believe that they cannot achieve recognition or respect due to their perceived lack of skills or respectable attributes, and so they turn to dealing drugs as a means to earn that respect. After they begin their drug selling careers, they begin to have a self perception that everyone respects and admires them. This, coupled with the immense financial gains, is a self perpetuating cycle that leads them farther and farther into a life of drug dealing.
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