Sociology Of Crime

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There are large numbers of hypothesis and explanations to why violent crime in Australia, the United States and Great Britain generally decreased for a period in the late 1990s. Levitt (2004) states that the two most convincing reasons for the drop in crime are improved security and rising prison populations. Farrell et al. (2011) argues that higher levels in security was an important factor of the crime drop, because it reduced crime opportunities, this affected different types of crime such as vehicle theft. In earlier years the two main features to prevent vehicle theft was keys and license plates (Farrell, 2013). Car theft security significantly improved following the rise in car ownership in the 1950s and 1960s and mechanical immobilizers …show more content…
Due to the increased numbers of incarceration there is now a focus on risk and needs assessment as a tool to decrease the prison population. Risk and needs assessment consists of “data collection on behavior and attitudes that are related to the risk of recidivism” (James, 2015, p. 2). Risk assessment is often used to influence decisions regarding offender treatment, the granting of parole and length of sentence for incarceration (Andrews et al., 2006). Some research argue that risk assessment would be a helpful tool because it can collect and analyze data to identify low-risk offenders (Andrews, 1989). Meaning offenders could be placed in rehabilitation programs or be supervised in the community (Andrews et al., 2015) instead of being incarcerated if they are considered to be at “low-risk”. However, there are strong criticism in relation to the use of risk assessment such as applying group data to an individual (Monahan & Skeem, 2015). This means that risk assessment is concerned with specific characteristics of an individual that can predict recidivism or not, which group they belong to – “high, medium or low-risk”, however it is challenging to identify where in the group an individual lie (Monahan & Skeem, 2015). Therefore, if risk assessment is a part of the sentencing process it could mean an unequal …show more content…
One ethical concern is that “risk assessment might exacerbate racial disparities” (James, 2005, p. 10) seeing as the assessment instrument does not apply equally across cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. This is further supported by McSherry, (2014) who states that “assessment tools will factor in an individual’s history of arrests, not just convictions”. This is an ethical concern seeing as some cultural groups are more likely to be convicted than other (Bushway and Smith, 2004), which means that the assessment tool would be racially skewed and show a biased result. Further, by making sentencing judgments on crimes that might happen in the future is controversial. Even though statistics show that the risk assessment instrument can provide an indication of future human behavior (McSherry, 2014) is does not take into account whether an individual would with 100 per cent certainty commit further crime. There have been research and interviews done with convicted offenders who have been identified as “moderate or high-risk” of recidivism, and through the interviews the individuals say that they would not commit further crime and through the help of rehabilitation and support workers they have managed to change their circumstances. From a retributive justice perspective, it would be unethical to base sentencing decisions on risk assessment because retributive practice argues that the level of punishment

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