Crime and Imprisonment Statistics

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Crime and Imprisonment Statistics

Post by Kalandra on Mon Sep 15, 2008 12:44 am

Hi!

I had a very nice discussion with one of you guys last week, discussing crime rates (among many other things). Sadly, I don't remember the account name and can't look into my NWN notebook currently (yes, I've got a shitty memory).

There was some number floating of 20% around about how many people are / have been imprisoned in the US - I've looked some sources up, and that's what I found:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gef%C3%A4ngnis (the german article has more data)

According to the study cited there, 0,751% of US citizens are currently imprisoned, which (curiously) puts the US imprisonment rate to No 1 worldwide (closely followed by Russia, and with an absurdly huge gap to No 3), about five to six times as much as in other first world countries.

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/crimoff.htm

The Bureau of Justice Statistics gives a number 0f 2,7% of US citizens being or having been imprisoned, but I think this is where the 20%-figure came from: an impressive number of 16.6% of black male citizens are/were imprisoned. As crimes are committed mainly by youngish persons (15 to 25 is the "hot spot"), the number of black male citizens from 20 to 30 who have been imprisoned in the near past will be very, very high.

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/crimoff.htm

Of course, the rate of imprisonment doesn't say much about the crime rate, as sanctions vary very much from nation to nation. The crime rate is really difficult to compare directly, esp. as some things are considered a crime (or not prosecuted) in some countries (e. g. adultery, prostitution, child abuse, abortion, use of certain substances/alcohol) but not or under different circumstances in others. Also, the number of reported/detected crimes appears to vary considerably (an Iranian woman would be stupid to report being raped, as she'd also confess to what is thought to be adultery there, and where there's a system of private "revenge justice" in place, officials channels are less necessary to punish crimes).

I did, however, find numbers on the murder rate, those indicate twice as much murders in the US than in Switzerland, four times as much as in France, three times as much in GB and six times as much as in Germany (who would have suspected the Swiss people of being so violent?).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_murder_rate

As these numbers appear to include only "successful" murders, the number will be diluted by weird effects (availability of deadly weapons, health care etc.), but in contrast, the number of untedected crimes and the definition of what "murder" is will be very similar in the first world, I suppose.
The overall crime rate will of course differ from the number of murders (again, the availability of firearms will change the number even of attempted murders, as it's physically/mentally/morally easy to pull a trigger, but difficult to bash people's head with a more primitive tool), but in combination with the rate of imprisonment, I think it hints to what result a more detailed search would have: There's a serious problem with crime in the US, but it's not that large as it was mentioned in the discussion.
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Re: Crime and Imprisonment Statistics

Post by Skywatcher on Mon Sep 15, 2008 6:23 am

The USA doesn't have a problem. Large urban areas in the USA have problems. I read somewhere that if you were a black man between 18 and 25, you were safer in Iraq during the worst of the violence there than you would be in Washington DC.

We have two problems. The so-called "war on drugs" is the biggest one. You cannot control drugs with cops and guns. All you are doing is creating a criminal environment that will lead inevitably to a viscious circle of violent crime. You would have thought we would have learned that lesson with prohibition, but I guess every few generations have to relearn it.

The other problem is the "victim" mindset. Look up Algood Tennessee in the Census Bureau numbers. Violent crime here is almost unheard of. Of course, if you break into someone's house around here, you are more likely to end up dead than enriched by their posessions (at least 3 people have been on the news in the past 6 weeks in Middle Tennessee who were shot while trying to invade someone's home. They were from Nashvile, and went to the country to find a place to break into. BAD mistake). Anyway, if more people were prepared to defend themselves, I think violent crime would drop fast.

As for me, I like to jog. There is NOWHERE in Algood or Cookeville where I feel unsafe jogging during the daytime hours. And if we had more sidewalks, I would be fine at night almost everywhere.
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Re: Crime and Imprisonment Statistics

Post by Kalandra on Mon Sep 15, 2008 8:31 am

I admit I don't know much about things in the US, but I think I agree, esp. with the prohibition thing - forcing people to (not) do things instead of persuading them is really, really difficult (and costly).

What I don't agree with, however, is that being "prepared to defend yourself" (if that is to mean having a gun) will lower violence. The rate of violent crimes in the US is much, much higher than in other first world countries - same goes for the rate of gun ownership.

That may be coincidence, not correlation, or the crime rate causing the desire and therefor legalization of firearms. But it's a strong counter-indicator to the thesis of guns reducing the rate of violent crimes.

Lessening income/wealth gaps, education, justice and defensive prevention methods* appear much more desirable and effectively to me. When there's no motivation to commit robberies/thefts, they will get committed less often and less violently. When people learn to respect each other, live in intact families, they'll be more hesitant to hurt friends or family members.

In Germany, there's much discussion going currently about that very problem - youths without proper education, without any real hope for getting a job, coming from broken homes or abusive parents, with little relation to the cultural background of the "established" society, are forming very violent gangs formerly unheard of over here - resembling street gangs from the US more than the kind of crime we're used to. That's where criminal and terrorist organizations can recruit easily - people who have nothing to loose sign up for the dumbest things imagineable (rob a place in broad daylight, blow yourself up to kill the unbelievers, ...).

And I suppose it's the same story in the US - it's not the lack of weapons in the victim's homes, but the lack of social integration or responsibility in the criminals.

Sadly, to fix these things, you need time and money. But that appears preferable to having to lock up everything all the time, carry a gun at all times, shoot my brother/neighbor/child by mistake on the one hand putting somebody in a cage for the rest of his live or even killing him on the other hand.

Just to be sure: Don't take me wrong, I don't want to badmouth one country's way of handling things or the other's. The problems in Germany have been caused by rrrrrreally bad education policies for dropouts / socially weak families in the last decades. But everybody could learn from these mistakes, I think.

*e. g.: Don't store cash in little banks/shops - they will get robbed less often and with less violence, as there's less incentive to do so.
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