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Assignment #1
“The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Prison”: Chapters 1 and 2

In chapter’s 1 and 2 of the book “The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Prison” we basically read and learn more about the high crime rate in America, and what excuses we make for these high crime rates. We can see that the crime rates have fluctuated over time since the 1900’s, but even at some of the times of the lowest crime rates in America, it was still higher that even the higher crime rates in most other Western industrial societies. When making comparisons with the US and European countries, we learn that there is a much higher rate of lethal violence, such as suicide in the US. Even though the rates of violent crime in America has declined over recent years, author’s believe that this has more to do with changes in America’s economic status rather than law’s and government policies. Some of the changes in the crime rates could have to do with the “imprisonment binge”, but the number of incarcerated criminals does not reduce the number of criminals we have in America, it just reduces the number of criminals we have roaming free in America. We know that crime is not completely avoidable, and the government has been making changes to help reduce the risks and the likeliness of lethal and dangerous crimes happening. Some of the precautions that have been made include: effective gun control, decriminalization if illicit drugs, amelioration of poverty, the prevention of child abuse or neglect, and they also are taking precautions for at-risk adolescents. In America, there are many “excuses” for the high crime rates that we have. Some of the excuses that we see talked about are that the US is too soft when it comes to punishment for crimes, our modern lifestyles come into play, the youth are troubled and more likely to commit crimes, and that there is really know reason as to why crimes are committed, but they just are. In the book, Reiman explains these excuses, and he also explains as to why they are for the most part false reasons for our high crime rates in America. One of the excuses that were said was that “we’re too soft”. This is pretty much completely disproven since the US has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. In America, we are just as likely to impose a prison sentence as any other country, and we are less likely to be lenient when it comes to prison sentencing. In recent years, there has been in increase of mandatory sentencing and also an increase of harsher sentences. Is was also said that the “modern life” in America is the reason for our increase crime rates. This could be a reason for higher crime rates in America, but many other highly industrial societies similar to America’s have a lower crime rate than we do. There are also many differences within the United States with respect to the amount or crime and violence that is happening. Many think that the youth in America are one of the reasons that our crime rates are so high. Yes, young people are more likely to commit crimes, violent crimes in particular; but the changes in the amount of crime in the US are not just dependent on the size of the youth population. There are many other factors besides the youth that have caused an increase of crime rates in America. When it comes down to it, many say that they don’t know why the crime rates are so high in America, that it just it. Some believe that it’s just because that’s how people are, some people just do bad things, some people just make bad decisions, or some people do it because they have no choice, or because they believe that they have no choice. The criminal justice system can do little to impact crime rates, because they only come in after a crime has already been committed. Most people who commit crimes believe that they won’t get caught, so when they receive a harsher sentence, it doesn’t make very much of an impact for most criminals. There are also many other things besides crimes committed by people that are dangerous to our lives. Things like poverty, the workplace, the medical profession, and the environment that we live in take more out of us than lethal violence such as assault, theft, and homicide. These things should be treated “criminal” as well, because they affect our lives every day, and they are a threat to us all. We hear a lot about reducing the crime on the streets, and we always talk about law and oder when it comes to protecting America in that sense, but what about protecting America from itself, from all the things that go on every day that no one ever really stops to think about? In the first two chapters of “The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Prison” we see first off the talk about crime control in America. We read a lot about the crime rates in America, and we also look a little bit at the history of the crime rates in the US as well. Crime has fluctuated in America since the early 1900’s, and even though it has risen in the past couple of decades, there has been a slight drop in crime rates in recent years. There are also a lot of comparisons and contrasts made about crime in America versus crime in other modern and industrialized societies across the world. Even some of the lowest crime rates recorded in America are still higher than some of the highest crime rates in other modern, industrialized societies in the world. We also have a very high incarceration rate in America. The criminal justice system is not very lenient when it comes to incarceration and prison time, and they are usually pretty harsh when it comes time for sentencing. Though incarceration is believed to not make much of a difference when it comes to reducing the amount of criminals we have in America. Criminals are incarcerated and that gets them out of the streets, out of the publics eye, and it just puts them somewhere else, it’s not a permanent solution to America’s crime problem. There are many reasons that people try to use to justify why the crime rates in America are so high, but Reiman and Leighton prove that most of these reasons are just excuses, and prove to be false when trying to explain the level of crime rates. The main reasons, or should I say, excuses that were made were the modern lifestyle we have in America, the youth population, that the US is too soft when it comes to the punishment for crimes committed, and also that we don’t know why the crime rates are so high. When we think about it, none of these really make sense in explaining why the crime rates are so high in America. There are other industrialized societies in the world that have modern lifestyles like we do in America, but their crime rates are still not as high as ours. There are many crimes committed by the youth in America, but the population of the youth alone and the crimes they commit cannot solely account for the high crime rated either. The criminal justice system is not very lenient in America. When a criminal commits a crime, especially a lethal and violent crime, they are very likely to serve time in prison, and the time chosen to be served is usually harsh. Lastly, many say that people commit crimes just because, because they are bad people, because that’s just how people are, because they have no other choice, or at least they believe that they have no other choice. In reality, there is always another choice, you never have to commit a crime, people commit crimes because they want something, and they are willing to do whatever they need to to get it, even if that involves doing something illegal, and possibly even having to hurt or kill people to get it. When you really think about it, there are a lot of other things besides the crimes committed by criminals that our government should be worrying about. There are so many things that go on throughout America every day that are putting our lives at risk. Some of the things that the government should be working to improve our society are workplace safety and regulations, medical attention and procedures, working to help at-risk adolescents, and even just the basic air we breathe and the environment that we live in. These first two chapters are laying down a basic overview of crime in America, beginning in the 1900’s, and working towards present day America. We read about what kind of crime rates are so high, and what excuses we are making to justify why our crime rates in the US are so much higher than most other modern, industrialized societies in the world. We’ve seen the fluctuations of crime rates over time since the 1900’s, but for the most part, the crime rates, even at the lowest rates in America, are still relatively higher than other places with similar societies. Even though the incarceration rate is very high in America, and the punishments are harsh and pretty strict, we still have high rates of crime going on in the US, as well as a high rate of criminals that remain in the US even though they are temporarily incarcerated. As we keep on reading, we learn and gain a greater understanding of the basis of crime and crime rates in America, and what the government is, and is not doing to work towards a solution to this problem.

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