Not Much of a Crime

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The accused is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The defence lawyer does not have to prove that the accused is innocent. The Crown must prove that the accused is guilty and there cannot be any reasonable doubt about it in the minds of the judge or jury. If there is a reasonable doubt then the accused must be found not guilty.

In the Criminal Code of Canada , three broad categories of criminal offences are used. The least serious are summary conviction offences, the more serious are called indictable offences. An offence that can be a summary offence or an indictable offence is known as a dual or hybrid offence. Summary conviction offences are punishable by no more than six months in prison or a fine. Indictable offences allow for life sentences and larger fines. For some hybrid offences, summary proceedings can result in penalties higher than those allowable for straight summary offences for example, assault causing bodily harm, upon summary conviction, is punishable by a maximum of 18 months in jail.

The Criminal Code of Canada has distinguished between different types of offences for three reasons. First, some offences cause greater harm to individuals or society. Second, some offences are considered more morally repugnant than others and third because some offences are conducted against property while others are against people. It is a general principle of criminal law that both the physical act actus reus and the guilty mind mens rea must be present at the same time for a crime to have occurred.

Its importance is illustrated by this example. Joe picks up his shoes from the locker room at his golf club and takes them home. When he returns home he realizes that they are not his shoes but those of another club member but decides to keep them because they fit and are much better than his own. The criminal law relies on the concept that the act of depriving the owner of the shoes continues until the point at which Joe formed the guilty mind mens rea to take the shoes. That is the point at which the offence occurs — when there is both a guilty act and a guilty mind.

The physical act of committing an offence actus reus is more than an act, it can be an omission to act or a "state of being. This is a state of being. Omissions to act can also be crimes a failure to act when required to do so by law. The majority of crimes are acts or kinds of misconduct. When the proportion of men between 15 and 24 declines, as it did in the s, crime is likely to decline. But if age-specific crime rates had remained constant, neither the baby boom of the s nor the ensuing baby bust would have had a very large effect on the level of violence.

Men over the age of 15 commit most violent crimes. The proportion of such men who were under 24 rose from 20 percent in to 25 percent in and then fell back to 20 percent in If individuals of different ages had gone on committing crimes at a constant rate, such fluctuations in the percentage of 15 to 24 year olds would have raised the level of violent crime by about 8 percent between and , and would then have lowered it about 7 percent between and Since violence roughly doubled between and and dropped by about 15 percent between and , age-specific crime rates must have risen a lot between and and must have fallen a little after Demographic change may also have influenced age-specific crime rates, however.

When the number of young men rises, the balance of power shifts away from those who support authority toward those who resist it.

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During the s and early s the young sometimes seemed to feel they owned the streets, indeed, the whole society. This feeling may not only have made young revolutionaries more assertive but may also have made young hoodlums more aggressive. The graying of the baby boomers after may, in turn, have helped delegitimate violence. Has "Getting Tough" Made a Difference? When the crime rate began to climb in the mids, conservatives urged a "get tough" policy that emphasized swift, severe punishment. Demands for swifter trials and sentencing were defeated by the "due process" clause of the Constitution.

If anything, justice moves even slower today than it did twenty years ago. Conservative demands for more severe punishment did eventually have an effect, however. Reliable statistics on the risk of punishment for any given offense are hard to come by, but certain broad trends are fairly clear.

Murder rates suggest that the number of violent crimes committed by adults roughly doubled between and Yet the fraction of the adult population in federal and state prisons fell slightly during these years.

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Thus if violent offenders accounted for a constant fraction of the prison population, they must have been serving only about half as much time per offense in as in It is not easy to determine how much of this change to blame on declining arrest rates, how much to blame on declining conviction rates among those arrested, and how much to blame on the fact that those convicted spent less time behind bars. Reducing the expected cost of violence must, however, have had some effect on the frequency of violence.

After , the expected cost of violence began to rise. First, while the police continued to make arrests for about half the violent offenses they recorded, arrests rose considerably faster than victimization rates. Thus, if victimization rates are our best indicator of the underlying trend in violence, the percentage of violent offenders getting arrested must have risen.

At the same time, those who went to prison were staying longer.

The net effect of these changes was that violent offenders could expect to spend more time in prison. Judging by murder and victimization rates, the violent crime rate was about 10 percent lower in than in Yet the fraction of adults in state and federal prisons more than doubled during this period. In part, this was because we were locking up more people for drug-related offenses.

But those who committed violent crimes could also expect to spend considerably more time in prison in than in The overall effect of changes in imprisonment is uncertain. But changes in the expected costs of violence could have played a significant role in altering age-specific crime rates. Crime as a Political Issue The feeling that crime is out of control influences Americans' views on issues as diverse as defendants' rights, capital punishment, drugs, school desegregation, and housing policy.

What are the effects of crime on victims and those close to them?

The feeling rests on our belief that violence has risen steadily for the past quarter century, despite the best efforts of both liberals and conservatives to control it. I have tried to show that crime has not, in fact, risen steadily. But this does not mean the public is wrong in thinking that neither liberals nor conservatives know how to reduce it.

The stock liberal response to crime has been that we must provide disadvantaged youths with better job opportunities. Such a policy would have many benefits, but reducing violence is not likely to be one of them. Between and , for example, we cut male unemployment from 4. Violent crime rose about 50 percent during these years.

Between and , in contrast, we raised male unemployment from 5. Yet violent crime fell by about a sixth. Thus while there may still be some relationship between economic opportunities and violence, it is certainly not very strong.

Crime, Justice and Society

The stock conservative response to crime is punishment. Punishment can work wonders when it is both swift and certain. Very few people rape, rob, or murder someone else if they know a policeman is watching. But a country as big, chaotic, and rights-oriented as the United States will never manage to punish more than a small fraction of those who engage in violence. In practice, therefore, the conservative strategy boils down to locking up a small minority of violent offenders for longer periods.

Our experience since suggests that this approach may reduce violence a little but that its effects are quite modest. One thing liberals and conservatives agree on is that the criminal justice system has broken down in a number of big cities. The number of crimes has risen faster than the number of police available to investigate them.

The number of arrests has risen faster than the number of prosecuting attorneys and judges needed to deal with them partly because more defendants now have attorneys whose job is to make each case take more time. Convictions have also risen faster than the number of prison cells we would need to incarcerate those the public wants locked up. This last development might be a blessing in disguise if it had led us to spend more money experimenting with alternatives to incarceration, but we have only done a little of that, so the actual consequence is that a lot of people are released on probation who should not be.

The breakdown of the criminal justice system in big cities is not new. It was already apparent in the late s and early s. But its effects are cumulative. When the criminal justice system is unable to punish any but the worst offenders, ordinary citizens see no reason to risk retribution by cooperating with the police or prosecutors. The longer this situation persists, the more citizens have first-hand experience of the system's paralysis and the more widespread cynicism becomes.

Furthermore, when punishment is slow and erratic, its deterrent effect diminishes, both because fear of imprisonment depends more on speed and certainty than on the length of sentences and because failure to punish a crime signals tacit moral acceptance. If we do not bother to punish those who commit a crime in some way that criminals regard as costly, they can hardly be expected to feel they have violated a strong social taboo. While politicians have not done much to reduce crime, they sometimes win elections by claiming they will do something.

Both Democrats and Republicans love to run "Willie Horton" campaigns, in which they fault their opponent for being "soft" on crime. Since these claims are all hot air, an election that focuses on crime is an election wasted.

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But the only way to prevent such waste, I fear, is a constitutional amendment forbidding any reference to violent crime in political campaigns. In the absence of such an amendment, we should obviously try to raise the level of public debate about crime. No one who has followed the debates of the past quarter century is likely to feel much optimism about our chances, however.

Few subjects inspire as much nonsense as violent crime. Violence is a product of many conflicting influences, all of which are constantly changing. In most periods of history these changes roughly offset one another. If the proportion of the population between the ages of 15 and 24 falls, for example, the benefits are likely to be offset by some other change, such as the opening of new drug markets that everyone wants to control.

Occasionally, however, a lot of the factors that influence violence all change in the same direction at roughly the same time. When this happens, the level of violence can change substantially. Between and , for example, the number of young men increased, young black Americans became increasingly disillusioned and angry about the way American society treated them, and the Vietnam War schooled a whole generation of young men in killing.

At the same time, respect for authority eroded, those who had traditionally exercised authority became more cautious about using it, and the chances of being punished if you broke the law declined. With all these forces pushing in the same direction, it is hardly surprising that violence became more common.

Unfortunately, the explanations people proposed for the increase in crime during these years consisted largely of identifying one of the factors listed above and claiming that it was "the" explanation. Skeptics then responded by showing that this particular explanation could not possibly account for the entire observed change.

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drunk driving, driving with too much alcohol in your blood, drunk driver hacker does not technically mean a cyber criminal, but the word is often used to. Are some harmful behaviors not considered crimes, and are some crimes not arrested and/or convicted of a crime may not have engaged in a very harmful.

Soberer folk advocated multi-factor explanations, but they got little attention. Multi-factor explanations are complicated and boring. Worse yet, they seldom serve the political needs of reformers. Those who want to lock people up, for example, do not want to acknowledge that locking people up will, at best, have only a modest effect on violence. Those who want the government to provide young people with jobs are equally reluctant to admit that this will have only a modest effect on street crime.

Instead of trying to understand the causes of crime, therefore, we should probably concentrate on assessing the proposed cures. We know, for example, that an extraordinarily high proportion of those on death row were physically abused as children. We also know that our current system for dealing with abused children is a disaster. Because adults worry more about the rights of parents than the rights of children, they are very slow to intervene even when they suspect abuse. Once we do intervene, our concern for parental rights forces us to shunt abused children from one temporary foster home to another rather than placing them immediately in a permanent adoptive home.

This prospect makes social workers even more reluctant to intervene.

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Our prisons are also a national scandal. We could make them less brutal by spending more money, and we could probably teach more inmates marketable skills and better ways of dealing with their psychological problems. Such changes would probably reduce recidivism a bit.

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But even if we had the will to change all this, the benefits would be slow in coming and would never turn Boston into Toronto or San Francisco into Vancouver. Even so, reinvigorating the criminal justice system, making prisons work better, and intervening more decisively to protect children from abusive parents are all worthwhile in their own right. Skip to main content.

The Criminal Justice System: Statistics | RAINN

Donate Subscribe. Back to Search Results. The Hate Crimes Reporting Gap is the significant disparity between hate crimes that actually occur and those reported to law enforcement. It is critical to report hate crimes not only to show support and get help for victims, but also to send a clear message that the community will not tolerate these kinds of crimes. Reporting hate crimes allows communities and law enforcement to fully understand the scope of the problem in a community and put resources toward preventing and addressing attacks based on bias and hate. Hate Crime : At the federal level, a crime motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

Bias or Hate Incident : Acts of prejudice that are not crimes and do not involve violence, threats, or property damage. Hate The term "hate" can be misleading. Under the First Amendment of the U. Constitution, people cannot be prosecuted simply for their beliefs. People may be offended or upset about beliefs that are untrue or based upon false stereotypes, but it is not a crime to express offensive beliefs, or to join with others who share such views.