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Making Crime Pay: Law and Order in Contemporary American Politics

NCJ Number
K Beckett
Date Published
166 pages
This volume examines the reasons why crime, drugs, and juvenile delinquency have become major political issues and enhanced punishment and social control have been defined as the most appropriate responses; the analysis concludes that the punitive shift in crime control policies results from political influences rather than crime rates or patterns.
The discussion examines the relationship between the reported incidence of crime-related problems, levels of concern about and fear of crime, and support for punitive crime policies. It notes that the links between these variables are tenuous and that public concern about crime and drugs is strongly associated with prior political initiatives on crime and drug issues. The analysis also focuses on the discursive and political processes through which punishment and control came to be emphasized, the ways in which politicians and law enforcement personnel have depicted crime causes and shaped public attitudes, and the reasons why the get-tough discourse resonates with important sentiments and myths that characterize the political culture of the United States. The final chapters explain how making crime a political issue triggered the expansion and reorientation of the crime control system, considers the implications of a country that places higher priority on social control than on social welfare, and concludes that a more inclusive and pluralistic dialogue on crime issues is needed. Tables, chapter notes, index, and approximately 300 references