Americans love crime. The criminal justice system is fetishized in popular culture and news media. We watch the news and scour the Internet to assess our own moral compass, take cues from others' digressions, and bear witness to justice and punishment. Historically, we learned about crime through news media and fiction. The Internet has dramatically changed this landscape: for the first time, mug shots and jailhouse rosters are available with a click.
Despite significant public, political, and media attention to the issue of criminal violence in the United States, we know surprisingly little about the trends in violent crime for different racial/ethnic groups in recent decades. For example, what are the disparities in homicide between whites, African Americans, and Hispanics? Have these disparities changed over the past 20 years? If so, why? This lack of knowledge is largely due to data limitations, as ethnic identifiers are rarely collected in many official crime statistics.
ASA speaks with sociologist Christopher Dum at the 2016 ASA Annual Meeting on August, 2016, in Seattle, WA. Dum talks about what it means to “do sociology,” how he uses sociology in his work, highlights of his work in the field, the relevance of sociological work to society, and his advice to students interested in entering the field.
The night that Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, the White supremacist web forum Stormfront lit up with posts about racial extremists’ fantastical visions of violence to combat “White racial genocide.” On election night 2016, Stormfront lit up again as White supremacists expressed triumph with Donald Trump’s victory. They celebrated: “We finally have one of us in the White House again!”
As America’s opiate epidemic rages on, calls for “treatment not punishment” dominate the national media. The hypocrisy of this response is not lost on a range of commentators: the reported move away from criminalization, they argue, is yet another example of racist drug policy. White people get treatment and poor people of color get punishment. Again.
With access to more personal data than ever before, police have the power to solve crimes more quickly, but in practice, the influx of information tends to amplify existing practices, according to sociological research at the University of Texas at Austin.
Despite having only about 5 percent of the world's population, the United States was the attack site for a disproportionate 31 percent of public mass shooters globally from 1966-2012, according to research presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA).
by Julie Wiest, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Contemporary Philadelphia is known for many things: cheesesteaks, cream cheese, the Rocky movie franchise, that Always Sunny television show, and its many universities. In scholarly circles, it’s renowned as the cradle of American history. But the city—the site of the upcoming ASA 2018 annual meeting—is perhaps less known for its longstanding influence on criminal justice systems worldwide.