Sunday, June 17, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, Father's Day Edition


NCJ 218419
Albert W. Dzur; Rekha Mirchandani
Punishment and Democracy: The Role of Public Deliberation
Punishment & Society
Volume: 9 Issue:2 Dated: April 2007 Pages:151 to 175

This article focuses on two case studies--three strikes legislation and problem-solving courts--to illustrate the distinction between successful and unsuccessful public deliberation concerning criminal justice policies and practices. The main findings from the case studies indicated two different outcomes. First, it was found that neglectful standards of rational-critical debate could produce opinions (distinguished from public opinions) that emerged from the public but in unreflective and unimaginative ways. The result of such unreflective opinion is exemplified in the widely criticized three strikes legislation. On the other hand, the second case study illustrated how reflective and thoughtful rational-critical public debate could result in reasonable criminal justice policies, such as the imposition of punishments in problem-solving courts, including drug, domestic violence, mental health, and community courts. The analysis relies on Habermas’s democratic theory to develop and explain the ideal of public deliberation and civic participation and to show how criminal justice policies may be subjected to public rational-critical debate. The authors argue that widespread public deliberation regarding criminal justice policies and practices is a key component of the requirements of legitimate punishment in any democratic society. Healthy debates are characterized as rational, open, and ongoing deliberations that bring pluralistic attention to the different values and principles at stake in any social policy discussion. The authors point out that the three strikes legislation grew out of public debate that was exceedingly narrow and focused mainly on cost, potential for prison crowding, and the possibility of higher taxes. In the case of problem-solving courts, on the other hand, the public debate took a deeper, better-informed, and more closely engaged character. Notes, references

NCJ 218414
Per-Olof H. Wikstrom; Kyle Treiber
Role of Self-Control in Crime Causation: Beyond Gottfredson and Hirschi's General Theory of Crime
European Journal of Criminology
Volume: 4 Issue:2 Dated: April 2007 Pages:237 to 264

This article offers an alternative understanding of the role of self-control in crime causation, arguing that self-control is best understood as a situational concept rather than an individual trait. The main argument is that the concept of self-control as defined by Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) in their landmark General Theory of Crime should not be viewed as an individual trait as Gottfredson and Hirschi suggest, but should rather be viewed as a situational factor. Self-control should be understood as a factor that emerges in the process of choice. The authors further argue that there are important environmental and contextual influences that impact an individual’s capacity to exercise self-control. The ability to exercise self-control becomes relevant to crime causation only in situations in which an individual is able to deliberate about whether or not to engage in criminality. The authors posit that individual morality is a more important factor to crime causation than the ability to exercise self-control in a given situation. In making these arguments, the authors present evidence of the underlying biology of self-control and executive capabilities. The research indicates that self-control is a situational concept exercised by the executive capabilities of an individual and which determine an individual’s ability to exercise self-control when experiencing a moral conflict in how to respond to particular motivations. Thus, crimes are acts of moral rule breaking that can be influenced by an individual’s capacity to exercise self-control. An individual’s morality, then, emerges as the most important individual characteristic influencing an individual’s engagement in criminality. The exercise of self-control only comes into play during situations in which the individual is able to contemplate over action alternatives because of a conflict between their morality and the motivation to carry out the particular crime. Figures, table, references

NCJ 218421
Marijke Malsch
Stalking: Do Criminalization and Punishment Help?
Punishment & Society
Volume: 9 Issue:2 Dated: April 2007 Pages:201 to 209

This article analyzes whether anti-stalking laws are effective in combating stalking behavior, looking particularly at 77 stalking cases tried by Dutch courts. The results reveal that despite criticisms of the Dutch stalking law, many stalking cases have been brought before the court and have ended in convictions. The fact that these cases reached the courts and ended in convictions indicates that the law is adequately descriptive for use in legal practice and that victims are willing to provide information about their relationship with the stalker. Moreover, the convictions indicate that sufficient evidence has been produced to prove the alleged crimes. In terms of the effectiveness of a prison term in stopping stalking behavior, the cases examined for this article were mainly ex-partner stalking cases. In these types of cases, research suggests that a prison term will often only temporarily prevent stalking. These types of stalkers along with erotomaniacs, are often impacted by serious mental disorders and are the type of offenders least likely to be stopped by a criminal prosecution and punishment. While research is still in its infancy regarding the effectiveness of stalking laws, the evidence gathered so far suggests that stalking interventions and sanctions are not producing the desired effects. On the other hand, research indicates that treatment for stalking and domestic violence types of crimes is more effective than punishment. The criminal law may be used as a way to require treatment. The research involved collecting Dutch court decisions in stalking cases and their investigation files from the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement for cases heard between 2001 and 2003. Future research on the effectiveness of anti-stalking laws should be conducted after the laws have been in force for a number of years. Notes, references

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