Category: Sociology of Law, Crime and Deviance

The Dock on Trial: Courtroom Design and the Presumption of Innocence

A recent article in the Journal of Law and Society examines the place of the criminal dock in courtroom design. Courtrooms may appear to embody immemorial tradition, an impression reinforced by the use of arcane rituals and archaic costumes. On closer inspection, however, courtroom designs can be seen to respond to contemporary influences – pressures of time and budgets, changing attitudes to human rights, security fears, and the interests of professional groups. Where different participants sit in the criminal courtroom...

Dear Progressive Friends: Do You Actually Care About Criminal Justice Reform?

  My Facebook newsfeed is filled with petitions to remove Judge Perksy, “the Stanford Rape judge”, off the bench. And I am pissed. Here is a judge who listens to a criminal defendant’s story and considers it in sentencing – doing exactly what a judge should do, and progressive America is up in arms about it! Not only did Judge Perksy order an individualized sentence that considered mitigating factors, he offers the same, holistic consideration to the accused in his...

Corruption, Formal and Informal

In a 2014 review article for Sociology Compass, David Jancsics outlined a ‘minimal consensus’ on what constitutes corruption, drawn from his survey of literature on corruption in sociology, economics, organizational studies, political science and anthropology. The four poles of this consensus, Jancsics suggests, are that corruption is the “informal/illegal and secret exchange of formally allocated resources”; that “at least one corrupt party has to have formal membership/affiliation or at least a contractual relation with the organization from which the resources...

Mass Media Depictions of Black and White Crime

The depiction of crime in fictional mass media occurs differently for people depending on the color of their skin and what this color has come to symbolize in such a complex system of race, ethnicity, and stratification in the United States.

To What Is A Prisoner Entitled?

The New York Times recently published an article about one of Norway’s maximum security prisons, Halden Fengsel – i.e. the “world’s most humane” prison.  The article doesn’t seem real.  Flowers, barley, open fields, live cows.  Since 1998, Norway’s sentencing has focused on rehabilitation.  This particular prison model – one that is designed from its inception for rehabilitation – was the first of its kind in Norway.  Even I, with my bright-eyed naiveté and mid-20s progressive agenda can’t help – just...

Festivus for the rest of us

For the second year, Florida hosts a variety of religious displays in the rotunda of the state capitol.  This year, for the first time, the Satanic Temple erected their seasonal exhibition of an angel falling from Heaven into a fiery pit.  The Sataic Temple presentation complements a Christian nativity scene as well as other anti-religion and atheist displays with seasonal depictions including a “Festivus” pole constructed from Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans and a Flying Spaghetti Monster with the sign that says, “A...

It's Time to Discuss: Race, Police Misconduct, and Social Change

  I have been reading the most recent posts on Sociology Lens and I was surprised to see that there has not been a post on the recent grand jury decision in not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. For weeks, a large portion of news coverage has been on the death of the unarmed 18-year-old black teen. Then Wednesday, a grand jury declined to indict another white police officer,...

Mothering on the Margins: legislating first environments and the demand for maternal accountability

    “You put me in charge of Medicaid…”, the vice president of Arizona’s Republican Party and former state senator, Russell Pearce quipped on his weekly radio broadcast The Russell Pearce Show “the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants or tubal ligations”.  Medicaid is a program designed to provide health-related services for people who cannot afford healthcare in the private sector.  As Amanda Kennedy of Sociology Lens points out vividly here, “being valued as a parent is...

The Economist Twist

      If you operate in a world of “market forces” well, then you should probably leave the social research to the social scientists.  An August 23rd commentary in the Science and Technology section of the Economist magazine anonymously summarized an elegantly designed longitudinal quasi-experimental study in less than 500 words.  Their summary concluded with two very basic possibilities (because as we know the range of human possibility is exactly two!) to explain the correlation between criminality and socio-economic...

The Local Face of a Global Epidemic

  In my last posting, I wrote about my concerns as I prepared to travel abroad to volunteer for a NGO in Kathmandu, Nepal. Today, I have settled in and completed three days of my volunteer assignment. In the past few days, I have learned about trafficking in one of the most powerful ways possible, through day-to-day interaction with survivors of the human trafficking trade.

Nation’s Latest Drug Scare, Heroin is Back

The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman triggered a national awareness that heroin had cycled back as a prominent drug in the United States. His death brought forth questions that challenged many people’s notions of a drug user—poor and unsuccessful. Many people asked how a person who had so much could get addicted to heroin. The reality is that Hoffman was one of many people throughout the United States using heroin. According to the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health,...

The Rise of Police Body Cameras

Police departments across the country are rapidly increasing their technological capacity to become a more efficient and effective force. These technologies vary from new weapons, wide-area surveillance, facial recognition software, closed caption television cameras, and crime mapping software. Each of these technologies is oriented towards identifying offenders and preventing or intervening in crime incidents. The technology has become a multi-billion dollar industry with vendors regularly contacting departments attempting to sell them the next great technology. One technology becoming increasingly popular...

The Praxis of Sexual Violence Prevention: Lessons from the White House

On Tuesday the White House launched its new campaign to address and prevent the epidemic of sexual violence against women on college campuses in the US.  The campaign, 1 is 2 Many, includes a blog, an informational website with a major report, Not Alone, and a PSA aimed at men and boys.  The launch of the campaign has been largely celebrated among the numerous sexual and domestic violence agencies across the country as a much needed step toward creating real...

Removing the homeless from the streets

                        The New York City Rescue Mission recently posted a video on their website of a social experiment examining whether or not a person would recognize his/her own family member dressed to appear homeless. To no surprise, the test subjects did not recognize their family member as they walked past them on the street. Watching the powerful video not only puts homelessness into perspective for those individuals who did...

Alternative to the school-to-prison pipeline

In my last post I discussed the role the school-to-prison pipeline plays in increasing the gap in minority education. The consequences of zero tolerance school policies are many including stigmatization, dropping out of school, and/or getting a juvenile record. Some schools have begun to change their responses to deviance in schools by going away from zero tolerance policies and towards restorative justice models. Restorative justice is a proactive approach requiring wholesale cultural change in the punishment orientation of the school...

Avery Gordon's "Ghostly Matters" and the Haunting of Sociological Research

  I recently stumbled upon a unique analysis of the construction of social reality.  In Avery Gordon’s Ghostly Matters, haunting is a method of sociological research.  She argues, “To study social life one must confront the ghostly aspects of it” (7).  Ghostly Matters is her attempt to understand the complexities of social life through an analysis of the hauntings surrounding Sabina Spielrein, the desaparecido of Argentina and the lingering impact of racial slavery during the Reconstruction period in the United States.  Her...