A Safer and More Just Society: Policy and Projections of the 1967 President’s Crime Commission Report
The past year marked the 50th anniversary of the report by the U.S. President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. The Commission, chaired by Nicholas Katzenbach, included 19 commissioners and featured now-famous criminologists Lloyd Ohlin (who served as an associate director of the Commission’s staff) and Alfred Blumstein, the staff-director of science and technology. The Commission’s goal was seemingly straightforward: to create recommendations for federal, state, and local governments that could lead to “a safer and more just society” (1967: v). The Commission’s report is considered a criminal justice landmark in the United States, laying out issues and recommendations that have provided a framework for policy development for more than a half-century. (1)
The 1967 Commission led to new recommendations and progression in fields such as juvenile delinquency and policing. The recommendations among juvenile delinquency included finding ways to encourage youths to become involved in prosocial activities to counteract negative influences created by community settings, particularly ones in urban areas. (2) Regarding policing, the commission called on agencies to form community relations units that were specialized in engaging with the public to increase communication levels. (3)
More recent research methodologies and developments have challenged the findings from the initial report. Since the 1967 report, criminal justice research in the areas recommended by the report have grown dramatically. With that in mind, the American Society of Criminology asked top criminologists in the nation to discuss the progress and prospects of the Commission’s recommendations. They hoped that collecting this fieldwork on public policy issues could project subjects for a new Commission to work on. They believe that doing so will emphasize criminology’s contribution in trying to foster a safe and fair environment within the criminal justice system.
In addition to past evidence of success and progress, this information is also used to make decisions moving forward. While great progress has been made, there remain many under researched areas, and future research will assist with preparing for additional challenges. The proposed new Commission would therefore approach issues that are relevant today, but were not as applicable 50 years ago. This includes topics such as the increase in the number of mentally ill people who find themselves in the criminal justice system, and finding programs to lower these numbers. Additionally, this would include innovations to combat cybercrime, an issue that wasn’t a consideration 50 years ago. Many of these current problems prove to be complex and politically polarizing, making them more difficult to approach without additional knowledge. (4)
The current research is not immune to the political and environmental shifts today. There remain many injustices for ethnic and racial minorities, gender disparities as well as issues with documenting crime and victimization. The need for a new Commission additionally seeks to uncover and address the prevalence of domestic violence. (5) Therefore, there remain unresolved research mysteries in these criminal justice areas, due to the lack of automated data collection and research access in courts.
The overarching challenge with crime in a free society revolves around democracy. In a modern society, there are direct expectations of change and innovation in criminal justice. The 50-year anniversary of the Commission Report highlights that the existing information is never enough, and as a society we must be prepared to tackle new issues and recommendations as they emerge.
Criminology and Public Policy is an official journal of the The American Society of Criminology (ASC). It is devoted to the study of criminal justice policy and practice. The journal’s central objective is to strengthen the role of research in the formulation of crime and justice policy through publishing empirically based, policy-focused articles. The ASC’s objective is to bring together a multidisciplinary forum fostering criminology study, research, and education. Its members include practitioners, academicians, and students in the many fields of criminal justice. For more information visit the ASC Website.
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