Category: Sociology of Law, Crime and Deviance

The Rapist's Voice

  **Warning: This posting contains content some readers may find disturbing. Recently, a student told me about a 2012 Reddit thread where a Reddit user invited rapists to tell their stories and the motives behind their sexual assault(s).  Although the posts and all comments connected to the post were eventually deleted, the thread sparked heated debates not only on Reddit but on Jezebel and in the Huffington Post. And despite the site’s attempt to remove the content of the thread,...

The U.S. Military’s Sexual Assault Problem

The United States Senate failed to pass a bill that would have altered the military’s response to sexual assault.  The bill, sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) would have stripped senior military commanders of their authority to prosecute or prevent charges for alleged rapes and other serious offenses in favor of giving the authority to military trial lawyers operating under a newly established office independent of the chain of command.  The vote fell 5 votes short of the 60 necessary to...

West Virginia Chemical Spill as State-Corporate Crime

On January 9, 2014 government officials in West Virginia discovered that over 7,500 gallons of chemicals used to clean coal had leaked out of a Freedom Industries’ chemical facility and into the nearby Elk River. The location of the leaking storage facilities was just upriver from the largest treatment facility in West Virginia affecting over 300,000 residents throughout the state. Immediately discovering the leak, government officials notified the residents of Charleston and surrounding areas to stop using tap water. The...

Do Guns Make Women's Lives Safer?

One of our readers responded to my previous article on the construction of rapists vs normal men in the media and the related issue of how to best respond to popular assertion that guns could play an effective role in women’s self-defense against rape. While agreeing with my overall analysis, she is looking for argumentative tools of how to counter ‘pro gun for self-defense against rape’ style arguments. Her question comes down to this: “The ‘change the society’ rhetoric makes...

Catching “Affluenza:” The role of money in Criminal Justice

The prosecution of 16 year old Ethan Couch has garnered considerable media attention in the past two weeks. Couch was accused of killing four pedestrians while high on valium and under the influence of alcohol. With a truck full of friends, Couch crashed into a group of pedestrians. The outcry from this case is twofold. First, Couch’s defense attorney argued that he could not be held fully responsible for his actions because he suffered from “affluenza.” Second, this defense worked...

Everyday Deviancy and the Web

  Since the credit crunch of 2008, and the global financial crisis swept around the world, a new rogue’s gallery of folk devils have been the focus of media opprobrium. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has ceased to talk about ‘Broken Britain’, how everyone is ‘in it together’ and of the laissez-faire, small government ideology epitomised by the ‘big society’. Perhaps this is because the discourse sounds too hypocritical even for a politician to espouse. As jobs are lost,...

Heavy Metal Music and Sociological Imagination

As a kid I loved heavy metal.  The overly bright, distorted anthem-like electric guitar solo.  The accompanying rhythmic pulse was reminiscent of a battle snare drum, a hallucination of a military march.  The drum roll and the introduction of the power chord, a series of musical intervals of a perfect fourth repeated over and over again.  When the vocalist entered the picture, singing at the lower end of his range and producing clear tones that were such a deep contrast...

Want to Help Marginalized Students Improve in Schools? Stop “Stop and Frisk” (and other punitive practices, too).

Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a previous ruling that had determined that New York City’s controversial “Stop and Frisk” practice constituted a civil rights violation, thereby placing any reforms (or the outright abolition of “Stop and Frisk”) on hold. In addition to being a highly ineffective police strategy, extremely questionable from a civil liberties perspective and undeniably a case of racial profiling, this policy might also impact marginalized students’ educational outcomes. Sociological research suggests that...

Classification and the NSA: The Power of Silence

The chief of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, made his first public comments since Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s PRISM spying program.   The media aftermath of Snowden’s revelation generated multiple narratives surrounding the program. Media coverage focused on privacy concerns, the criminality of Snowden, and the necessity of the program to protect America’s safety.  Lost in the production of these various discourses, there were also narratives that did not emerge, that remained silent.  The absences of particular narratives...

Development and Human Rights

In the last decade of the 20th century, development thinking shifted from a growth oriented model to the concept of human development as a process of enhancing human capabilities. This paradigmatic shift, articulated in the writings of Amartya Sen, moves beyond growth of income and captures the quality of growth in terms of social and human development and the meaningful participation of, and fair distribution of benefits for all concerned. The United Nations took up this approach with the Human...

Is THAT Cheating?

Last week, a survey of 1,300 incoming freshman at Harvard University found that 42 percent of respondents had cheated on a homework assignment or problem set before starting at Harvard. This study lead to countless editorial pieces with provocative titles such as “Welcome to Harvard, Cheaters of 2017” and “More Incoming Harvard Students Have Cheated On Their Homework Than Had Sex.” However, what the study and related articles did not discuss was how “cheating” was defined both for those conducting...

Volunteering for Surveillance: Consumerism, Fear of Crime, and the Loss of Privacy

The announcement by Apple this week regarding the latest version of the IPhone excited consumers worldwide. Along with any new release comes with anticipation over what new features will be included. The latest installment of the IPhone, the 5S, comes with a fingerprint technology called TouchID that replaces the now “antiquated” password with a biometric scan of the phone user’s fingerprint. Security experts are praising this new function as a way to increase protection for consumers and deter criminals from attempting...

A sociological understanding of online health behaviours

  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMedicine_Drugs.svg The 2006 Online Health Search, a US survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, showed that “prescription or over-the-counter drugs” was the fifth most widely searched health topic on the Web.  The most recent study, conducted by the Pew Project in September 2012, found that 72% of Internet users they surveyed say they looked online for health information within the past year. As well as providing knowledge, the Web is also a retail opportunity which allows...

Fear and Data Hoarding in the U.S.A.: The Use of Big Data to Fight Crime

  Key components of New York Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk strategy were recently struck down by a Federal Judge for violating the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.  The controversy surrounding the stop-and-frisk program primarily focused on its racial profiling—over 85 percent of the 4.3 million people stopped since 2003 were minorities. This decision has received considerable attention; however, there was a second component of NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program that was also defeated that received less attention. As part of the stop-and-frisk program,...

Racially Profiling the Victims of Murder. Colorblindness, Racism and the Selective Silence on Race in the US and Germany

Germany is currently witnessing one of its most anticipated criminal cases in recent history, as Beate Zschäpe, the sole surviving member of the three-person white supremacist group National Socialist Underground (NSU), is being tried for membership in a terrorist cell and conspiracy to commit ten murders. In addition to highlighting the continued danger of white supremacist groups, this case and its handling by the police and the media not only speaks to the lingering racism in Germany but also to...

“We Can Prevent Rape by Telling Men Not to Commit It”: Men and Rape Prevention

  Last Spring, during a Colorado State Senate hearing on gun control, a rape survivor testified that she believed she could have prevented her victimization if she had been allowed by the state of Colorado to carry a concealed firearm.  A female state senator then rebuked her claims by citing statistics regarding defensive firearm use.  In response to the exchange in the Colorado State Senate, Fox News brought together Zerlina Maxwell, a writer and political analyst, and Gayle Trotter, senior...