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Article

Roberto R. Aspholm

Street gangs first emerged on a broad scale in U.S. cities in the late 19th century in step with industrialization, urbanization, and mass waves of European immigration. Up until the 1960s, the vast majority of gang members in the United States were second- and third-generation European immigrants. Like their Black and Latino successors, these groups routinely engaged in collective violence, which helped push nationwide levels of homicide to a historic peak toward the end of Prohibition. At the same time, White ethnic gangs were integrated into the urban political machines and organized crime syndicates of that era. Moreover, these groups existed within a burgeoning urban industrial economy in which an abundance of low-skilled manufacturing jobs provided readily available opportunities for gang members to transition out of gang life in late adolescence or early adulthood. New Deal policies institutionalizing protections for unions and workers and expanding homeownership opportunities via federal mortgage underwriting, in turn, greatly enhanced economic security for widening sectors of the working class, especially White workers. In short, political patronage, lucrative illegal rackets, a vibrant labor movement, and New Deal labor and housing policies variously punched a ticket to upward mobility for countless White gang members during this period, and, by the mid-1960s, White street gangs had largely disappeared from the urban landscape. During and after World War II, meanwhile, millions of Southern Blacks as well as Mexicans and Puerto Ricans migrated to America’s urban industrial centers. Conversely, millions of Whites left these cities in the postwar decades, an exodus facilitated by federal highway construction and housing policies that promoted racially exclusive suburbanization. Industry largely followed this outmigration in search of cheaper land, more pliable labor, lower taxes, and greater profits, leaving many central cities economically devastated and without an industrial base for their increasingly Black and Latino working class. At the same time, the urban political machines and organized crime groups that had once provided mobility for White ethnic gangs were in dramatic decline as municipal governance was bureaucratized and criminal rackets were supplanted by the development and expansion of legalized gambling and revolving credit markets. It is within this context that contemporary Black and Latino street gangs emerged and have persisted since the 1960s. Unlike their White predecessors, today’s gang members have been largely excluded from the conventional economy at the same time that society has abandoned the welfare state in favor of incarceration as its major strategy for managing inequality. Prison, the illicit drug trade, and persistent economic dislocation are among the fundamental realities shaping life for contemporary gang members. Street gangs, violence, and crime, both historical and contemporary, must be understood against this broader backdrop of societal transformation.

Article

Jennifer H. Peck and Richard L. Elligson

The relationship between race, ethnicity, and police–community relations can be traced through the historical development of the United States. Through the eras of slavery, the Civil Rights movement, and, most recently, the Black Lives Matter movement, police–community relations with racial and ethnic minorities are a complex and complicated area of inquiry. Although research has shown that Blacks hold the most negative perceptions of police, followed by Hispanics and then Whites, understanding race relations between minority citizens and law enforcement is tied to numerous issues. The individual and combined effects of disadvantaged neighborhood characteristics, personal and vicarious experiences with police, and media exposure to high-profile incidents of police–citizen encounters are only a few of the factors that relate to differences in police–community relations across racial/ethnic groups. To mitigate the negative effect of media exposure of high-profile incidents related to police perceptions and behaviors, organizational justice is one component of law enforcement that may offer some perspective. Additional issues that are correlated with police–community relations for Blacks and Hispanics are greater levels of mistrust between minorities and the police, over- and underenforcement in minority communities, and negative perceptions of police legitimacy and procedural justice held by minorities. Problems surrounding police culture, cynicism, and misconduct (e.g., use of force) are further areas that connect to police–community relations and are more salient for minority residents than for their White counterparts. Practices such as the use of evidence-based policing, invested partnerships between social services and law enforcement, the fair and effective use of authority and force by police, and understanding the specific needs of minority communities may provide promising areas for the enhancement of police–community relations with minorities.

Article

Indigenous justice has been practiced by Indigenous peoples in Oceania and North America since time immemorial. These practices have been disregarded, disrespected, and displaced by Eurocentric principles of criminal law and procedure—a system that has been forced upon Indigenous peoples without their consent. As a result of colonization, Indigenous peoples have endured a system that not only has used its laws to erase the existence of Indigenous peoples but also has failed to recognize and honor Indigenous peoples’ systems and principles of laws. At the present time, the colonial systems of laws have begun to recognize Indigenous laws and justice; however, the state has still tried to control how, what, and where Indigenous laws and justice can be utilized. There continues to be a lack of understanding of Indigenous justice, because most education systems are not required to teach it. This is slowly starting to change, but we are nowhere near the actual recognition and practice of Indigenous justice systems. Indigenous peoples continue to practice their laws despite the colonial systems and processes, and in the future, Indigenous justice will be fully recognized with its own jurisdiction and with Indigenous peoples making healthy and respectful decisions about their own peoples.

Article

Cultural criminology places crime and its control within the realm of culture. Namely, it sees crime and crime control as social constructs or as cultural products; that is, their meaning is defined by the existing power relations of the social and cultural context of which they are part. As such, cultural criminology focuses on understanding how the meanings of crime, justice, and crime control are constructed, enforced, contested, and resisted within an increasingly globalized socioeconomic and cultural context. This is the context of late modernity where capitalism continues to infiltrate one community after the other, transforming people into consumers and experiences; emotions, life, and nature into consumer products. It is a context of transnational networks of flows of people, capital, goods, and images, where identities, communities, politics, and culture are increasingly constructed through the media and the Internet. There is a growing enmeshment of human communities—signified by the term globalization—in a way that events in one part of the world increasingly affect the other, and which make all the more evident perpetuating inequalities between Global North and South, as well as increasing marginality, exploitation, and exclusion of minorities within Global North and South. Simultaneously it is a world with effervescent potential for creativity, political activism, resistance, transcendence, and recuperation. This is briefly the context of late modernity within which cultural criminology endeavors to understand how perceptions about crime, justice, and crime control come to be constructed, enforced, and contested. Cultural criminology adopts a triadic framework of analysis whereby it bridges the macro level of power (i.e., capitalism, patriarchy, racism, anthropocentrism, imperialism) to that of the meso level of culture (i.e., art forms, media, subcultures, knowledge, discourse) and the micro level of everyday life and emotions. Through this intertwined exploration of the macro, the meso, and the micro in the globally connected world of late modernity, cultural criminology embraces a highly interdisciplinary and critical stance that grants it a particular international edge, as it is attuned to contemporary issues that affect communities locally and internationally. Cultural criminology’s international edge, for example, is depicted in challenging globally established forms of criminological knowledge production, which are dictated by state definitions of crime and “law and order”-oriented policies. These definitions and their accompanying policies omit harms committed by the powerful or the state itself along with everyday life experiences of and with crime. The call for a cultural criminology is one of resistance to these dominant forms of knowledge that reinforce and legitimize the status quo at local, national, and international levels. It is a call that aims to reorient criminology to contemporary and perpetuating manifestations of power, inequalities, and resistance within the contemporary context of late modernity and globalization. To do so though, cultural criminology should also be more reflexive on its positionality within the realm of knowledge, as it represents largely a Global North perspective. As such, it should extend its attentiveness to forms of knowledge and perspectives stemming from the Global South and should seek to be critiqued from and open a dialogue with Southern and non-Western decolonial perspectives.

Article

Deena A. Isom and Deanna Cann

The Latinx community is ever expanding in America, accounting for over half of the population growth since 2010. While immigration numbers have decreased, Latinxs are still projected to represent 27.5% of the total American population by 2060. The Latinx community holds a distinct position in the American racial hierarchy, sometimes sandwiched between their White and Black counterparts, but often intertwined with the oppressions faced by Blacks as well as confronting their own marginalization. Furthermore, Latinxs often find themselves in a unique disjuncture between their cultural heritage and American norms. Such factors coalesce into a distinct lived experience for Latinxs in America. Due to their structural position in American society, it is unsurprising that Latinxs are disproportionately entangled in the criminal justice system at the state and federal levels, with Latino men being incarcerated at a rate nearly three times higher than their White counterparts. The unique American history of the Latinx community created factors that distinctly impact those labeled Latinx. From the Spanish colonization of Latin and North Americas, the Mexican-American War, Mexican Repatriation, to the modern conservative push to “build the wall,” those of Latinx American heritage have been racialized, marginalized, and oppressed in the United States. This history has led to an era of Juan Crow and a crimmigration system that distinctly legalizes the discrimination and perpetuates the marginalization of Latinxs in America. The lived experiences of Latinxs, particularly their encounters with discrimination, cannot be separated from their entanglement with the American criminal justice system. Several unique cultural factors, such as ethnic identity, familism, and religion, also aid Latinxs in their resilience against discrimination and its impacts. Further research to empirically inform the development of culturally appropriate interventions and policies for Latinxs is imperative in promoting equity and inclusion for one of America’s most overlooked and vulnerable populations.

Article

Anthony G. Vito

The relation of race and the death penalty has been a consistent issue in the United States in what is known as the “modern era” of capital punishment. The modern era is defined as being from 1972 to the present, following the Furman v. Georgia decision. Supreme Court cases examining race and the death penalty have considered the application of the death penalty. Issues and concerns have been brought up about whether using statistical evidence is appropriate to determine racial bias that can be used in court cases, the role of a mandatory death penalty, and concern over striking jurors from the jury pool due to race. A wealth of empirical evidence has been done in different areas of the country and has shown some evidence of bias or disparities based on various statistical analyses. One of the more common issues found is issues regarding the race of the defendant (i.e., Black defendant or Black male defendant), the race of the victim (i.e., White victim or White female victim), or interracial dyad (i.e., Black defendant and White victim) that impacts whether the death penalty is sought or imposed. Another concern is wrongful convictions and exonerations. The criminal justice system is not infallible, and this is no more so apparent when deciding to give a death sentence. Prior research has shown that Black defendants are more likely to be involved in cases later found to be wrongful convictions or exonerations. Due to the issue regarding race and the death penalty, two states Kentucky and North Carolina, have created Racial Justice Acts. The creation of these two acts is a good sign of efforts to deal with race and the death penalty. However, how its use and when shows that there is much more work is needed.

Article

Andrea M. Headley and Kwan-Lamar Blount-Hill

Racial disparities abound in policing, and police misconduct is no exception. Literature on race and police misconduct can be categorized into three sub-themes: race and (a) civilian complaints about police misconduct, (b) public perceptions about police misconduct, and (c) officer perceptions of police misconduct. Racial disparities are apparent in the resolution of civilian complaints, and in perceptions of the ubiquity and severity of police misconduct. People of color may not always view accountability systems as legitimate or feel comfortable using formal complaint processes as a means of resolve. Officers of color report being disadvantaged by internal compliant processes, observing more misconduct than do their White peers, and feeling less comfortable with informal codes of silence. All officers generally rate misconduct involving use of force against civilians of color as more serious when compared to similar incidents involving white individuals. Officers of color, in particular, are more likely to admit beliefs that police treat people differently based on race and income. As with police outcomes more generally, race-based disparities in measures of misconduct likely persist due to a combination of complex and interconnected individual-, institutional-, and societal-level factors. Further research is needed. Lack of comprehensive reporting mechanisms nationwide poses challenges for scholars studying misconduct. There needs to be a greater diversity of methods used to study misconduct, including qualitative methods, and more evaluative studies of the variety of policies proposed as solutions to misconduct. The contexts of misconduct research must also be expanded beyond the United States and the Global North/West to offer international and comparative insights.

Article

Jennifer M. Chacón

The regulation of immigration in the United States is a civil law matter, and the deportation and exclusion of immigrants from the United States are matters adjudicated in civil, administrative courts operated by the federal government. But migration in the United States is increasingly managed not through the civil law system, but through the criminal legal system, and not just at the federal level, but at all levels of government. The most obvious example of the management of migration through the criminal law in the United States occurs through the federal prosecution of immigration crimes. In the 2010s, federal prosecutions of immigration crimes reached all-time record highs, as immigration offenses became the most commonly prosecuted federal criminal offenses. But it is not just the federal government, using federal criminal prosecutions, that has moved criminal law and criminal law enforcement agents to the center of immigration enforcement in the United States. The federal government relies on state and local police to serve as front-line agents in the identification of noncitizens potentially subject to removal. Everyone arrested by state and local law enforcement for any reason has their fingerprints run through federal law databases, and this has become the leading screening mechanism through which the federal government identifies individuals to target for removal. Federal law also relies on state law convictions as one of the primary means through which federal immigration enforcement officials determine which noncitizens to remove. This means that state legislatures and state and local governments have the power to shape both their criminal laws and their discretionary enforcement choices to either enhance or mitigate the scope of federal immigration enforcement in their jurisdictions. The problems of racial inequity in the U.S. criminal legal system are both exacerbated by and fuel the centrality of immigration enforcement to the nation’s law enforcement agenda. Racial profiling is broadly tolerated by law in the context of immigration enforcement, making it easy for officials at the state and federal level to justify the targeting of the Latinx population for heightened surveillance on the theory (often incorrect) that they are unlawfully present. At the same time, the overpolicing of Black communities ensures that Black immigrants as well as Latinx immigrants are disproportionately identified as priorities for removal. Immigration enforcement is frequently written out of the story of racial inequality in U.S. policing, but the criminalization of migration is a central architectural feature of this inequitable system.

Article

Juan Marcellus Tauri

Indigenous criminology has developed since the start of the 21st century as a result of the regeneration of Indigenous epistemologies and reinvigoration of Indigenous critique of the criminal justice practices of settler-colonial states. In stark contrast to Carlen’s call for criminology as a scientific art, Indigenous formulations—political, partisan, and subjective, reflective of the stated aims of activist scholars such as Agozino, Monture-Angus, Victor, Tauri, and Porter—are evangelical by necessity to hold the settler-colonial state accountable for the violence it perpetrates against Indigenous peoples, and to subject western criminologists to critical scrutiny for their historical and contemporary support for the state. This support manifests through the use of theories and research methodologies that silence Indigenous experiences of settler-colonial crime control, and approaches to crime and social harm, and through the discipline of criminology’s continued support for the state’s continued subjugation of Indigenes. The Indigenous critique challenges the Eurocentric nature of much western criminological analysis of Indigenous over-representation in criminal justice, especially in settler-colonial settings, which often lacks a theory of colonialism, reserving analysis for the recalcitrant native and their supposedly criminogenic culture. Also problematic is the tendency of many criminologists to utilise non-engaging methods for researching Indigenous peoples, a process that too often sidelines their experiences of crime control processes. In contrast, Indigenous scholars and their non-Indigenous allies propose an Indigenous variant of the discipline based on core principles that distinguish their activist scholarship from the mainstream, including rejecting the false dichotomy between objectivity and commitment, giving back by speaking truth to power, and making research real for Indigenous peoples.

Article

Arturo Alvarado Mendoza and Gabriel Tenenbaum Ewig

An issue of great importance in Latin America is what it means to become a youth, and more specifically, a juvenile victim or perpetrator of violence in relation to the territory and overall context of criminality in this region. Considering the historic singularities, an investigation of what it means to be/become must include what it means to be and become a young Indigenous, Black, mixed-race, or white youth and either poor, middle class, or wealthy. Admittedly, it is practically impossible to capture every existing difference in the juvenile condition in the region. The study of these issues in Latin America must be approached by considering its history of colonialism, which subjugated its various cultures. One must also consider the long-term consequences of the military dictatorships that hounded the region for decades. Youth have also been affected by the global integration processes and the era of neoliberal policies. When studying juvenile deviant behavior and crime, we must consider the deep and cyclical economic crises that have scourged the region—the inherited disadvantages, the structural inequalities, and the lack of fundamental rights that impact what it means to be/become a youth in this region. Self-inflicted, interpersonal, collective, and political violent behaviors affect Latin American youths. A salient form of aggression comes from lethal armed violence as well as other crimes that have specific regional traits. In most cases, the deviant behavior is a result of interpersonal conflicts. However, in other situations, collective violence is caused either by precarious urban settlements plagued by violence or by the presence of criminal organizations that affect their everyday life. Widespread gender violence is also a problem in the region. Young women and girls are subject to systematic victimization: sexual, racial, occupational, and political. Latin America faces a profound crisis of gender violence, with a constant increase in its most fatal form: femicides. In this context, national authorities have developed public policies but, for the most part, they still are ineffective in mitigating the problems. One of the most important difficulties faced when reforming juvenile justice systems in the region is recognizing adolescents as entitled to human rights and terminating the old inquisitorial or tutelage model. We must take into account that in this region, there is a cyclical demand for more punitive measures and hard-line policies against juvenile offenders.