Crime and Punishment in the United States
In the Bible, crime is called sin and harsh punishments are prescribed for committing them. In our society, crime is defined as a violation of criminal law, so no matter how heinous an act might be it is not a crime unless the criminal law has listed it and provided a punishment for it (Coleman, 322). There are many criminal laws on the books today that we might consider ridiculous, but at some point in history they must have made sense to lawmakers. Crime and punishment standards evolve over time and change according to the society and culture in which one lives.
In colonial times, laws were based on a theocratic system of justice so many crimes were derived from the Bible or were religion related. It was a crime not to attend church whenever it was in session and an example of the crime “profaning the Sabbath” “by lewd and unseemly behavior” was committed by a ship’s captain who kissed his wife in public when he returned, on a Sunday, from three years at sea. Secular crimes included lying, idleness, general lewdness, and bad behavior. Sex was a concern of the colonists and virtually any act outside of the narrow parameters set forth in the Bible was outlawed (History.org).
In the 21st Century, there are many categories of crime, i.e., white collar crime, violent crime, property crime, and drug crime. White collar crime encompasses a broad definition, but basically boils down to lying, cheating, and stealing (www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/white_collar/whitecollarcrime). The term “white collar crime” was first coined by Edwin Sutherland in 1939 in reference to crimes perpetrated by people in higher status occupations in relation to their professions (NIBRS). The term now refers to many types of fraud committed by business and government professionals (FBI). Violent crime includes rape, murder, assault, and robbery. Burglary, theft, and arson are examples of property crime. In 1992-1993, property crime accounted for approximately 33 percent of crimes reported to police and violent crimes accounted for approximately 42 percent. Those numbers remained relatively steady through 2006-07 with property crimes at approximately 38 percent and violent crimes at approximately 48 percent (bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/glance/reportingtype.cfm). In the latter half of the Twentieth Century, drug crime took an upturn and massive resources, money and manpower, were used to try and get control of the situation with not a lot of success. In 1982, the number of arrests for the sale or manufacture of drugs was approximately 100,000 and after peaking at approximately 450,000 in 1989 leveled out at approximately 300,000 in 2007. During the same period, the number of arrests for drug possession skyrocketed from 500,000 in 1982 to 1,500,000 in 2007 (bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/dcf/enforce.cfm). Arrests for drug abuse in 1970 were 322,300 adults and 93,000 juveniles, but in 2007 those numbers...