J. Personal Safety

In this Chapter:

Every person needs safety from harm.

Study Questions

  1. Is violent crime primarily caused by individuals deprived of needed basics or greedy, envious, vicious, or deranged individuals who feel the need to control or steal from others, by organized crime gangs, or by a violent and oppressive culture?
  2. Are police officers effective in stopping violence in our homes and communities?
  3. The United States has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Does this make our society safer than others?
  4. What promising new efforts might reduce violence in our homes and communities?

Overview Article J

6 pages total

“Gated Communities: Privilege or Necessity?” an essay by L. Kurt Engelhart, 6 p.

Perceived threats to personal safety can drive people to different strategies for protection.

Reading Set J1: Intimate Violence

31 pages total

“Domestic Violence Facts,” Feminist Majority Foundation, 5 p.

Fact sheet on domestic violence.

“Violence Against Women in the United States,” National Organization for Women (NOW), 2 p.

Very brief fact sheet on violence against women.

“Domestic Violence Not a Problem?” by Judith Kahan, AlterNet, July 21, 2005, 2 p.

The Violence Against Women Act is set to expire in September [2005] — and unless Congress can ensure that domestic abuse ends by then, our lawmakers have a responsibility to renew and expand the bill.

“Making Women’s Health an International Priority,” by Lucinda Marshall, AlterNet, March 8, 2007, 3 p.

An international perspective on domestic violence, rape, abortion and childbirth, AIDS, and war.

“Transforming Fear into Power: The Politicization of Child Sexual Abuse,” by Ingrid Drake, AlterNet, January 7, 2007, 9 p.

Politicians trying to gain points are pushing laws to “get tough” on child sexual offenders. But a new movement has a better idea — work with offenders instead of ostracizing them.

“Bringing the Violence Home,” by Bill Berkowitz, AlterNet, June 3, 2004,” 4 p.

The military is doing little to reduce the heightened risk of domestic violence when soldiers return home from Iraq.

“Still Taking Back the Night,” by Jessica Langbein, WireTap, June 19, 2003, 6 p.

Since the late 70s, Take Back the Night rallies have been a staple of American campus feminism. While the message remains the same, today’s rallies are more inclusive of women of color, lesbians, and even men.

Reading Set J2: Violence in the Community

68 pages total

“Peace in the Streets,” by Tom Hayden, speech at the LA Times Book Festival on April 25, 2004, 4 p.

The war on gangs has resulted in a body count of 25,000 people nationwide in the past two decades. We need to drastically change our approach to inner-city youth and gangs; we need a peace movement against the war on gangs and the war on drugs.

“Street Robbery Is Not Just About Money,” blog entry, December 2, 2006, 1 p.

Brief summary of research about the motivation behind violent street crime.

“Black Homicides Fuel Nation’s Murder Surge,” commentary by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, New America Media, February 20, 2007, 3 p.

Black-on-black violence stems from a combustible blend of cultural and racial baggage many black people carry, and the implicit message that black people’s lives are expendable.

“The Real Root Causes of Violent Crime: The Breakdown of Marriage, Family, and Community,” by Patrick F. Fagan, Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder #1026, March 17, 1995, 46 p.

The professional literature of criminology is surprisingly consistent on the real root causes of violent crime: the breakdown of the family and community stability. This Heritage Foundation piece is really long, pretty old, and VERY interesting

“Opportunity Knocks,” by Michael Castleman, Mother Jones, May-June 1995, 16 p.

One common response to crime is to retreat into blissful ignorance. But ignorance is a significant risk factor for becoming a victim of crime. Long, chatty, old, looks at conservative and liberal biases, raises issues

“Criminologists, prisoners seek end to street crime,” by Barbara Baals, Temple Times, Temple University, August 11, 2005, 2 p.

A group of 150 of the world’s leading criminologists descended upon the State Correctional Institution at Graterford to discuss and debate a theory on ending “the culture of street crime” developed by prisoners who are serving life sentences.

“Teaching Kids To Kill,” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, Phi Kappa Phi National Forum, Fall 2000, 10 p.

How our culture brutalizes children and allows them to become killers. (school shootings rather than street crime)

Reading Set J3: Organized Violence against Humans — Trafficking and Slavery

54 pages total

“From Sex Workers to Restaurant Workers, the Global Slave Trade Is Growing,” by David Batsone, Sojourners, March 15, 2007, 9 p.

A thriving commerce in human beings is taking place behind the facade of most major cities and towns in the U.S. and worldwide. Activists are pushing back, but they need reinforcements.

“Legalizing Human Trafficking,” by Basav Sen, Dollars & Sense, May-June 2006, 16 p.

WTO negotiations threaten to worsen the lot of migrant workers worldwide.

“What is modern slavery?” AntiSlavery.org, 2 p.

Slavery exists today despite the fact that it is banned in most of the countries where it is practised.

“Bonded labour,” AntiSlavery.org, 3 p.

A person becomes a bonded labourer when his or her labour is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan.

“Child labour,” AntiSlavery.org, 10 p.

Millions of children do extremely hazardous work in harmful conditions, putting their health, education, personal and social development, and even their lives at risk.

“Trafficking,” AntiSlavery.org, 5 p.

Human trafficking involves the movement of people through violence, deception or coercion for the purpose of forced labour, servitude or slavery-like practices.

“From Tragedy to Slavery,” by Juliette Terzieff, AlterNet, January 24, 2005, 5 p.

The children orphaned by the Asian tsunami are becoming easy targets for human trafficking rings.

“Modern Slavery: Human bondage in Africa, Asia, and the Dominican Republic,” by Ricco Villanueva Siasoco, InfoPlease.com, April 18, 2001, 4 p.

Millions of men, women, and children — roughly twice the population of Rhode Island — are being held against their will as modern-day slaves.

Reading Set J4: Policing and the Law

34 pages total

“Community Policing Is Homeland Security,” commentary by Drew Diamond, Police Executive Research Forum, and Bonnie Bucqueroux, Policing.com, 3 p.

Retreating from community policing not only risks reversing hard-won gains in reducing violent crime, but make it even more difficult for police to find terrorists among us.

“Shielded from Justice; Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States,” Human Rights Watch, June 1998, 15 p.

Police abuse remains one of the most serious and divisive human rights violations in the United States. Long (perhaps could skip case study examples)

“ACLU Applauds New Police Accountability Measure,” press release, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), March 15, 2000, 2 p.

The Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act of 2000 is a comprehensive approach toward creating police accountability and building trust between police departments and their communities.

“Legalize drugs — all of them,” opinion column by Norm Stamper, Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2005, 5 p.

A former police chief wants to end a losing war by legalizing pot, coke, meth, and other drugs.

“No-Parole Sentences Hurt Black Teens,” by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, AlterNet, November 16, 2005, 3 p.

The U.S. locks up more juveniles for life without parole than all nations combined — and black youth are unfairly targeted.

“Being Tough on Crime Doesn’t Pay,” by Edward Ericson Jr., City Paper, March 23, 2005, 2 p.

A recently released report on crime and incarceration in Baltimore City claims that, in some neighborhoods, locking up more people seems to lead to higher crime rates.

“Restorative Justice,” by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, CommonDreams.org, June 4, 2002, 4 p.

Comparison of street and white collar crime, retributive and restorative justice.

Reading Set J5: Prisons and Punishment

53 pages total

“Incarceration, Inc.,” by Sasha Abramsky, The Nation, July 19, 2004, 16 p.

Prisons thrive on cheap labor and the hunger of job-starved towns.

“The prison industry in the United States: big business or a new form of slavery?” by Vicky Pelaez, El Diario-La Prensa, New York, October 13, 2005, 7 p.

The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up.

“The Prison Industry Goes Global,” by Stephen Nathan, Yes! Magazine, Fall 2000, 5 p.

Corporations promote prison privatization around the world and may use the World Trade Organization to open new markets.

“A Sweatshop Behind Bars,” by Chris Levister, WireTap, September 13, 2006, 5 p.

The nation’s prison industry now employs more people than any Fortune 500 corporation except General Motors. Is prison labor rehab or corporate slavery?

“Incarceration Nation,” by Silja J.A. Talvi, The Nation, January 5, 2007, 7 p.

America’s culture of locking up its citizens has gone too far — three percent of Americans are under some form of correctional supervision, and we may finally be at the beginning of a trend toward real criminal justice reform.

“Introduction to Restorative Justice,” Centre for Justice and Reconciliation at Prison Fellowship International, April 3, 2007, 1 p.

Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behaviour. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders. Very brief basic intro. You can click on subheadings to get more information.

“What is Restorative Justice?” Centre for Justice and Reconciliation at Prison Fellowship International, May 2005, 7 p.

Restorative justice acknowledges that crime causes injury to people and communities. It insists that justice repair those injuries and that the parties be permitted to participate in that process.

“Genesee Peacemakers,” by Sarah van Gelder, Yes! Magazine, Fall 2000, 5 p.

Involving victims in the criminal justice system can lead to healing, community empowerment, and fewer repeated offenses.

Additional Resources


Next Reading Set Collection: K. Governance