Unit 1: Explanations of Crime
Issue: Is Crime Beneficial to Society?
Yes: Emile Durkheim, from "The Normal and the Pathological," The Free Press (1938)
No: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, from "Defining Deviancy Down," The American Scholar (1993)
Classic sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858–1917) theorizes that crime reaffirms moral boundaries and helps bring about needed social changes. Former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-New York) argues that modern crime has gone way beyond the point of being functional.
Issue: Is Criminal Behavior Determined Biologically?
Yes: Adrian Raine, from "The Biological Basis of Crime," Institute for Contemporary Studies Press (2002)
No: Sean Maddan, from "Criminological Explanations of Crime," Original Work (2016)
Adrian Raine argues that one of the principal reasons why we have been so unsuccessful in preventing adult crime is because crime control policies have systematically ignored the biological side of human behavior. Professor Sean Maddan asserts that social forces create the conditions that become sources of crime in American society.
Issue: Does a "Warrior Gene" Make People More Prone to Violence?
Yes: Kevin M. Beaver and Joseph A. Schwartz, adapted from "MAOA Genotype Contributes to Violent and Criminal Behaviors," Comprehensive Psychiatry (2010)
No: Joshua W. Buckholtz, from "Neuroprediction and Crime," NOVA ScienceNOW (2012)
Professors Kevin M. Beaver and Joseph A. Schwartz argue that a “Warrior Gene” has been demonstrated to be related to aggressive and violent behavior. In fact, humans with a low-activity form of the MAOA gene are much more prevalent in populations with a history of warfare. These individuals are also more likely to join gangs and to use weapons in committing crimes than other persons. Professor Joshua W. Buckholtz, in contrast, asserts that the “Warrior Gene” theory has as much power to explain and predict the actions of an individual as a deck of tarot cards. Moreover, he believes that although genes may be able to influence our behavior, the environment in which we live influences our genes as well.
Unit 2: Contemporary Public Policy Issues in Criminology and Criminal Justice
Issue: Are "Stand Your Ground" Laws an Effective Way to Stop Violent Crime?
Yes: Jorge Amselle, from "Why We Need Stand Your Ground Laws," The Daily Caller (2014)
No: James Beckman, from "The Problem with Stand Your Ground Laws: A Proven Detriment to Public Safety," Original Work (2016)
Writer and firearms instructor Jorge Amselle asserts that “stand your ground” laws are needed for self-defense in the United States. Such laws provide those who use weapons for self-defense and defense of personal property with an effective legal defense in these cases. Professor and author James Beckman, in contrast, argues that “stand your ground” laws are an anachronism in modern society. Moreover, Beckman believes that these laws encourage situations wherein individuals will choose to escalate potentially violent encounters rather than diffusing them.
Issue: Is Racial Profiling an Acceptable Law Enforcement Strategy?
Yes: Jared Taylor and Glayde Whitney, from "Racial Profiling: Is There an Empirical Basis?" Mankind Quarterly (2002)
No: Michael J. Lynch, from "Misleading "Evidence" and the Misguided Attempt to Generate Racial Profiles of Criminals; Correcting Fallacies and Calculations Concerning Race and Crime in Taylor and Whitney's Analysis of Racial Profiling," Mankind Quarterly (2002)
Jared Taylor, president of the New Century Foundation, and Glayde Whitney argue that the disparity in crimes committed by members of different races justifies racial profiling by the police. Professor Michael J. Lynch, however, argues that a proper analysis of the crime data does not support Taylor and Whitney’s conclusions. He finds racial profiling to be objectionable from a legal and moral perspective as well.
Issue: Should Juvenile Courts Be Abolished?
Yes: Barry C. Feld, from "Juvenile Justice in Minnesota: Framework for the Future," Council on Crime and Justice (2007)
No: Vincent Schiraldi and Jason Ziedenberg, from "The Florida Experiment: An Analysis of the Impact of Granting Prosecutors Discretion to Try Juveniles As Adults," The Justice Policy Institute (1999)
Law professor Barry C. Feld contends that creating a separate juvenile court system has resulted in unanticipated negative consequences for America’s children and for justice. Vincent Schiraldi, director of the Justice Policy Institute, and researcher Jason Ziedenberg, maintain that moving thousands of kids into adult courts is unnecessary, harmful, and racist.
Issue: Is Exposure to Pornography Related to Increased Rates of Rape?
Yes: Diana E.H. Russell, from "Pornography as a Cause of Rape," dianarussell.com (2004)
No: Anthony D'Amato, from "Porn Up, Rape Down", Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 913013 (2006)
Diana E.H. Russell argues that the evidence is overwhelming that exposure to pornography is a major causal factor of rape. She utilizes the concept of “multiple causation” to explain the relationship between pornography and rape. Anthony D’Amato contends that the incidence of rape has declined 85 percent in the last 25 years while access to pornography via the Internet has become more widely available to teenagers and adults.
Issue: Does the United States Have a Right to Torture Suspected Terrorists?
Yes: Andrew A. Moher, from "The Lesser of Two Evils? An Argument for Judicially Sanctioned Torture in a Post–9/11 World," Thomas Jefferson Law Review (2004)
No: Elisa Massimino, from "Leading by Example? U.S. Interrogation of Prisoners in the War on Terror," Criminal Justice Ethics (2004)
Attorney Andrew A. Moher argues that judicially sanctioned torture of terrorists is appropriate for the purpose of preventing a greater evil. He further contends a judicially monitored system in the United States would be far superior to the current policy of practicing torture “under the radar screen” in other countries. Elisa Massimino believes that the use of torture is immoral and counterproductive for the United States. She asserts that if the United States wishes to rely on the protections of the Geneva Conventions, then it must comply with its provisions prohibiting the torture of prisoners.
Issue: Should It Be a Hate Crime to Display the Confederate Flag?
Yes: Ta-Nehisi Coates, from "Take Down the Confederate Flag—Now," The Atlantic (2015)
No: Alberto R. Gonzales, from "The Confederate Flag and Free Speech," The Hill (2015)
Noted author Ta-Nehisi Coates contends that even though the Confederate flag’s defenders often claim it represents “heritage not hate,” it is a heritage of white supremacy and cowardice and should be banned. Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, in contrast, argues that displaying a confederate flag is a form of expression protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Unit 3: Punishment
Issue: Does the Use of Solitary Confinement or "Administrative Segregation" in U.S. Correctional Facilities Constitute Cruel and Unusual Punishment?
Yes: Alison Shames, Jessa Wilcox, and Ram Subramanian, from "Solitary Confinement: Common Misconceptions and Emerging Safe Alternatives," Vera Institute of Justice (2015)
No: William Daly, from "Segregation: A Necessary Evil," CorrectionsOne (2013)
Alison Shames, Jessa Wilcox and Ram Subramanian from The Vera Institute of Justice contend that solitary confinement produces many unwanted and harmful outcomes—for the mental and physical health of those placed in isolation, for the public safety of the communities to which most will return, and for the corrections budgets of jurisdictions that rely on the practice for facility safety. William Daly, in contrast, argues that correctional administrators need to be proactive in controlling situations, rather than waiting to respond after their lives are endangered. This may include administrative segregation, which is used to isolate those who have been deemed to be disruptive and dangerous.
Issue: Do “Three-Strikes” Sentencing Laws and Other “Get Tough” Approaches to Crime Really Work?
Yes: William B. Mateja, from "Sentencing Reform, The Federal Criminal Justice System, and Judicial and Prosecutorial Discretion," Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy (2004)
No: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), from "10 Reasons to Oppose ‘3 Strikes, You’re Out'," American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) (2015)
Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General William B. Majeta contends that the current 30-year low in violent crime is not an accident. Reducing crime means reducing the number of criminals on the streets, which requires consistent, tough penalties that incapacitate the dangerous and deter those considering the commission of a crime. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argues that our nation’s crime control policies for the past 20 years have been based on the belief that harsh sentences deter people from committing crimes. But today, with more than one million people behind bars, and state budgets depleted by the huge costs of prison construction, we are no safer than before. New approaches to the problem of crime are needed, but instead, our political leaders keep serving up the same old punitive strategies.
Issue: Should Private "For-Profit" Corporations Be Allowed to Run U.S. Prisons?
Yes: Wayne H. Calabrese, from "Low Cost, High Quality, Good Fit: Why Not Privatization?" Transaction Publishers (1996)
No: Jeff Sinden, from "The Problem of Prison Privatization: The U.S. Experience," Clarity Press (2003)
Wayne H. Calabrese, Vice President of the Wackenhut Corporation, argues that the privatization of U.S. prisons saves money and provides quality services. Jeff Sinden, Managing Editor of Human Rights Tribune, argues that the private prison industry has failed to achieve substantial cost savings and that there have been systemic human rights abuses in for-profit correctional institutions.
Issue: Is Capital Punishment a Bad Public Policy?
Yes: David Von Drehle, from "Miscarriage of Justice: Why the Death Penalty Doesn't Work," The Washington Post (1995)
No: Ernest van den Haag, from "The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense," Harvard Law Review (1986)
David Von Drehle, a writer and the arts editor for The Washington Post, examines specific capital punishment cases and data and concludes that capital punishment is a bad social policy. Ernest van den Haag, a professor of jurisprudence and public policy (now retired), maintains that the death penalty is just retribution for heinous crime.
Unit 4: Trends in Criminology and Criminal Justice
Issue: Should the United States Pass Strict Gun Control Laws?
Yes: Morris M., from "10 Arguments for Gun Control," Listverse (2013)
No: FlameHorse, from "10 Arguments Against Gun Control," Listverse (2013)
Writer “Morris M.” argues that strict gun control laws will help to reduce the rates of carnage committed with firearms in the United States. Moreover, he states that the United States has 88.9 firearms for every 100 people. That’s more than Yemen, Mexico, Pakistan, and the West Bank/Gaza combined. Yet there is a considerable amount of research to indicate that more gun control would keep us safer, and potentially even save our lives. Writer “FlameHorse” argues that “to debate gun control is a futile exercise. They cannot be controlled—not anymore. The continuation of buying and selling them cannot make the situation any worse because criminals will never again have to go far to find one.”
Issue: Should Marijuana Be Legalized?
Yes: Ethan A. Nadelmann, from "An End to Marijuana Prohibition: The Drive to Legalize Picks Up," National Review (2004)
No: Charles D. Stimson, from "Legalizing Marijuana: Why Citizens Should Just Say No," The Heritage Foundation (2010)
Ethan A. Nadelmann, founder and director of the Drug Policy Alliance, contends that contemporary marijuana laws are unique among American criminal laws because no other law is both enforced so widely and yet deemed unnecessary by such a substantial portion of the public. Enforcing marijuana laws also wastes tens of billions of taxpayer dollars annually. Charles D. Stimson, a senior legal fellow in the Center for Legal & Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation, argues that marijuana legalization will increase crime, drug use, and social dislocation—the exact opposite of what pro-legalization advocates promise. Moreover, he believes that there is substantial evidence to suggest that legalizing marijuana would lead to greater problems of addiction, violence, disorder, and death.
Issue: Should the Police Be Required to Wear Body Cameras?
Yes: Jay Stanley, from "Police Body-Mounted Cameras: With the Right Policies in Place a Win for All," American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) (2015)
No: Harvard Law Review, from "Considering Police Body Cameras," Harvard Law Review (2015)
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Senior Policy Analyst Jay Stanley contends that if U.S. police departments develop proper policies for the use of police body cams they will be a “win for all.” These devices will enhance police accountability and protect officers against false accusations of abuse. The Harvard Law Review argues that body cameras are a powerful—and indiscriminate—technology and their proliferation over the next decade will inevitably change the nature of policing in unexpected ways, quite possibly to the detriment of the citizens the cameras are intended to protect. Moreover, even when high-quality, graphic video footage is available, police officers may still not be indicted, let alone convicted.
Issue: Should Apple Be Forced to Assist the Government's Efforts to Crack Cell Phones Needed for Criminal Investigations?
Yes: William J. Bratton and John J. Miller, from "Seeking iPhone Data, Through the Front Door," The New York Times (2016)
No: Kim Z. Dale, from "Apple Shouldn't Unlock the San Bernardino Shooter's iPhone for the FBI," ChicagoNow (2016)
New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton and Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism and Intelligence John J. Miller assert that Apple has a responsibility to assist the government with encryption whenever it has a warrant supported by probable cause for a cell phone search and that the company should comply with lawful court orders. Blogger Kim Z. Dale believes that Apple should not be forced to help the government to unlock an iPhone in a criminal investigation, even in a case as compelling as the one involving the San Bernardino shooter. She further contends that unlocking that iPhone would be “opening a Pandora’s box,” with serious implications for personal privacy and government accountability.
Unit 5: The U.S. Supreme Court, Crime, and the Justice System
Issue: Does Sentencing a Juvenile to a Mandatory Term of Life in Prison Without the Possibility of Parole Constitute Cruel and Unusual Punishment?
Yes: Elena Kagan, from "Majority Opinion, Miller v. Alabama," United States Supreme Court (2012)
No: John Roberts, from "Dissenting Opinion, Miller v. Alabama," United States Supreme Court (2012)
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan asserts that imprisoning offenders for life without the possibility of parole for crimes committed when they were juveniles violates the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts argues, in contrast, that the determination of appropriate punishments for crimes should be left to the legislative branches of government.
Issue: Does the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution Protect the Right to Possess a Firearm?
Yes: Antonin E. Scalia, from "Majority Opinion, District of Columbia, et al., v. Heller," United States Supreme Court (2008)
No: John Paul Stevens, from "Dissenting Opinion, District of Columbia, et al., v. Heller," United States Supreme Court (2008)
Justice Antonin E. Scalia, writing for the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), held that a District of Columbia law making it a crime to carry an unregistered handgun and prohibiting the registration of handguns, but that authorizes the police chief to issue one-year licenses, and requires residents to keep lawfully owned handguns unloaded and dissembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar device, violates the Second Amendment. Justice John Stevens, dissenting in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), asserted that neither the text of the Second Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature’s authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms. Moreover, there is no indication that the Framers intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the constitution.
Issue: Should It Be Lawful for the Police to Conduct JailHouse Strip Searches of Persons Arrested for Minor Offenses?
Yes: Anthony M. Kennedy, from "Majority Opinion, Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington," United States Supreme Court (2012)
No: Stephen Breyer, from "Dissenting Opinion, Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington," United States Supreme Court (2012)
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asserts that police officers and correctional officials must be permitted to develop reasonable search policies to detect and deter the possession of contraband within their facilities. Moreover, exempting people arrested for minor offenses from such searches may put the police at greater risk and result in more contraband being brought into jails. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, in contrast, believes that because strip searches involve close observation of the private areas of the body, they constitute a serious invasion of personal privacy and may not be justified in cases involving minor offenses.
Issue: Does an Imprisoned Convict Who Claims Innocence Have a Constitutional Right to Access the State’s Evidence for DNA Testing?
Yes: John Paul Stevens, from "Dissenting Opinion, District Attorney's Office v. Osborne," United States Supreme Court (2009)
No: John Roberts, from "Majority Opinion, District Attorney's Office v. Osborne," United States Supreme Court (2009)
Justice John Stevens, in a dissenting opinion in District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne (2009), contends that a fundamental responsibility to ensure that “justice” has been served requires a state to provide a defendant with postconviction access to DNA evidence. Because it could conclusively establish whether an accused had committed the crime in the first place, this right should be protected by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority opinion in District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne (2009), held that the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process Clause provides no right to postconviction access to DNA evidence because it would take the development of rules and procedures in criminal cases out of the hands of state legislatures and courts.