The Pro American Party believes that all Americans deserve to be able to work. This is true whether they have a criminal record or not. The issue of criminality is a complex one and needs to be viewed from multiple lens. This post intends to examine some of the many factors that cause persons to resort to criminality and will attempt to get you to agree that if we can change those factors we can reduce crime. Because of the complexity of this issue we will devote this post and two or three more posts to the topic before we move on.
Remember the book “The Scarlet Letter?” Without telling you, this book wrote about labeling theory. Labeling theory is the idea that once someone is labeled in a certain way, let’s say “felon” for instance, people will look at them that way forever. In fact, even the person who has acquired the label will end up acting in accordance with the label given. Labeling theory predicts that those who think of themselves as felons will act as felons. Being turned down for a job because of their record, simply reinforces the ‘felon’ label and encourages them to act in the way that is expected of them. If you are a felon looking for work, but can’t find it and everyone tells you it is because of your criminal record…what is left? For many, committing a crime to get the money needed to survive seems the only choice. As an aside, for those young parents out there, if you want to help your children get a good start in life, begin calling them kind and thoughtful and sweet and smart.
It is our belief that our poorest communities suffer from labeling theory in that they come to expect deviant behaviors from their members and in time many come to believe that in themselves. If you live in a poor urban environment the chances of you ending up in prison go up significantly. It really could not be otherwise. One of the most important factors in determining whether someone gets involved in criminality is whether their friends are. If their friends are involved in a gang, they almost certainly will be too. And youth gangs are a big source of crime and most live in this environment. Add to that poverty, impulsiveness, drugs and a lack of proper parental oversight and the results will be stacked in your favor for producing a criminal time and again. Toss in a belief that school is a waste of time and you’ll really stack the deck in your favor.
An American anthropologist, Oscar Lewis, coined the term ‘culture of poverty’. According to Lewis the culture of poverty constitutes a “design for living” that is passed on from one generation to the next. Individuals feel marginalized, helpless and inferior, and adopt an attitude of living for the present. They are fatalistic. Families are characterized by high divorce rates, with mothers and children abandoned; they become matrifocal family, headed by women. People adopting this culture of poverty do not participate in community life or join political parties; they make little use of banks, hospitals and the like. According to Lewis the culture of poverty perpetuates poverty: It “tends to perpetuate itself from generation to generation because of its effect on children. By the time slum children are aged six or seven, they have usually absorbed the basic values and attitudes of their subculture and are not psychologically geared to take full advantage of changing conditions or increased opportunities which may occur in their lifetime.”
Other researchers agree with Lewis and argue that the attitudes expressed by the culture of poverty are a reaction to low income and a lack of opportunity, so that if these causes would be removed, so would the culture of poverty.
This is where the Pro American Party’s tenet #2 comes in. Tenet #2 opens the door for full employment, health care and economic stability. For many it will be the first time in their lives that this opportunity will have presented itself. It is both our hope and belief that this opportunity, over time, will help to minimize the ‘culture of poverty’ because in addition to a job, it will allow hope for a brighter future to rise again.
Once the poorest among us see a glimmer of hope via a conventional lifestyle the realities holding together their subculture will subside. Once we see job stability, hope and opportunity come together we will see e a reduction in crime.
A big reduction.