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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 160568 Find in a Library
Title: Social Construction of Crime Problems: Insiders and the Use of Official Statistics
Journal: Journal of Crime and Justice  Volume:18  Issue:2  Dated:(1995)  Pages:17-30
Author(s): H H Brownstein
Date Published: 1995
Page Count: 14
Type: Research (Theoretical)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper presents examples of cases that show how government-based political insiders use crime statistics to encourage the diversion of resources to favored programs and to provide support for favored policies.
Abstract: The problem of crime is a social construction, and official statistics are used in this process. Statistics can be used to support claims about new social problems or to support claims about established social problems. Best has suggested that outsiders to the policymaking process are more likely to be concerned with the construction of new social problems, and insiders are more likely to be concerned with "new wrinkles" in established problems. This paper uses examples from criminal justice to show how political insiders use statistics to make claims about established social problems. Specifically, they show how government-based insiders use statistics to support a political agenda. In none of the cases discussed do the insider claims-makers use official statistics to try to construct a new social problem. Rather, claims are made that can be used to make decisions about the allocation or redistribution of resources among established programs. Similarly, claims are made to support decisions made in defense of established policy. Should an issue from outside of an insider's domain gain public support as a social problem, claims would be made to shift public resources to those new problems. In a world of limited resources, that would mean that public resources would be diverted from established social problems; however, to maintain their access to and control of the public wealth over time, insiders need at least to appear that they are working to improve social conditions. Their involvement in the process of addressing newly constructed social problems, however, is limited to the fine-tuning of established problems. 52 references
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Crime control policies; Political influences; Research uses in policymaking
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