Throughout U.S. history, rising waves of immigration have given way to rising waves of angst over immigrant crime.
Today, nearly half of all Americans believe immigration makes crime worse for the U.S. With current estimates predicting immigrants will drive U.S. population growth, accounting for 88 percent of the population increase between 2015 and 2065, growing trepidation and alarm regarding immigrants is not only probable, but also problematic. Whereas immigration has been at the top of political agendas for numerous administrations, the relationship between immigration and crime is at the forefront of current political and public discourse. Today’s rhetoric reinforces the notion that (more) immigration increases the rate of crime and this social discourse is exacerbated by media depictions of the criminal-immigrant. The social construction of the criminal-immigrant persists despite a hearty scientific basis demonstrating immigrants have relatively low levels of criminal involvement even with exposure to traditional criminogenic risk factors (e.g., instability, residence in disadvantaged areas) and at a time when the apprehension of criminal undocumented immigrants at the border continue to decline to historically low levels.
Looking back, these waves of angst and corresponding discourse and rhetoric, brought about a socio-legal response to the alleged criminal-immigrant, “crimmigration,” a term coined by legal scholar Julie Stumpf in her 2006 publication “The Crimmigration Crisis: Immigrants, Crime, and Sovereign Power.” Starting in the 1980s, and persisting today, crimmigration has been demarcated by a disappearing delineation between (civil) immigration law and criminal law. Through a series of sometimes-incremental changes to laws and their enforcement, these two traditionally separate areas of law – immigration and criminal – have become intertwined.
In the United States, compared to persons convicted of violent, property or white-collar crimes, individuals convicted of sex crimes are arguably one of the most highly monitored groups of offenders in contemporary times. While historically this was not always the case, sensationalized media accounts of high-profile sexual assault-homicide cases, particularly those committed against children, changed the sociolegal landscape—from one of treatment amenability to one of punishment and deterrence (Sutherland, 1950; Jenkins, 1998). As a result, scrutiny of these individuals by lawmakers, criminal justice actors, and the public has continued to intensify over time. This level of scrutiny, in combination with new ways of managing these individuals’ access to or restriction from social spaces, spurred on by media narrative, public outcry, and reactionary policy making, led to numerous changes in law (Jenkins, 1998; Lynch, 2002; Sample & Kadleck, 2008; Budd & Mancini, 2017). Legislation crafted to monitor and track these individuals in communities started to proliferate and has become institutionalized at both the federal and state level (Jenkins, 1998; Lynch, 2002; Sample & Kadleck, 2008). A key aspect to implement this legislation was to leverage technology in conjunction with personnel power (e.g. law enforcement) to accomplish these legislative aims.
Digital technology, such as databases to prevent, respond to, and investigate crimes, and technological monitoring, such as Global Positioning System (GPS) devices, has played an ever-increasing role in criminal justice work (Eisenberg, 2017).
As COVID-19 started to spread throughout the United States, organizations like Human Rights Watch warned that custodial settings, such as federal and state prisons and immigration detention centers, would be particularly vulnerable to outbreaks. The number of people criminally incarcerated or civilly detained in the US, who are disproportionately racial and ethnic minorities, has grown exponentially in recent decades. On average, roughly 2.3 million people are confined annually nationwide, with 1.5 million people incarcerated in state and local prisons and 42,000 in detention facilities. These individuals are more likely than not from communities already enduring perpetual social and health inequalities. Custodial settings compound the consequences of these inequalities where routine overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, lack of basic hygiene products, and limited and inadequate medical care function to exacerbate vulnerabilities for a population that suffers from disproportionately high rates of chronic disease and pre-existing medical conditions. Together, institutional characteristics and individual vulnerabilities pose a formidable public health challenge whereby the conditions of confinement present a perfect breeding ground for the contraction and spread of communicable illnesses exacerbated by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
While federal and state governments have implemented strategies to fight the spread of COVID-19, such as stressing the importance of social distancing (e.g., staying at least six feet from other persons, avoidance of group gatherings or crowded places), the actual implementation of these recommendations is highly problematic for those in US custodial settings given constraints on physical space and resources.
The Agenda for Social Justice: Solutions for 2020 provides accessible insights into some of the most pressing social problems in the United States and proposes public policy responses to those problems.
Written by a highly respected team of authors brought together by the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP), it offers recommendations for action by elected officials, policy makers, and the public around key issues for social justice, including a discussion of the role of key issues of sustainability and technology in the development and timbre of future social problems. It will be of interest to scholars, practitioners, advocates, and students interested in public sociology and the study of social problems.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having far-reaching political and social consequences across the globe. Published in collaboration with the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP), this book addresses the greatest social challenges facing the world as a result of the pandemic.
The authors propose public policy solutions to help refugees, migrant workers, victims of human trafficking, indigenous populations and the invisible poor of the Global South.
The year 2023 marks 50 years of mass incarceration in the United States. This timely volume highlights and addresses pressing social problems associated with the U.S.’s heavy reliance on mass imprisonment. In an atmosphere of charged political debate, including “tough on crime” rhetoric, the editors bring together scholars and experts in the criminal justice field to provide the most up-to-date science on mass incarceration and its ramifications on justice-impacted people and our communities.
This book offers practical solutions for advocates, policy and lawmakers, and the wider public for addressing mass incarceration and its effects to create a more just, fair and safer society.
Written by a highly respected team of authors brought together by the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP), this book provides accessible insights into pressing social problems in the United States in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and proposes public policy responses for victims and justice, precarious populations, employment dilemmas and health and well-being.