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Criminal Justice


Crime in the United States has declined substantially in recent years. Homicide, robbery, rape, and assault have all dropped sharply since highs in the early 1990s. Substance abuse has declined less sharply, however, and drug-related arrests have actually increased steadily, reaching record highs over the past few years. The number of people under some form of correctional supervision, meanwhile, has also continued to reach new highs. In 1996, over 5.5 million Americans (or about 2 percent) were in prison, jail, on probation or parole.

While criminologists (and, indeed, most Americans) agree that more needs to be done to lower the national crime rate, there are sharp differences over how this should be accomplished. Some believe that tougher enforcement policies should be pursued, including increased spending on law enforcement and prison facilities, longer sentences for offenders, and stepped up use of the death penalty for the worst crimes. Others argue that more money needs to be spent on prevention, including social services and education, to provide hope and opportunity for potential offenders.

This section examines all of these issue in depth.

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