While the purview of our concern with problems of violence
is world-wide, this issue of the HFG Review presents information
and reflections on matters of crime and justice in America.
The essays are largely based on research supported by the
Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.
Program Officer Joel Wallman's essay on "Disarming Youth"
reports on Kids, Guns, and Public Policy, a volume resulting
from a foundation seminar where experts discussed what can
be done to reduce young people's access to guns. This is a
vital topic on which practical results can be achieved.
The foundation sponsored Richard Wright and Scott Decker's
fascinating project in which they interviewed currently active
armed robbers to ascertain how they deal with their victims.
The result is a series of most unusual revelations of the
realities of criminal behavior.
Karen Colvard, our senior program officer, has written a
thoughtful essay emphasizing the disparities between the facts
about crime and what the public believes about crime. As she
points out, unfortunately most political leaders advocate
crime-fighting policies that play to the public's misinformation
rather than the facts. Karen discusses several initiatives
that may help account for the recent reduction in rates of
John Devine, whom the foundation supported in a study of
violence in inner-city New York public schools, challenges
conflict resolution courses as a realistic way to affect student
behavior. He argues that such a vital responsibility cannot
be separated from the basic teacher-student interaction, where
misbehavior must be dealt with on a real-time basis if students
are to be held to acceptable standards.
Several common themes emerge from these papers. One is that
generalizations from gross statistics can be dangerously misleading.
Another is that the most important fact about American homicide
rates is the role of guns, particularly in the hands of young
men in the inner city. Failure to emphasize the importance
of these facts in interpreting American crime statistics has
led to an enormously costly imprisonment program. It can be
argued that focusing on inner city social problems and gun
control would be a far more effective use of funds than building
more prisons. These essays emphasize the importance of coming
face to face with the sources of our problems and dealing
with them in human terms rather as mechanical issues of law-and-order.
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