Break the System: “Fight Unemployment, Fight Crime”(Part #1)

Unemployment is a public health crisis and a criminal justice issue.

FEDERAL JOB GUARANTEE

Throughout the United States, varying factors result in joblessness. When an individual is jobless in a capitalistic society, they are forced to miss out on vital needs — shelter, clothing, food, medical access, among others. Poverty is pervasive and it is discriminatory. Any individual can be subjected to poverty. However, racial disparities in the country result in Black Americans being subjected to poverty at alarming rates. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 45.8% of young Black children (under 6) live in poverty versus the 14.5% of white children. This is an extreme income disparity. Black Americans have the highest poverty rate at 27.4% versus Latinx Americans at 26.6% and white Americans at 9.9%. 15.1% of Americans overall (approx over 46 mil) suffer from poverty as of 2010. These figures are alarming and catastrophic.

Anecdote: “If idle hands are the devil’s handy work, perhaps gainfully employed hands have less time (or reason) to participate in crime.”

A 2015 article by The Atlantic agrees with this point. By proposing the question, how could “criminals” change their way? The Atlantic begs the solution: employ them. Within the article titled Can Jobs Deter Crime?, a specific study by Christopher Blattman (Columbia University) and Jeannie Annan (International Rescue Committee) turned their focus to a specialized program in Liberia. The study suggests that economic crimes — such as theft — can be greatly minimized, if not altogether eliminated, through economic training programs and job guarantees. Blattman and Annan focused on former soldiers of the civil war, many of whom turned to theft and joining violent campaigns after the war. These violent campaigns included mercenary work. To combat this, a non-profit organization known as Action on Armed Violence offered these former soldiers an opportunity to join a program that taught important skills: agriculture and literacy among them. Additionally, participants were given start-up supplies in the value of $125.00 so they may begin tending to livestock and crops. This empowered these individuals to gain work in a productive way through legal means, rather than through theft and violence. While the study does not show an immediate end to all crime, after 14 months, the participants involvement in crime had gone down by at least 20%. As the study itself cites, those at risk of limited or poor job opportunities were more likely to be at-risk for being recruited into violent campaigns and criminal activity than those with more advanced opportunities.

Aristotle: “Poverty is the parent of crime.”

Analyzing each of these studies show us common themes. Unemployment has severe economic and social consequences for society. People suffering from unemployment are at-risk of committing crimes out of necessity, in order to secure money to pay bills, for food or for child care. Additionally, one’s social standing in society diminishes each week they go unemployed, causing psychological detriment to those impacted, which can lead to crime. Poverty also creates an open-door to victimization, as those who are impacted by poverty have less means of support to protect themselves from crime. By eliminating all of these factors, we could begin to see a decline in crime and extreme economic benefits for all.

Quick Facts (Economic Policy Institute)
Income inequality (Economic Policy Institute)

References:

Identifying the Effect of Unemployment on Crime. 2001. Steven Raphael and Rudolf Winter-Ember.

Other Issues

Universal Basic Income
Attainable Shelter
Universal Health Care
Decriminalize Drugs (Yes, even that one)
Decriminalize Sex Work

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Angel D’Angelo

Angel D’Angelo

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I’m not an expert or scholar on anything. I mainly write for me. If others see it, and love it, great :)