Crime is more than a political problem


The Appalachian Online

Dewey Mullis

Musician and staunch conservative Ted Nugent is back in the spotlight with his racially and politically divisive rhetoric. On the World Wide Web last week, Nugent spoke in regards to already-intense discussions in Ferguson, MO.

In his message, Nugent referred to “the Ferguson thugs” and the “plague of black violence” as a repercussion of both liberal-leaning news coverage of crime and the lower-income black population’s tendency to vote liberally.

“It is deaf, dumb and blind liberalism that has shoveled over $20 trillion into Fedzilla’s welfare crack programs over the past 50 years,” Nugent ranted.

The rant continued with Nugent adding, “The road to peace and prosperity in America is to reject the big liberal lie and all those who endorse it. Liberalism is a lie. Liberalism is a scam. Liberalism is a killer.”

Nugent’s perspective, while obviously politically biased, disregards historical trends in ideological perceptions of crime.

Conservatives are known for advocating “tough on crime” policy. That goal has given us mandatory minimum sentencing, three-strikes laws, intense restrictions on the use of parole, increased post-incarceration monitoring and probation regulations.

We have seen the prison population explode, overwhelmingly in response to these “tough on crime” policies.

Tougher policies have created a cycle of incarceration and deprivation that largely affects lower-income minority groups. Because of socioeconomic statuses, meeting the requirements of probation and parole become difficult and escape from their original crime-conducive environment is nearly impossible.

Nugent furthered his argument by saying, “Based on crime stats in Ferguson and elsewhere, it would be a safe bet to assume the two thugs the police are looking for are black males between the age of 15 and 25.”

It’s safe [to] bet the two thugs being searched for were raised by a single parent, have criminal records, are high school dropouts, don’t have jobs and are very likely to be members of a gang,” Nugent continued.

Unfortunately, his claims are fairly accurate. The use of the word “thugs” might not have been the most appropriate way to reference his target, but he still isn’t wrong about the likely scenarios.

Across the country, crime peaks between the ages of 18 and 24, many defendants are from black or Hispanic populations and home life often involves only one biological parent or another family member acting as a guardian.

The statistics aren’t wrong, but the generalizations distributed by conservative rhetoric on crime and the people who commit crime have instilled in people an overactive fear of crime and the stereotypical criminal.

In “The Politics of Injustice” by Katherine Beckett and Theodore Sasson, it is revealed that, overwhelmingly, people who identify as conservatives and people who support “tough on crime” policies are most afraid of young, black males, and of being a victim of crime. In reality, they are the least likely populations, generally, to be affected by crime.

Crime is very real, but it is not a political issue. If anything, political divisiveness and “tough on crime” advocacy has created a fear of crime that only worsens the cycles of crime and incarceration, the stereotypes and our fears.

Mullis, a senior criminal justice major from Wallburg, is an opinion writer.