In the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict, profiling criminals is back on the front page.
With this in mind, can we profile what a criminal in America looks like? If you are uncomfortable with this suggestion, stop reading this article. If you think profiling has some benefit, please continue.
I will simply ask you six questions based on criminal justice research, and all you have to do is let your mind fill in the answer:
1. Are criminals mostly young or old? Research points out that over 50 percent of the serious crime in America is committed by people between the ages 15 and 20.
2. Are criminals predominately male of female? Over 94 percent of the people in prison are male.
3. Do criminals come from traditional two-parent families? Research has identified the most consistent issue found in prison inmates was that they were raised in a single parent home.
4. Do criminals predominately live in poverty or not? Mahatma Gandhi stated, "Poverty is the mother of crime." His statement is supported by research.
5. Are criminals mostly employed or unemployed? Research clearly demonstrates that the majority of criminals are unemployed.
6. Do most criminals have a good education or not? Consistently, criminals are school dropouts or under-educated.
At this point, I want to ask, "Are we profiling what criminals in America look like?" What would be the impact if 5,000 people, with all six of these traits decided to move to Ogden? Would crime in Ogden increase of decrease?
Let's look at the opposite. Picture in your mind 5,000 people whodon't have these traits.
1. People 55 years of age.
3. Raised in a two-parent family with extended grandparents and relatives.
4. Middle- to upper-income levels.
5. Good career opportunities
6. College graduates.
What would be the impact if 5,000 people with these positive traits moved to Ogden? I'm sure you can see the benefit. Keep your prejudices in mind. Are you thinking of 55-year-old African American women with these positive traits? Crime in America has nothing to do with race; it has everything to do with our inability to deal effectively with our social ills.
It doesn't matter what race or ethnicity you are born. If you suffer from these traits, you will have a substantially higher victimization rate and a higher rate of criminal conduct.
Remember the adage, "If you do it the same old way, you will get the same old outcomes." It cost more to send a person to prison in America than it costs to send a person to the University of Utah or BYU. Fear-driven decisions are never good. Being tough on crime has generated votes, but it has not addressed the problems that contribute to crime. Encouraging people to buy guns, calling people who commit crimes "predators," and passing mandatory sentences, satisfies our collective thirst for vengeance, but has failed to address crime in America in any meaningful manner.
Fifty-two percent of the people in America's prisons are African American. Thirteen percent of the U.S. population is African American, but half of this population are women, and a full third are children. African American adult males, only account for just over 4 percent of the U.S. population, but account for more the 50 percent of those in prison.
Our collective ignorance and arrogance has blocked our view of this dilemma, and we are consistently surprised when the African American community thinks differently during these trying moments.
Robert C. Wadman is professor, emeritus, criminal justice department, at Weber State University.