Is America’s Falling Crime Rate a Myth?
Writing for N+1 magazine, Christopher Glazek argues that America’s crime rate, which has defied expectations and continued to fall through the recession, is a myth because a large proportion of crime has been displaced and isn’t counted.
“Crime and unemployment were supposed to rise in tandem — progressives have been harping on this point for centuries. Where had all the criminals gone?” he asks.
In his lengthy essay, Glazek says that there is one glaring omission with crime rates — crimes in prisons.
In particular, he cites the 85% reported drop in rape statistics between 1980 and 2005 and how rapes in prisons just aren’t counted in those numbers.
We’re used to hearing about the widening chasm between the haves and have-nots; we’re less accustomed to contemplating a more fundamental gap: the abyss that separates the fortunate majority, who control their own bodies, from the luckless minority, whose bodies are controlled, and defiled, by the state.
Crime has not fallen in the United States — it’s been shifted.
Jill Filipovic, writing for Feministe, picks up Glazek’s argument and suggests that the United States may be the only country where most rape is actually of men.
Looking at studies and using numbers which have only recently started to be reported by the Justice Department, she suggests that rapes on men in prisons may well outnumber the roughly 190,000 estimated sexual assaults of women outside prisons.
“However you cut the statistics, it is clear that men in the United States are sexually assaulted in enormous numbers – they’re just men we don’t care so much about, or that society has decided deserves it,” she writes.
Or as Glazek puts it:
[Prisoners] are the victims of an ideological system that dehumanizes an entire class of human being and permits nearly infinite violence against it. As much as a physical space, prisons denote an ethical space, or, more precisely, a space where ordinary ethics are suspended.
One of the reasons why the Justice Department has released any figures on prison rape at all was because of a 2011 feature article in the New York Review of Books.
“Corrections officials, with some brave exceptions, have historically taken advantage of a reluctance to [report sexual assault to] downplay or even deny the problem,” write David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow.
Even when sexual assault by prison staff is confirmed, they report, very few officers are even charged, let alone convicted or fired.
The Justice Department has failed to implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), unanimously passed by Congress in 2003.
The Economist magazine sides with Glazek on America’s real crime rate.
“America’s prison system is a moral catastrophe. The eerie sense of security that prevails on the streets of lower Manhattan obscures, and depends upon, a system of state-sponsored suffering as vicious and widespread as any in human history,” says Glazek.
“America’s prisons are its blind spots, places where complaints cannot be heard and abuses cannot be seen. Though important symbols of bureaucratic authority, they are spaces that lie beyond our system of bureaucratic oversight. As far as the outside world is concerned, every American prison functions as a black site.”