Sociological viewpoint on the race-crime relationship

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Piquero, NL
Piquero, AR
Stewart, ES
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Beaver, Kevin M

Barnes, JC

Boutwell, Brian B

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The relationship between race and crime is on the one hand very strong, at least when considered from the vantage point of official crime statistics. There is a consistency in the data in that minorities—primarily African Americans—are overrepresented in both (serious) offending and correctional statistics. The reason(s) underlying this overrepresentation, however, are neither well documented nor fully understood. The lack of a consensus has led some commentators to view the disparity as a function of (a) differential involvement in serious offending by minorities that brings them to the attention of formal criminal justice authorities, (b) differential enforcement by criminal justice personnel (including discriminatory practices and decisions), or some combination of the two (see review in Piquero, 2008). On the other hand, and regar5dless of which explanation is most consistent with the data, the study of race and crime has been and continues to be both con­tentious and controversial (Kennedy, 1997; Sampson & Wilson, 1995; Walker, Spohn, & DeLone, 2011; Wilbanks, 1987). This chapter focuses on the main sociological explanations of the race-crime relationship. In so doing, it neither discounts the relevance of nonsociological viewpoints - because these are covered elsewhere in this book - nor does it review and policy proscriptions associated with the race-crime relationship - also discussed in the book. Instead, two prominent sociological perspectives are considered along with how they attempt to understand and explain race differences in offending. Accordingly, this chapter focuses on social structures, social areas, and social contingencies including: (a) disadvantaged neighborhood environments (which are also characterised by disadvantaged family, school and health systems, and differential employment structures) and (b) differential cultural adaptations in urban communities. A few prominent empirical examples are highlighted that assess key aspects of the theories reviewed. Finally, the chapter concludes with an identification of three important directions for future research centered on: (1) the reason(s) underlying the overrepresentation of minorities in criminal justice statistics, (2) the development and empirical research needed on recent theoretical frameworks, and (3) data collection and ensuring research on the ethnicity-crime relationship, especially concerning Hispanics/Latinos and immigrants.

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The Nurture Versus Biosocial Debate in Criminology: On the Origins of Criminal Behavior and Criminality

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Piquero, NL; Piquero, AR; Stewart, ES, Sociological viewpoint on the race-crime relationship, The Nurture Versus Biosocial Debate in Criminology: On the Origins of Criminal Behavior and Criminality, 2015, pp. 43-54