Author Archives: nvourna

The Cost of Violence

Pheadra’s lecture on the costs of the maltreatment of children provided a uniquely holistic representation of how violence affects society from an economic perspective. The WHO conducted a study in 2004 that takes a more expansive look at violence through the lens of interpersonal violence including child abuse, partner violence, elder abuse, sexual abuse, workplace violence, youth violence, and other violent crime.

Like Phaedra’s cost analysis, the WHO divides costs into direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include those such as cost of legal services and foster care, while the indirect costs include a person’s lost earnings and investment in human capital.  The total cost for estimated loss from violence is $329.8 billion dollars, equal to 3.3% of the U.S. GDP. From Phaedra’s lecture we can add an additional $33 billion dollars for self-inflicted violence. Outside of the United States, the costs are much higher. It is estimated that in 1997 Colombia lost 24.7% of its GDP due to violence. Seems like a lot, right?

The real cost question still remains: what would it cost to intervene?

The WHO estimates that prevention of violence-related problems is much less costly than programs to solve the problems once they arise. For child abuse, they estimate that the prevention costs are a tiny 1/19 of the eventual child abuse costs incurred. The net savings per sexual offender are around $26,000. A study in Arizona cited in the WHO’s report notes a net social gain of $3.4 million dollars, saving about 3-15 million.

What more do we need to do to show that violence has immeasurable costs to our society? And how many times can we talk do we need to talk about it before we take more action? The Wall Street Journal’s article, “On India’s Streets, Women Run a Gantlet of Harassment”, by Amol Sharma, Biman Mukherji and Rupa Subramanaya reminds us of a recent violent episode in mid-December from the New Delhi bus gang-rape. The article describes the environment in Kolkata -the police do little to prevent violence, while women travel in groups and carry sharp objects to deter attacks. These incidences should help us make faster “moves” so to speak, in the policy arena.

How severe does violence need to be for our policy makers to finally make necessary budgeting decisions?

P1-BK484_BARASA_D_20130227184109A Train Station in India where Violence is Common 

CIRV: New Ways to Combat Crime

In class we discussed the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV), a program to decrease crime in the Cincinnati area. Crime in Cincinnati fits a One-to-Many model: 3% of the Cincinnati population commits 73.5% of homicides. This poses a vexing question: how might law enforcement break what appears to be a tightly knit network of criminals that has highly magnified, disruptive effects on the community? To address this challenge, CIRV approaches crime by coordinating the efforts of multiple law enforcement, social service, and community service agencies in a community outreach-oriented program.

CIRV’s most distinctive characteristic is the call-in program. Call-in meetings provide an opportunity for criminals and state officials to create a dialogue and discuss available resources, such as potential employment opportunities. In addition, call-in meetings also allow law enforcement officials to consistently reinforce the consequences of criminal recidivism. The city of Stockton, California, recently reinstated call-in meetings for the first time since the 1990s. The variety of leaders they have brought together is inspiring.  Stockton has employed church leaders, gang outreach workers, and on the prosecution side, the District Attorney’s office, the U.S. Attorney’s office, Probation and Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones.  A community effort, such as Stockton’s, acknowledges crime is a much more complex than moving prisoners in small cells with Draconian conditions. Instead, the CIRV-like approach illuminates the notion that progressive rehabilitation is a strong possibility for those that commit crimes.

While the program’s success in Stockton has yet to be determined, there is significant evidence that CIRV achieved noteworthy gains in Cincinnati. In 2007, homicides declined 68%, the largest single-year drop since 1991. As discussed in class, Braga and Weisburd suggest that CIRV’s success is due in part to its adherence to the principal that “targeted offenders should be treated with respect and dignity… reflecting procedural justice principals” (Kennedy 2008, 2009: 351). As additional cities mimic CIRV across the United States, a decrease in crime becomes increasingly possible.  I can only imagine how different outcomes would have been had convicted criminals been treated with respect and dignity before they felt the need to commit their crimes in the first place.

New_call_to_restore_fubb3dd4ba-4f9b-4b84-a402-17d68b497ae20000_20110520181851_320_240A Typical Call In 

Combatting Voicelessness

If you had asked me who Adam Lanza was in high school, my response would have been who? Maybe you then would have described the kid with the briefcase or the student in the technology club. After a long pause, I would have said, oh that kid. I never thought this student in my grade at Newtown High School would go on to commit the second worse mass shooting in American history. But even then, Lanza was only a faint image in our hallways at Newtown High School, like every other student, as I rushed to my AP History class or thought about the next activity in my student planner.

Newtown High School followed the archetypal high school: everyone was separated by his or her groups of friends. All you had to do was look at the cafeteria, every day, we sat with the same people who had similar interests at lunch. Our tables never changed. Most of the time we even brought the same food to lunch. During my time at Newtown High School, school felt like a daily programmed repetition, like someone had turned an off and on button each morning. Our school was and still is predominately Caucasian. The estimated family income in 2009 was $109,767. This is the profile of Newtown High School.

Had anyone outside of Lanza’s immediate family been aware of the severity of his mental condition, perhaps there would have been more severe intervention. In class at Emory, we discussed the concept of voicelessness. The term primarily encompasses children and those faced with mental and physical disorders. They are dubbed with such a term as they cannot truly advocate for themselves and lack the ability to shape their own lives. As such, the law examines them differently –for example, we would find an individual who was psychopathic less culpable for a crime than one who demonstrates sanity. The question remains: how can we better intervene when students lack soundness of mind? Was there anything that to prevent this behavior while Lanza, a student who was voiceless and challenged with many evils, went through the Newtown school system? I never even noticed Lanza in the hallway while we both attended Newtown High School.

Lanza has certain characteristics that fit with the profile of a typical high school shooter though. White male students have a higher probability for violence in schools.  In his article, “Targeted Violence:  A Review of Six School Shootings and Implications for School Counselors”, Nathan Kirkman, affirms the theory noting, “the typical perpetrator of a school shooting involving multiple victims is a Caucasian teenage male” and “the majority of school shooting perpetrators possessed an average or above average ability in academics.” The article noted that most of the of the shooters were underachievers, but had meticulous planning that went into their violent attacks. Students also lacked social skills and experienced social rejection. The most consistent feature among students was that they all had access to firearms.

In short, perpetrators are white, detail-orientated, aloof from their communities, and can acquire a gun. This is the typical profile of a school shooter, yet, how many high school students in the country does this describe? Perhaps this could have been anyone in high school, but I hope in the future we can work to identify those who seem voiceless in our school systems. Instead of just walking down the hallways, maybe there is a way to help these students who face greater evils than we understand and as a result are voiceless.

Newtown High SchoolA Memorial at Newtown High School