Introduction to Social Issues and Future Trends

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Introduction to Social Issues and Future Trends

Opinions about crime and punishment have undergone significant evolution during the last hundred years. At the same time, much of society has changed as well. The globe has become a complicated and densely populated place. While many people enjoy unprecedented health, freedom, and opportunity, in most areas of the world, conflict, poverty, lack of education, epidemic disease, and lack of economic prospect are still powerful social factors.

Individuals who are poorly educated generally lack marketable job skills, and may have a difficult time providing for themselves and their families, making such modern-day group enterprises as gang membership ("Testimony, United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary: Combating Gang Violence in America") and traveling sales crews ("A Road to Trouble") appear attractive to potential participants.

Where there is restriction of personal freedoms by a government, political dissent may be considered suspect or even criminal behavior (see the "Heavy Hand of Secret Police Impeding Reform in Arab World").

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, there has been an upsurge in international law enforcement activities, at times coupled with accusations of brutality or lack of regard for the civil rights of the individuals concerned. "CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons" offers insight into the complex issues involved in combating and litigating acts of international terrorism. "Racial Profiling in the Age of Terrorism" explores the challenge of racial profiling as a practice, as it continues to be questioned and deliberated by courts and civil libertarians alike.

With the explosion of the Internet and the double-edged sword of freedom and anonymity that it provides, there has been a proliferation of online pornography and crimes against children, described in"On line Vigilantes Hunt Pedophiles" and "MostFeared Internet Crimes: Child Pornography."

Within the United States, there have been sweeping changes in both the prison systems and in legislation governing adjudication and punishment of criminal behavior. Toward the end of the twentieth century, "truth in sentencing" legislation engendered lengthier prison sentences to be served. Laws also mandated lengthy prison sentences for multiple repeat offenders who are convicted of certain types of crimes (typically those involving illegal drugs or violence). For many convicted felons, the conditions of release to parole or probation are so stringent that they find it extremely difficult to remain on "the outside", driving up the rates of recidivism in many geographic areas and resulting in reliance upon state governors to rule on individual release dates. This is explained in "Doors Closing for Lifers—Again."

For all of the advances in criminology, fundamental questions still exist and remain controversial, including the minimum age of legal accountability (see "Old Enough to be a Criminal?").

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Introduction to Social Issues and Future Trends

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Introduction to Social Issues and Future Trends