New Approaches to Social Problems Treatment: Volume 17


Table of contents

(15 chapters)

The societal institutions for dealing with social problems are in a constant state of change. New problems are “discovered,” old problems are redefined, and new remedies are implemented (Peyrot, 1984). Each of these changes is worthy of attention in its own right, as are the larger trends within which these individual changes occur. Many of the contributions in this volume of Research in Social Problems and Public Policy address social problem solutions that are collaborative, interdisciplinary, and interinstitutional in nature. These contributions reflect a larger societal trend toward the medicalization of social control, especially the increasing role of mental health practitioners within the criminal justice system. Some contributions reflect an increasing social control function in institutions outside the criminal justice system, for example, the schools. In the latter situations, social control efforts can become routine features of institutional practice. Although such social control efforts may not increase the role of criminal justice agents per se in schools, they often employ school personnel in law enforcement and judicial capacities (e.g., campus police who enforce laws and campus regulations [especially related to students’ use of alcohol and drugs] and judicial administrators who adjudicate student (mis)behavior and mete out “appropriate” punishments [e.g., mandatory participation in campus alcohol intervention programs]).

This chapter considers overlapping legal and policy issues related to hate crimes, summarizing the problem with an emphasis on societal responses. The theoretical insight that law can be understood as an expression of societal values is combined with an emphasis on the empirical study of law in action. The approach taken is theoretical and conceptual in nature, but is also informed by relevant case law and various empirical studies and is concerned to suggest how hate crime research can address issues of both theoretical and policy significance by analyzing how hate crime law is practiced. Some of the findings are that hate crime law can be seen to express values in a wide variety of settings and to express values intentionally, neither of which has been properly acknowledged to date. It is important for public policy analysis and practice as well as for theory development to acknowledge the limitations of both rational choice/deterrence approaches and moral education theories in the hate crime policy domain. Instead of understanding criminal law as a type of threat or type of instruction, in the case of hate crimes the law may be practiced and evaluated most realistically without assuming that hate criminals will be attentive to potential legal sanctions or amenable to moral education. The discussion includes elements of literature review, policy debate, theoretical analysis, and methodological reflection suggesting how hate crime law can be analyzed as expressive law in action, providing material relevant for students, theorists, policy-makers and analysts, and researchers.

Purpose – To assess how well varied policy initiatives address rape survivors’ difficulties participating in criminal prosecution.

Method – The evaluation takes a victim-centered perspective, rejecting the assumption that retraumatization is a necessary or inevitable by-product of prosecution. It accepts decision-making powers granted to law enforcement and prosecution practitioners to “found,” charge, prosecute, and plead cases, but questions the means adopted to achieve immediate goals. The evaluation considers legislative, procedural, and extra-criminal proposals such as restorative justice (RJ) conferencing and prosecutorial behavior modification. The evaluation draws on empirical investigations of case attrition, law enforcement, and prosecutorial decision-making, interorganizational collaboration in case processing, RJ, and survivors’ experiences with criminal prosecution.

Findings – Many of rape survivors’ difficulties with criminal prosecution stem from legal actors’ lack of knowledge about survivors’ purposes for participation and strategies to maintain ownership of a conflict that has been appropriated by prosecution, the conflicts survivors’ preexisting social relations pose, how lack of information about and experience with courtroom roles and norms produces anxiety and defensive behavioral strategies, and how survivors interpret and experience inconsistent messages about their role in and power over prosecution. The criminal justice process can directly reduce the causes of retraumatization and achieve procedural justice in ways that have positive implications for better substantive outcomes.

Practical implications – Instituting practices accommodating users’ behavioral orientations should increase the perception that reporting and prosecuting are viable options. Following Taslitz (1999), improving the effectiveness of rape survivors’ communication will increase gender equity generally.

Purpose – This chapter explores claims of social problem workers in criminal justice and mental health with regard to how to manage males who are identified as or self-identify as both victims and perpetrators (V/Ps) of sexual abuse. We also examine the claims of V/Ps with regard to how they manage their dual status.

Methodology – This chapter is based on an action research project on intervention services for V/Ps in Ontario, Canada. Our data include literature reviews, interviews with intervention professionals, V/P narratives, and a transcription of a stake-holder's workshop.

Findings – Intervention workers whose mandate is offender risk management state they give little attention to victimization-related issues of V/Ps, whereas workers in victims’ services often state that adult V/Ps are not covered under their mandate. This suggests that the status of offender is the master status for adult V/Ps. Our V/P narratives recount efforts at self-management and some V/Ps and intervention professionals have expressed interest in the possibility of developing programs specially designed for V/Ps.

Practical Implications – An examination of issues related to the dual status of sexual abuse V/Ps suggests that V/Ps may require special services that cannot be provided by existing programs for perpetrators and victims.

Originality/Value of Paper – Studies of social problem work might benefit from considering not only professionals’ viewpoints but also those of their clients. This chapter explores new intervention models (GLM and RJ) that incorporate ethical concerns based on a rights perspective (“moral repair”) and the experiential concerns of V/Ps.

Purpose – This chapter explores the problem of school shootings as a source of anxiety and fear in schools. Such fear has generated calls for security in schools and has been a catalyst for the development and deployment of antiviolence policies in schools.

Methodology/approach – The chapter begins by examining the development of the Columbine Effect, which is a set of emotions surrounding youth social problems, particularly violence in schools. This Columbine Effect is then explored in relation to its role in the development of policies to mitigate the problem of school violence. These purposes are linked using a multilevel typology of school violence and their sources, created by Henry (2009).

Findings – The chapter explores the levels of violence addressed by six antiviolence policies: crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), zero tolerance, anti-bullying programming, emergency management planning, peer mediation, and school climate programming. The analysis indicates the level(s) of violence each type of policy is designed to address and identifies research evidence regarding the efficacy of each policy. The analysis also focuses on the unintended consequences of school antiviolence policies, especially those which reduce violence on one or more levels, while exacerbating the problem on other levels.

Research limitations/implications – The analytical approach was selective, rather than exhaustive. Nonetheless, the analysis has suggested a number of ironies concerning the unintended consequences of antiviolence programming in schools. This suggests the need for broader analysis in this area.

Practical implications – The analysis identifies a number of detrimental effects that have resulted from school violence policy initiatives ranging from the socialization of youth toward a society of control and authority. In addition, the chapter helps to clarify the (often negative) effects of hype about violence in schools.

Originality/value of chapter – Although not often connected, this chapter explores the intersection between the discourse of school violence (typically, a social problems framing concern) and the development of school antiviolence policies (typically, an applied social scientific concern).

Purpose – This chapter explores a necessarily ambivalent approach to gang members at an inner-city alternative high school, Choices Alternative Academy (CAA), as staff must both accommodate and monitor their often troubled students.

Methodology – The methodology of this study is ethnographic, drawing from participant observation carried out over the course of four years, and 65 informal, semistructured interviews of a theoretical, purposive, snowball sample.

Findings – Staff in schools dominated by gang members must both accommodate and control them, which are often contradictory practices.

Research limitations/implications – As a case study of a single alternative school, the study is limited in scope, but comprehensive in depth, as observations were conducted over a four-year period. Future research may focus on the relationship of teacher experience and expertise to the desire to acknowledge the presence of gangs.

Practical implications – The chapter advocates the utility of an ambivalent approach toward gang members in policy discussions, acknowledging the wide variety of discourses possible in regard to gang members.

Originality/Value of the Paper – While most studies of schools and gangs focus on large, mainstream schools, this study is unique for focusing on a school that specifically serves gang members and the difficulties and dilemmas involved in that task.

Purpose – The purpose of this study is to examine how staff contributes to the operations of an adult drug court and, more critically, how staff produces client failure. Previous drug court researchers often attribute outcomes to the characteristics or the behaviors of the clients or to the program design, not to the actions of the staff.

Methodology – This study is based on extensive field research in three drug courts over a 4-year period. We observed both public and less public drug court events from the court event to staff meetings.

Findings – The key finding is that staff produces program failures. Within the policies and procedures of their programs, using their professional belief systems, and in interaction with a range of others to manage the demands of their position, staff produces the outcomes.

Limitations – As with other ethnographies, the generalizability of the exact processes may be limited. The core finding that the staff actively creates outcome decisions is a fundamental process that we believe occurs in any drug court or, more widely, problem-solving courts.

Implications – The practical implications of this research are in the illustrations of how staff matter, which we hope will spur others into examinations of staff actions.

Originality – Previous research ignores staff or treats them as mere extension program policies. The in-depth examination of staff behavior provides a unique and valuable examination of how much is lost by ignoring the staff judgments, perceptions, and actions.

Purpose – This study tracks the legal control of the problem of substance abuse.

Methodology/Approach – The chapter explores the “natural history” of the evolution of the social construction of drug use and our collective response to it. Over the past 100 years, our understanding of drug use/abuse and the system for handling drug problems have gone through a series of changes. In the past 20 years or so, provision of treatment for drug offenders within the criminal justice system has rapidly expanded. California's recently enacted Proposition 36 (Prop 36) initiates for the first time on a mass basis the court-supervised drug treatment that began a decade earlier on a much smaller scale with the original drug courts. This chapter compares the Prop 36 program for diverting nonviolent drug offenders into court-supervised treatment with the original drug courts.

Findings – The research shows how court-supervised drug treatment has evolved from a personalized care program in the original drug courts to a mass processing operation under Prop 36. The research finds that the social problem solution of offering treatment to more drug defendants created its own unanticipated consequences and problems, including significant standardization in the operations of the court and a dilution of many useful features that defined the early drug courts.

Practical implications – “Farming out” drug defendants to probation and treatment makes case-processing and treatment potentially less effective therapeutically. The chapter raises questions about how social control can extend its domain without “breaking the bank” and what the consequences are for how social problems are handled.

Purpose – Treatment for alcohol and drug addiction in correctional settings has become commonplace throughout much of the United States. The delivery of treatment services in prisons is a promising approach and has certain advantages relative to outpatient and voluntary treatment, including (i) certainty of program enrollment and participation by individuals who would not likely seek treatment on their own (i.e., coerced participation/guaranteed delivery of treatment); (ii) program modalities specific to residential settings as treatment options – in effect, more intensive treatment; and (iii) the parole process ensures participation in post-release aftercare services. During this era wherein reentry is a pronounced theme throughout American corrections, substance abuse treatment is fundamental in terms of rehabilitating offenders, increasing public safety, and lowering recidivism rates and, ultimately, the overall prison population.

Methodology – Using data from a process evaluation of an in-prison alcohol treatment program in Texas, this study examines the environmental barriers to effective recovery present in correctional settings and considers the strengths and weaknesses of coercive treatment, generally.

Findings – Findings indicate that offenders can indeed become motivated to change through coerced treatment. However, study findings also suggested that a certain number of offenders will not become engaged in treatment and fail to develop any internal motivation, which can be problematic for a number of reasons.

Practical implications – The highly coercive and restrictive nature of correctional facilities may negate the overall rehabilitative intent of treatment programs.

Purpose – This chapter describes the problem of and approaches to ex-inmates with psychiatric disabilities exiting correctional custody. Although all ex-inmates must find housing and employment, persons with psychiatric disabilities require linkages to various health-related services and supports. These linkages are necessary, but it is unknown whether they are sufficient because discharge planning services and transition programs for ex-inmates with psychiatric disabilities historically lack an evidence base.

Approach – After a decade, the first-generation re-entry programs for ex-inmates with psychiatric disabilities have yielded little in the way of empirical data, but they have provided models for program expansion and imperatives for second-generation program assessment. Related research findings for first- and second-generation programs are highlighted with an emphasis on a unique statewide program in Massachusetts.

Findings – A review of the first- and second-generation programs suggests that progress has been slow in identifying empirically supported best practices for this population. There is a growing evidence base that community reintegration outcomes for ex-inmates with psychiatric disabilities are the result of demographic and criminal history variations, yet implications of these variations needs further exploration in the realms of service access and receptivity as well as variations in postrelease adaptation.

Implications – More knowledge and innovative research is needed on the experience of ex-inmates with psychiatric disabilities and social integration. Resources for cost effectiveness studies as well as long-term follow-up qualitative studies are necessary.

The theoretical model draws on the pioneering work of Spector and Kitsuse (1973, 1977) describing the stages that a social problem goes through. These stages are conceptualized as cyclical in nature, with stages repeated (in modified form) across multiple cycles. Although the model provides for multiple cycles, only the first two cycles were explicitly formulated in the original paper. However, consideration of the developments described in this collection requires that we consider additional cycles, and doing so allows us to expand the model beyond its original formulation.

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Research in Social Problems and Public Policy
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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