Figure Stolen from Philip:
Conservative pseudointellectuals have been all aflutter about Philip Cohen‘s magisterial takedown of the conservative bullshit argument claiming that female headed households lead to crime. All the conservatives have left to fall back on is the completely ludicrous argument that the Prison Industrial complex has locked up all of the bad guys, forever, and that is why crime is down. Of course, such crap arguments ignore a huge body of literature showing that incarceration rates are linked to higher rates of crime because of the social disorganization created by having large proportions of people in prison. And, of course, a substantial fraction of the prison population are non-violent drug offenders, not violent criminals.
What Philip misses, and of course the right wing bullshitters could never comprehend, is that something did go on in policing and public policy which reduced the violent crime rate—-and increased the proportion of women heading families—systematic public policy about domestic violence and abuse. What happened in the last three decades? Well, some really smart police chiefs began to realize that the vast majority of murders and a substantial plurality of all violent crime stem from domestic violence. And, domestic violence is almost impossible to deal with if vulnerable family members (women and children, almost always, but also elders) have no where else to go. So, what have we seen? A dramatic proliferation of domestic violence shelters and services, focusing on women and families, but also now increasingly on abused elders. If a woman wants out, she can get help. It isn’t easy. It isn’t perfect. But it’s MUCH better than it was 30-40 years ago when there were no services or legal protections. Indeed, where do we see Philip’s graph on violence turning South? 1994, the first year that the Violence Against Women Act was passed.
Legal protections and policing also played a prominent role. During this same time, spurred by Federal mandates, states and municipalities began to actively engage domestic abuse. Abusers could no longer count on Sheriff Bubba to look the other way, or bring his beaten wife and kids back to the trailer. Family and friends who might have contemplated taking the law into their own hands to confront abusers (compounding the number of crimes through tit-for-tat violence) now found help in the criminal justice system. Many states enacted mandatory “cooling out” jail time for domestic violence offenders. The effect was profound and immediate. Murder rates and violent crimes plummeted.
Now, women in abusive relationships don’t have to stay with their abuser, and that is what CAUSED the violent crime rate to fall. Breaking the cycle of abusive patriarchy reduces violence. No abusive relationship, no eventual murder or beating. No abusive husband or boyfriend around? I guess that big shootout at the family thanksgiving won’t happen, will it? And, if we see his truck pull around the corner, we’re calling the cops, and they’re going to come and take it seriously—it’s their statistics they are worried about, as much as anything. It also doesn’t hurt that gun ownership is also at a historic low, and that younger cohorts are especially less likely to own guns.
Most violent crime has origins in families, and the way to reduce violent crime is to enable people to dislodge violent abusers from their families. And that leaves a nice little peaceful female-headed home. The End. Happy Zappadan!