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Efforts to rehabilitate inmates within prison walls likewise failed so dismally that, writing in The Public Interest in 1974, criminologist Robert Martinson concluded that nothing, or almost nothing, worked.Furthermore, while crime in black communities was almost certainly not measured accurately in the Jim Crow South, there is no evidence that greater racial tolerance after the civil-rights era corresponded with decreases in the rates of most categories of crime committed by blacks.Ultimately, however, public-sector efforts to combat crime by alleviating social problems failed.Significant increases in the size and scope of the welfare state and large drops in the poverty rate correlated closely with increases in crime (partly, of course, because some social programs exacerbated the very social pathologies they were intended to cure).THE WAR ON CRIME As consensus around the social view of crime collapsed, an individual view of criminal justice was left as policymakers' most promising option.Since most people, even those from deprived backgrounds, do manage to obey the law and avoid wrongdoing, this individual-centered view holds that criminals commit crimes largely because of internal moral failings.In fact, reported statistics indicate that those rates soared between the 1950s and 1960s as the civil-rights movement won its major legislative victories.Efforts to blame society for crime and to focus on rehabilitation thus failed dismally.
Under Jim Crow, most common crime in African-American areas was simply ignored, but the system actively worked to facilitate lawlessness in the form of lynching, police riots, and outright abuse of anyone who threatened the racist status quo.Rather, the best way to reduce crime is to address the underlying social problems that are crime's "root causes." As members of the 1967 Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Criminal Justice put it: "Warring on poverty, inadequate housing and unemployment, is warring on crime." Strong adherents of the social theory of crime had little use for the four classic functions of the corrections system — deterrence, incapacitation, retribution, and rehabilitation — that scholars in the field had long emphasized.Imprisonment was needed to incapacitate the truly dangerous, of course, but that did not describe most criminals.During much of the latter half of the 20th century, most of the American left subscribed to the notion that society as a whole is responsible for crime and that individuals commit crimes because of social deprivation or prejudice.Though this view is now derided by conservatives and many modern liberals, it does not lack for appeal or factual grounding.
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Moreover, critics asserted, the justice system was terribly prejudiced against African-Americans and other minority groups.