President Obama affirmed that $80 billion is better used not for mass incarceration but for pre-school, teachers and university entrance echo the data and conclusions from Smarter Crime Control. The most effective and cost-effective way to deal with crime is prevention and that $80 billion on mass incarceration can be much better spent by investing some in effective violence prevention and reallocating the rest to other government priorities. Importantly the US federal government could provide funding to States to enable them to invest in effective violence prevention and so reduce their use of mass incarceration. Getting Smarter Crime Control in the US is important but the knowledge and the logic apply to Canada, China, Latin America and across the world.
Irvin Waller called for genuine action to stop victimization and provide rights for victims. When the World Society of Victimology made him an ¨Honorary Member¨ this July for his significant accomplishments in the victimological field, he called on the next generations of victimologists to build on those accomplishments by shifting governments from their outdated ¨punishment only¨ agenda to a genuine victim centred and prevention¨ agenda.
This is a unique moment in human history. We now have the knowledge endorsed by organizations such as WHO and UN-Habitat to cut violent victimization by 50%. We have the models of best practices from cities and other pioneers to show that it is possible to do it. We have US politicians realising that extraordinary over use of incarceration has been expensive to taxpayers and human rights and has not worked. Put it all together … if governments invested just 1/10th of one per cent of world GDP in effective violence prevention and genuine rights for victims, they would cut in half the 5% of world GDP lost to violence.
In 1985, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a land mark decision 40/34 for victims – often referenced as the victim magna carta by resolving to prevent victimization and implement the UN Declaration on Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power.
Fortunately much progress and many successes have been achieved since 1985, including:
• We now have accumulated important scientific knowledge that Waller brought together in the recent book Smarter Crime Control (2014) available already in English and Spanish that shows:
o The most effective and cost effective ways to reduce violent crime are pre-crime prevention focused in high risk areas on risk factors such as parenting, youth outreach, control of weapons and alcohol, and changing attitudes to violence, particularly against women and children;
o The growing consensus that successful implementation of effective violence prevention requires funding and a responsibility centre to promote training, targets for reductions, and measuring outcomes – what gets measured gets done;
o The strong evidence for a compelling business case that if you invest in what is effective you save lives, avoid loss of quality of life for victims, foster sustainable development and avoid wasted resources – an ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure.
• Inspiring examples of cities that have reduced violence by 50% or more in some higher violence developing and advanced countries;
• Growing investments in, and laws for, services and rights for victims of crime in many advanced nations and some developing countries.
Sadly many deeply disturbing challenges remain in 2015, including:
• Epidemic rates of street violence persist in many countries in Latin America and Africa and for persons of color in the USA. Each year across the world, there are still more than 400,000 homicides and hundreds of thousands of victims suffering physical injuries and psychological trauma;
• At least, 1 in 3 women will be victims of intimate partner violence in their lifetime and equally unacceptable numbers will be raped;
• Knowledge that high rates of violence cost economic development (World Bank) and divert as much as 5% of the world GDP from sustainable development (Institute for Economics and Peace) – often more than 15% of GDP in developing countries;
• Too many efforts to control crime are not using scientific methods or agreed UN standards and norms (WHO/UNODC/UNDP) and so are unnecessarily wasteful of human lives and scarce resources, particularly on over-use of incarceration.
Governments (ie UN Member States) and UN Offices (jointly UNODC, WHO, UNDP, OCHR, UNHCR, and UN Habitat) in partnership with civil society must develop the business case and so commit to 4 goals for Sustainable development achievable within 10 years:
1. Reduce the numbers of victims of intentional homicide and street violence by 50%;
2. Reduce the number of women and children who are victims of violence by 50% (measurable inter alia by surveys such as the Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey of CDCP);
3. Increase by 50% the number of victims of crime and abuse of power who receive real support, reparation and rights consistent with international standards and as measured by surveys;
4. Invest 1/10th of 1% of global GDP to the planning, training, development, implementation and evaluation of the actions to achieve these goals.
It is time to use successful actions, UN norms and scientific evidence to reduce the number of victims and multiply services and rights used by victims. UNODC and its partners must work together to make the compelling case for the investment that will save 100s of 1000s of lives and foster sustainable development. If they were achieved, it is estimated that the achievement would free up to $1 trillion by the end of ten years for economic and sustainable development.
It is a question for leaders to change the paradigm from the outdated and broken reactive and punitive agenda to a genuine preventive and victim centred agenda. Leaders and voters need to get to know the evidence and so choose the necessary investments in effective crime prevention and victim assistance.