Law in Contemporary Society

The importance of a meaningful opportunity in high crime areas

-- By RasheedAhmed - 12 Jun 2015


When I reflect back on my life and analyze what motivated me to succeed, despite major obstacles, I came to the realization that the single most important factor is having a meaningful opportunity at critical stages of my life. This paper examines how far the power of giving an individual a meaningful opportunity can go in solving many of societies problems, specifically crime.

Firstly, the power of giving an individual a meaningful opportunity to succeed is a tremendous tool in reducing crime. As a child growing up in an inner city, I saw first hand how the inclination to commit a crime correlates directly with the meaningful opportunity you have in life. Many kids within my neighborhood believed that they would never make it to college or even to high school graduation. Therefore, they truly believed that engaging in criminal acts were the only way to make legitimate money to support themselves and their families.

It’s far too easy to automatically condemn individuals when they commit a crime. However, with prisons reaching full capacity, it is imperative that we change how we tackle crime. Instead of looking at the effect when a crime is committed, we should look to what caused the particular individual to commit the crime. When I reflect back on why certain individuals committed crime in my neighborhood, I found three key factors: (1) the lack of a meaningful education, (2) concentrated police targeting and (3) cyclical poverty within the community and hardship within the family.


The single most important factor that I believe goes in to whether an individual will commit a crime within impoverished neighborhood areas is the opportunity to gain a meaningful education. I experienced first hand how a well functioning school can change the perception a child has of his or her life. When teachers are motivating their students to succeed and when the school is functioning under a singular purpose to best educate their students and to prepare them for the “real world”, it will create a legitimate choice a child can take over committing a crime. Despite this recognition, the school system has continuously failed these children.

Schools in high crime neighborhoods have often given up on their students. You have a certain amount of teachers who believe these children are destined to fail and no amount of effort on their part will change this. You also have another segment of teachers who try their hardest to show their students the “apparent” choices they have in their lives and how these choices will lead to a successful life. These messages from good intentioned teachers are often mute because students perceive it as wishful thinking. Schools and their entire staff must work in harmony in furthering the singular purpose in preparing their students for the real world. When this is done, you will see changes in the attitudes of these children and a reduction in crime.

Concentrated Police Targeting

Secondly, concentrated police targeting strife’s many of the meaningful apparent choices a child may have. In my experience, the effect of a high police presence breeds hostility amongst the residents towards law enforcement. There is also a psychological effect, where residents may feel that the presence of such police targeting is a sign that they are relegated to being second-class citizens and that there are not welcomed amongst the higher class. This type of psychological effect is tremendously dangerous because it also is believed amongst residents. Often time’s parents believe that they are doing their children a favor by exposing the harsh realities of their lives and conveying a doom future. Hence, because from a young age children in such neighborhoods are taught that they are the enemies, they are trapped in this cyclical psychological trap where they are inclined to commit crime instead of the other choices they have. Furthermore, it is also important to note that although there may be choices in which these children can take, the choices are in no way a “meaningful choice”.

There should be a legitimate effort to change the dynamic of police relationships amongst residents of high crime areas. If the hostile atmosphere changes in to a culture of cohesion towards a singular goal, crime in all likelihood will be decreased. Residents will do a more effective job at self-policing and in turn this will have a greater impact on improving the quality of life for all residents. Self-policing by residents will have a far greater impact than if you leave it all in the hands of the police. The communication amongst adults to children will also be different. Children would be taught that criminal actions will not be tolerated and that there are other meaningful options that they can choose from.

Cyclical poverty within community

Finally, in my experience the cyclical poverty within the community and the many hardship that followed was perceived as eliminating any meaningful choice for residents within the community. Some members were content with the hardship and learned how to deal with the many obstacles they faced. However, many others were faced dire circumstances. With jobs being scarce, residents view that they have no option other than to resort to committing various crimes to survive. In such a case, education is not viewed as a viable option in working towards a successful life. The short-term hardship and survival instincts many residents face overshadow any meaningful choice or opportunity that could be gained in the long term.

In order to reduce crime in such neighborhood, the cyclical poverty many residents face must be curtailed. Specifically, there should be a focus on aiding residents in finding jobs in which they qualify and that can provide a sustainable living standard. However, many of the jobs in which residents in such neighborhoods qualify, are set at minimum wage. Minimum wage today is not set at a viable amount. For poverty to be curtailed and crime reduced minimum wage should be increased.

The best way to improve the essay is to sharpen its focus. "Meaningful opportunity" is a phrase that stands for a number of elements: education, a job, dignified treatment at the hands of public authorities. Minimum wage, a guaranteed annual income, ways to avoid hopelessness in the face of underemployment: these are specific policy suggestions, on a different scale. The present draft loses force by spreading its focus across these elements at different scales. Sharpening means losing some detail, and gaining definition for the argument as a whole.

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r3 - 29 Jun 2015 - 21:51:12 - MarkDrake
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