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Criminal Justice and Social Change

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: February 17, 1999
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Lecture Notes Pertaining to CJ Exercise 6:
War, War on Drugs, Jails and Our Communities

Source materials for the following questions will be found in three site pieces: The November Coalition, The Peele Addiction Site, and "What Can We Expect from Treatment of Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Abuse?" , and lecture materials on the text, "Outsiders Looking In: How to Keep From Going Crazy When Someone You Love Goes to Jail, Toni D. Weymouth, Ed.D., and Maria Telesco, R.N., B.A., OLINC Publishing, ISBN: 1-891261-40-1, P.O. Box 6012, Fresno, CA. 93703-6012, available on the site of Death Penalty Focus.

Answer by e-mail to
Subject: cjexercise 6 - war, drugs, jail
Be sure to include your name and class!
Try to answer in 25 words or so. Make each answer integral, so that I can read it without reference to the exercise or the question itself.

  1. There are two major approaches I want you to consider as you cover these materials on war, drugs, and jail. The first is the romanticized narrative of injustice (Waldie approach). The second is the policy narrative of individual/community balance in tensions (Habermasian approach). Describe each very briefly and where each would fit within the academic framework.

    1. The "Waldie" approach: Narrative which focuses on the individual tragedy. This is the approach that yields "The Titanic." It is dramatic, compelling, focused on real people and real emotions. It is certainly valid in the consideration of the costs to our lives and communities of these major social problems. This approach fits best within the category of social welfare and social work concerns within the academy. It is the "helpers" and the "caretakers" who make such narratives available to us to heighten our understanding of the cost to real humans of our broad policy decisions.

    2. The "Habermasian" approach: Narrative that focuses on the broad picture, recognizing that though individual voices MUST be given a good faith hearing, community decisions must also focus on the broader picture of the whole community and a concern for the future as well as for the present. Narrative that recognizes the continual, and perhaps necessary, tension between individual freedom and well-being and community solidarity and security. This approach fits into the more traditional approach to sociology as an overall study of society, its institutions, its patterns. (These are sometimes the sociologists that give the impression that they don't really want to change injustice, they just want to "study" it, which sounds cold and heartless, but which actually reflects the difference in orientation to the issues.)

  2. How does this narrative approach from two very different perspectives suggest that we are dealing with major social change in criminal justice issues all over the world?

    Especially during the absolute reign of the positivist approach (Thou shalt be "objective".) the traditional broad picture was treated as the whole megillah. Increasingly, today, we are beginning to recognize that we cannot extract rules and rituals from their contexts without eventually losing our humanity. Today we speak of the need to find our values again, to find sensitivity, justice, goodness, and even forgiveness. Today, Soros speaks of "market fundamentalism" as the greatest danger to our communities. All this suggests that we are beginning to see that perhaps the two approaches should not be so separated, that rules must be balanced by narrative, organization by concern for community. The design of the November coalition and of the work on jails as destructive of the community are part of that malaise with positivist-style separation and objectivity.