ERIC Number: EJ886690
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Jul
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
Safe Haven Laws as "Crime Control Theater"
Hammond, Michelle; Miller, Monica K.; Griffin, Timothy
Child Abuse & Neglect: The International Journal, v34 n7 p545-552 Jul 2010
Objectives: This article examines safe haven laws, which allow parents to legally abandon their infants. The main objective is to determine whether safe haven laws fit the criteria of "crime control theater", a term used to describe public policies that produce the appearance, but not the effect, of crime control, and as such are essentially socially constructed "solutions" to socially constructed crime "problems." Methods: The analysis will apply the principles of "crime control theater" to safe haven laws. Specifically, the term "crime control theater" applies to laws that are reactionary responses to perceived criminal threats and are often widely supported as a way to address the crime in question. Such laws are attractive because they appeal to mythic narratives (i.e., saving an innocent child from a predator); however they are likely ineffective due to the complexity of the crime. These laws can have deleterious effects when policymakers make false claims of success and stunt public discourse (e.g., drawing attention away from more frequent and preventable crimes). This analysis applies these criteria to safe haven laws to determine whether such laws can be classified as "crime control theater". Results: Many qualities inherent to "crime control theater" are present in safe haven laws. For example, the laws are highly publicized, their intentions lack moral ambiguity, rare cases of success legitimize law enforcement and other agencies, and they appeal to the public sense of responsibility in preventing crime. Yet the goal of saving infant lives may be unattainable. These qualities make the effectiveness of the laws questionable and suggest they may be counterproductive. This analysis determined that safe haven laws are socially constructed solutions to the socially constructed problem of child abandonment. Conclusions: Safe haven laws are appropriately classified as "crime control theater". It is imperative that further research be conducted to examine the effectiveness and collateral effects of safe haven laws. Practical implications: Longitudinal studies and a nationwide database to better determine the effectiveness of safe haven laws are suggested. It is also crucial that agencies implementing SHLs closely monitor the reasons parents abandon their children, and adopt policies that re-focus the attention safe haven laws receive to address more frequent causes of harm to infants.
Descriptors: Laws, Crime, Infants, Public Policy, Law Enforcement, Longitudinal Studies, Classification, Parent Child Relationship, Child Neglect, Child Abuse
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A