The focus of the proposed paper will be to assess the evidence for and against the notion that Native Americans commit disproportionately high amounts of crime on account of the fact that they no longer adhere as strictly to traditional tribal cultures. The view is frequently put forward that this minority is over represented with regards to lawbreaking due to the fact that many members of the Native American community have moved away from the customs that once kept them on the straight and narrow. Relevant literature concerning this issue will be assessed and conclusions will be drawn as to whether this is indeed the primary reason that Native Americans commit more crime per person than the American population as a whole.
The main reason that this topic is of interest is because identifying the reason that so many Native Americans choose to involve themselves in crime will facilitate the implementation of steps aimed at reducing their offending rates. If they do indeed break the law at a higher than average rate on account of the erosion of their culture then it would be logical to put programs in place centered on restoring the traditions that once kept them from committing criminal acts. This means that this research could be useful for addressing the inequality that exists with regards to the offending rates of people who fall within this ethnic group.
Crime amongst Native Americans is a particularly pertinent issue considering the fact that the rate of murders committed by this demographic is currently five times the national average. Some reservations possess particularly high rates of this type of crime, for example Arizona’s Salt River Pima Maricopa Community, which has a homicide rate that is seventeen times that of the United States average (Johansen, 2007). The crime rate amongst Native Indians is significantly higher than that of the population of a whole, with the number of alcohol-related crimes per person being committed being higher than that of every other single racial group (Silverman, 2009). There is a clear need to identify the issues that are causing such a large amount of crimes to be committed within this community.
The idea that the erosion of traditional culture is a major factor in the high rate of offending amongst Native Americans has been put forward time and time again. However it cannot be assumed that this is the predominant issue affecting criminal behavior within this demographic. It could be the case that the disintegration of traditional customs is not actually a catalyst for lawbreaking or it might be one of numerous different factors that lead to criminality. It is important to get to the bottom of this issue.
The articles that will be focused upon as part of the literature review of this topic will be ‘Native American Crime and Criminal Justice Require Criminologists’ Attention’ by Thomas Young, ‘Assessments of Crime Seriousness on an American Indian Reservation’ by David Greenberg, ‘“AlterNative” Approaches to Criminal Justice: John Braithwaite’s Theory of Reintegrative Shaming Revisited’ by Andreas Tomaszewski, ‘Testing the Cultural Invariance of Parenting and Self-Control as Predictors of American Indian Delinquency’ by Gregory Morris, Peter Wood and R. Dunaway, ‘Self-Control, Native Traditionalism, and Native American Substance Use: Testing the Cultural Invariance of a General Theory of Crime’ by Gregory Morris, Peter Wood and R. Dunaway, ‘The New American Gang? Gangs in Indian Country’ by Adrienne Freng, Taylor Davis, Kristyn McCord and Aaron Rousell, ‘Native American Youth Gangs’ by Matthew Theriot and Barbara Parke and ‘Minority-Group Criminality and Cultural Integration by Arthur Wood. The aim of the paper will be to establish the extent of the role played by the erosion of tribal traditions and identify whether or not this is the main cause of offending behavior. Conclusions will be drawn and potential courses of action will be suggested based upon the findings.