The purpose of this research paper is to provide an overview of the topic of education and crime. Although at first glance this appears to be a simple task, there is an inherent complexity to examining such a broad subject. There are many different perspectives from which a discussion of education and crime could develop. Criminologists might assume that a discussion of education and crime would comprise an overview of the impact that an individual’s education level may have on his or her criminal or antisocial behavior. Alternatively, parents might assume it is a discussion of the impact of school violence and crime on the safety and learning of their children, and legislatures might assume it to be a comparison of the monies spent on fighting crime in the United States versus those spent to improve American schools. A novice might be expecting all or none of these approaches. This research paper attempts to address all of these views, albeit briefly.
The research paper begins with an overview of the generally accepted views about the relationships between education and crime. Given the volume of research on this topic, researchers have generally agreed on several basic specifics that they believe reflect the true relationship between crime and education. Next, this research paper attempts to clarify several points that need to be addressed initially. First, several general terms are defined (e.g., education, educational attainment, intelligence, street smarts, and crime) and then discussed as they are used in the study of the connections between education and crime. Finally, a discussion of how these terms intermingle is offered.
In order to develop a comprehensive framework from which to examine the concept of education and crime, two overall perspectives are addressed: (1) education’s impact on crime and (2) crime’s impact on education. It is hoped that through a discussion of these two general perspectives readers can develop an appreciation for the complexity of such a broad research area.
The concept of education’s impact on crime is examined first. In this examination, education is in essence discussed as a definite inverse correlate between its attainment and criminal behavior; that is, as one (education) increases, the other (crime) decreases. A discussion of education’s preventative nature is also presented, with a focus on its repressive nature in regard to initial criminal behavior and eventual recidivism rates. This examination involves a brief discussion of the connection between intelligence (IQ) and crime.
Crime’s impact on education is also discussed as the second overall perspective in examining education and crime. In this discussion, crime is identified as a potential barrier to educational opportunity and attainment. Strong evidence supports the belief that criminal behavior and crime often block many people from beginning the educational process. That many others are prevented from educational attainment due to arrests, periods of incarceration, and past convictions/criminal histories also has strong empirical support. Finally, violence and safety issues in schools are briefly discussed in regard to the way they influence these subjects.