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Chapter Summary and Key Concepts

Chapter 15 examines the influence that drug use, illegal gambling, and prostitution exert on the criminal justice system and their popular status as victimless crimes.

Victims of Crime

  • According to the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act, a victim is “a person that has suffered direct physical, emotional, or pecuniary harm as a result of the commission of a crime.” [i]

  • The victim is weak in relation to the offender. The “ideal victim” is likely female, sick, weak, old, young, or some combination of these. (2) The victim is, if not acting virtuously, then at least going about his or her legitimate, everyday business. (3) The victim is blameless. (4) The victim is unrelated to and does not know the stranger who has committed the offense. This also implies that the offender is a person rather than a corporation and that the offense is a single incident. (5) The offender is unambiguously big and bad. (6) The victim has the right combination of power, influence, or sympathy to successfully elicit victim status without threatening (and thus risking opposition from) strong countervailing vested interests.

  • Mendelsohn’s typology is controversial because Mendelsohn believed that most victims had an unconscious attitude that led to their victimization.

  • Von Hentig looked at victims of homicide and developed a typology that considered biological, sociological, and psychological factors.

  • Wolfgang and Thorsten Sellin presented a victim typology based upon the victims’ situations rather than their personal characteristics or relationships.

  • Galtung attributes much of victimization to the structural characteristics of the culture.

  • Victim-precipitation theory is the idea that crime victims sometimes play an active role in initiating a crime or escalating it.


  • The first popular drug in the United States was alcohol.

  • The 1791 Whiskey Rebellion was provoked by a whiskey tax opposed by farmers who believed the government could not tax the states.

  • Opium, morphine, and cocaine were legal in the late 1800s and used as ingredients in many patent medicines.

  • The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 required food and drug sellers to label what their products contained, but did not criminalize drugs.

  • The 1914 Harrison Act imposed a tax on opium and cocaine.

  • The ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment (or Volstead Act) in 1919 prohibited the use and sale of alcohol. Prohibition ended in 1933.

  • In 1937, the government began to control the use and sale of marijuana.

  • The 1951 Boggs Act increased penalties for violating drug laws and regulated both narcotics and marijuana. The 1956 Narcotics Control Act increased penalties and federal authority.

  • The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 produced the drug schedules currently used to classify drugs.

  • The criminal justice system approaches drug control from both a legal and a medical perspective. It is illegal to possess and distribute certain drugs, but it is not illegal to be an addict.

  • Drug legalization refers to the total removal of legal prohibitions on the possession, use, and sale of certain drugs. Drug decriminalization refers to a reduction in penalties for these acts.

Sex Work

  • Three types of controversial sexual behaviors involve the selling of sex: prostitution, pornography, and exotic dancing. These represent either crimes of values or economic crimes in which the government is unable to set standards, regulate access, and/or impose taxes.

  • According to N. Jane McCandless, the four-level occupational hierarchy of prostitution is call girls, exotic dancers, those who engage in prostitution from brothels, and those who engage in prostitution from the street.

  • Some prostitutes are male.

  • Prostitution is illegal in every U.S. jurisdiction with the exception of state-licensed brothels in Nevada.

  • The exact definition of pornography is open to interpretation. Each community or jurisdiction sets its own standards as to what is considered pornography.

i 42 U.S.C. § 10607(e)(2)(A). See http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/10607. Accessed December 2012.

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