Read the case study below and answer the questions that follow it. Does Knowledg

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Read the case study below and answer the questions that follow it.
Does Knowledge Matter in the Face of Political Power? The Case of Check-Cashing Establishments and Crime
This case study is based on the actual experience of a criminal justice colleague of the authors. This person was asked to provide an opinion on the incidence and prevalence of crime in a section of an affluent city in a Midwestern state by an attorney who was representing a private company that was in the loan and check-cashing business. The request seemed quite odd to our colleague until he was able to sit down with the attorney to discuss the particulars of the case. The facts of the case are fascinating and have implications for criminal justice administrators who have to deal with the political realm on a daily basis to perform their duties.
The attorney was suing the city for what he believed was an unreasonable and illegitimate ordinance passed by the city’s common council to keep loan and check-cashing establishments from operating between the hours of 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM. The city has an outstanding reputation as one of the best cities in America, as rated by Forbes magazine, and has a flagship university with an impeccable reputation. Residents work for state and local governments and the university. In addition, the community has many small to moderately sized businesses, and the crime rate is very low. By all assessments and accounts, the community is an idyllic place to live.
The business, which was open twenty-four hours a day, was told to cease operations during the hours of 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM. The rationale for the proscriiption was that crime, especially robbery and other violent crime, would result. The primary rationale of the common council’s decision was based on the fear of increased crime that such an establishment would bring to the community. Our colleague was asked to comment on the incidence and prevalence of crime at and surrounding the business for six months prior to its opening and six months after its opening when the business ceased the nighttime operations. The attorney wanted to know if there was an empirical basis for the rationale behind the ordinance.
Our colleague collected the crime incident data from the police department by police sector. In addition, he not only examined traditional crime data, such as the eight major index crime categories but also examined civil tickets issued by police for such minor crimes as disorderly conduct, trespassing, damage to property, and other property-related crimes. His analysis revealed, to the chagrin of the common council, that the business had very little crime in or around its location for the time period examined. In fact, the business that did have the most criminal activity was a nearby Taco Bell, largely due, he suspected, to the late hours that it served food to college students and others who frequented taverns around the restaurant. The news sounded good for the attorney who represented the loan and check-cashing establishment.
When confronted with these facts regarding the incidence and prevalence of crime at and surrounding the business, the common council still upheld the ordinance, again citing concerns over crime and the possible influx of undesirables to the community. The attorney had no choice but to sue the city, claiming it was illegally denying his client the right to pursue his commercial interests with no legitimate justification. The claim found its way into federal court, where our colleague provided an affidavit regarding his analysis of the location of the loan and check-cashing business and the incidence and prevalence of crime. The affidavit affirmed that there was no empirical basis, at least found in the crime statistics, to deny the business the ability to operate at night because the amount of crime at or around the business was very small. No crime was directly related to the business, and there were no secondary effects.
The judge in the case listened intently and issued his opinion. Regardless of the analysis provided by our colleague, the judge ruled that the “evidence concerning crime incidence and prevalence didn’t matter,” and, moreover, that the council is imbued with an inherent right to govern. Through its normal powers as a governmental entity, the city could do whatever it deemed appropriate, even if they were uninformed, in error, or their theory was incorrect. For the city, this decision reaffirmed the ordinance. For the attorney, although he was disappointed with the decision, it still left open the opportunity to appeal to a higher court, even the U.S. Supreme Court.
For our colleague, the decision reflected something he suspected all along: when knowledge and power collide, power usually wins. It was a bit disconcerting to learn firsthand that “facts” and evidence have so little influence when it comes to the raw power of a court. This is not the first time that a court has blatantly disregarded the facts offered by social scientists. The McCleskey v. Kemp (1987) decision, for example, dismissed the scientific evidence on the disparate treatment of defendants who kill Whites compared to defendants who kill Blacks in death penalty cases. In this particular case, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. McCleskey had to prove as an individual that he was discriminated against and that aggregate group data is not legally sufficient to show discrimination. For many social scientists, this decision served to, in part, question scientific inquiry as a means to determine the truth in a court of law.
For criminal justice administrators, speaking truth to power with facts and evidence can be difficult and sometimes pointless. This does not mean that facts and evidence don’t matter, but they must be understood within the context of political interests and the power that people have to influence criminal justice administration and management. In fact, and somewhat ironically, this same colleague has written about how the use of knowledge in criminal justice organizations serves both symbolic and instrumental purposes of criminal justice administrators and reflects certain values and preferences. Understood this way, it is easy to see why knowledge acquisition will always be subservient to political interests, both internal and external to criminal justice organizations.
Case Study Questions
What role, if any, should empirical evidence play in criminal justice decision making and policy making? What role should politics play in the same processes?
Do you agree or disagree with the judge’s ruling in this case study, and what are your arguments for the position you hold?
What is the role of social science research in criminal justice administration? How best can criminal justice researchers speak truth to power.

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