Washington D.C.,’s murder count of 18 last month was 20 percent higher than the previous April, says the Wall Street Journal. Several other cities, including Chicago and Philadelphia, endured similar mini murder waves during the same period, leading criminologists to worry whether this signifies the beginning of a trend — or evidence of an unnoticed one. The usual mix of causes is cited by expeerts: the economy, poverty, gangs and crews, and the availability of firearms, but there is one that has been little explored: the migration of the prison culture back to the streets. As nearly 700,000 convicts a year return home, some may be bringing prison culture with them.
“This is part of the price we’re paying for 20 years of mass incarceration,” said David Kennedy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. While he acknowledges that the economy and demographics might have a role in some cases, they don’t explain the current spate of crime, which he calls “God-awful serious.” Some violence also turns on a central currency within prisons: respect. Disrespect can lead to lethal responses at the slightest provocation. While the overall murder rate has dropped for years, it has been inching up in the black community. African-Americans make up 13 percent of the nation’s population, but more are killed in the U.S. than any other racial group, accounting for 49 victims of victims.