Inside Out Fifty Years Behind the Walls of New Jerseys Trenton State Prison is a book written by veteran prison guard Harry Camisa and his co-writer Jim Franklin. It was first published in 2003, a year after Camisa retired from the employ of New Jersey Department of Corrections. It chronicles the fifty years of Camisas life as first a prison guard then a teacher in Trenton. In those years of service, Camisa encountered the many infamous characters that were detained in the prison. He also experienced many victories and trials in that treacherous environment.

Through a collection of short stories and anecdotes, Camisa brings readers inside the highly guarded walls of Trenton State Prison. The prison after all is a maximum-security facility for the most notorious and hardened criminals of New Jersey. He shares the humorous, the frightful, the surprising, and even the life threatening experiences he had while working as a prison guard.

Camisa also sheds light into the kind of people locked up in Trenton State Prison. His first-hand encounters with them gives readers a glimpse of what the most dangerous criminals are like. In his 50 years experience, Camisa even had the opportunity to befriend some of the toughest, most menacing offenders.

The extensive stint of Camisa allowed him to go through history within the massive walls of the prison. He also took part in many of the most talked about incidents that happened in Trenton. Being one of the first Italian prison guards in New Jersey, Camisa himself is part of history.

It was in 1950 when Harry Camisa started working at Trenton State Prison. He was 21. The prison is a familiar site to Camisa. He grew up only a block away from it (Camisa  Franklin, 2003) and as a boy passed by the place so many times. However it was only on his first day as prison guard did he have the chance to really see what lay inside.

Trenton State Prison is one of the toughest maximum-security penitentiaries in the country. It is located in the middle of a residential area south of the city (Camisa  Franklin, 2003). The prison is a massive two block wide brick building that house the most dangerous and brutal criminals to ever cross the shores of New Jersey.

During the 50 years Camisa was employed at Trenton, he had the chance to meet some of the most celebrated criminals in history. From known Mafia lords to the most violent sex offenders and murderers, Camisa met them all.

Several times, upon meeting these hardened criminals for the first time, Camisa was struck by how unsuspecting most of them were. Clarence Hill who was called The Duck Island Killer was a soft spoken and personable man. He was so unlike the monster he was when he went on a killing spree between the years of 1930 and 1940. Then there was Richard Biegenwald who was convicted for killing four women in New Jersey. He is considered  a serial killer in New Jersey. In his last post, Camisa worked alongside Biegenwald famously almost everyday.

In the book Camisa shared many more encounters with many more of the most vicious criminals. However, what is striking about his stories is that in most of them, Camisa would describe the inmates as meek or gentle. It surprises him that the men he spent time with in prison are the very same ones who have done the most heinous of crimes.
Camisa also tells of his harrowing experiences while working in prison. He called his life as a prison guard living on the edge (Camisa  Franklin, 2003). He was in the middle of one of the bloodiest riots in prison history when two warring Muslim gangs went after each other in 1975. He also witnessed 13 death sentences materialize. In two instances had to participate in the execution of three men in one night. He was in the center of many attempted escapes, one of which was that of a Black Liberation Army member that ended up in a gun battle between law enforcers and the escapees. And then there were times that danger became too personal. Camisa was taken hostage twice and survived.

Through his sharing of actual events inside prison, Camisa attested to many of the horrific practices by the people who run it. In fact in one instance Camisa himself took part in beating of an inmate. Life in prison is tough for both the inmates and their guards. However, in this intense environment there are still opportunities to build a life.

Inmates are allowed to work and earn inside prison. They are also given options for study and skills enhancement. Camisa after retiring as prison guard in 1979 went on to teach and run several of the facilities inside prison. He worked closely with many of his ward. Many of them who are released after serving their sentences go on to live productive and quiet lives. Some become repeat offenders and spend their lives going in and out of prison.

The guards have different views about prison. Some see it simply as a way to make a living while waiting for better things to come. In the book Camisa also revealed how some politicians use being head of the prison for their own selfish designs. Some however, like him see working in prison as a lifelong vocation.

Camisa sums up his 50 years as an employee of the New Jersey Department of Corrections with the very first line in the book I love my job (Camisa  Franklin, 2003). The system may not be perfect. The life inside prison may not be the most ideal. There are dangers waiting in every corner. Prison may be a place for seemingly hopeless individuals. But to Camisa, Trenton State Prison actually helped shape his life and made him the person he is today.

Alcohol Abuse within the Police Force

Alcohol abuse in the disciplined forces is common in federal and state departments across the country. But due to the sensitivity of the information it has been difficult for the public to scrutinize and estimate the impact it has on the police force. The police are custodians of law and order, they interact with citizens everyday and are expected to root out any vices within. Their sobriety is therefore paramount to the effective discharge of duties. This paper will look at the extent of alcohol abuse in both the federal and state police departments and recommend what can be done to improve the situation.

Alcohol is a recreational substance that that has been around the world for many centuries. Historically, alcohol has been used for medicinal and religious purposes. However, it also has a long history of recreational use (Goodwin, 2000, p. 19). Excessive and uncontrolled indulging may make one dependent on alcohol, easily making him or her alcoholic. Alcohol abuse therefore can be defined as the consumption of alcohol to levels that are deemed as being problematic (Ammerman, Ott, Tarter, 1999, p 31). At this level, one becomes dependent on alcohol and cannot easily do without it. The resulting alcoholism condition affects people in their daily lives irrespective of career, age, ethnicity, and even gender.

Law enforcers, especially the police, are associated with combating the illegal use of alcohol and other hard drugs. The police, whose role is to maintain law and order, are charged with the responsibility of ensuring people only indulge in alcohol within the legally permitted levels. However, one fact that is normally overlooked is that the police are human beings too and they do abuse alcohol themselves.

There have been reported cases of drunken police officers mishandling prisoners, recklessly handling firearms and driving dangerously. A number have been charged for involvement in serious accidents that have killed or injured civilians or fellow colleagues. These are not isolated incidents, rather common occurrences that have regularly implicated police officers. The victims of alcoholism include judges, physicians and most importantly the police (Goodwin, 2000, p 46).

According to the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, the rate of abuse of alcohol in the police force is double that of the general population (Violanti, 1999, p 1). The bulletin estimates that one out of ten American police officers consumes alcohol. These figures only serve to prove that the problem is prevalent in the force across the United States and the earlier it is addressed, the safer the society is going to be.

There are approximately 623,000 sworn police officers in the United States (Violanti, 2010, p1). The officers abuse alcohol for various reasons. The stressful and demanding nature of their work often makes police officers prone to alcohol abuse. Work and non -work related issues also increase the vulnerability of the policemen to abuse alcohol. Maladaptive behaviors like alcohol and drug abuse in the police may be caused by stress (Violanti, 2010, p1). Besides, family issues like failing marriages and finance are another cause of police officers indulging in alcohol abuse.

This study will analyze most of the literature and figures from documented studies, articles, books, and bulletins on alcohol abuse among the policemen in the United States. It is aimed at identifying the various aspects that characterize alcohol abuse in the police force in both federal and state departments and how the problem can be dealt with. Among the various aspects that will be tackled are causes, resultant problems, gender, race, and length of service. The analysis will focus on both federal and state police agencies.

Literature Review
Prevalence of Alcohol Abuse in the Police
A look at the general alcohol consumption prevalence rate in the American population may shed light about the extent of police involvement. The CDC in 2008 approximated that 50 of adults in the country were regular drinkers. The percentage of infrequent drinkers in the US at the time was 14. 60 of men were current regular drinkers compared to 42 of women who were regular current drinkers (CDC, 2008, p 19). The CDC further points out that consumption of alcohol has been on the decline in the past few decades in the US. The same cannot be said about law enforcement in the country. It has either remained constant or increased.

Alcohol abuse in law enforcement has always been there. Alcohol abuse in the police force is wide spread not only in the United States, but other countries as well. The problem of excessive drinking in the police has been perennial but it is now showing signs of escalation (Dietrich  Smith, 1986) (as quoted by Bonifacio, 1991 P, 163). Many studies done on active police officers have proved this hypothesis and the figures obtained easily back this argument. The incidence of alcoholism in law enforcement is higher than any other occupational group (IACPBOR, 1980, 1). Police officers abuse alcohol more than any other occupational group in the US. According to Violanti (2010), 25 of all police officers in the United States have been found to be alcohol dependent. That translates to over 150,000 police officers hooked to alcohol. In a 1979 article, police sergeant Ronald C. Van Raalte of Illinois revealed that 67 of his officers had admitted to drinking while on duty (Sudetic, 1995, p 1) (New York Times May 29, 1995). Earlier in 1973, Danielle Hitz who was researching at School of Public Health of the University of California at Berkeley reported that more police officers died of liver cirrhosis than other group of people in the general population (Sudetic, 1995, p 1) (As quoted in the New York Times May 29, 1995). It is a high number that only confirms the assumptions that police officers are highly dependent on alcohol. The numbers are not limited to a particular department they rather seem to confirm a wide existing trend.

Causes of Abuse of Alcohol in the Police Force
There are numerous causes of alcoholism and alcohol abuse in people regardless of their occupation, age, race, or gender. Generally, alcohol is not the cause of social problems rather it is on the other hand the result of the problems (Alexander, 2010 p.1). The broad categories into which alcohol abusers fall are biological, genetical and environmental, psychological and culture (Swierzewski  Emmite, 2008, p. 1). Mental as well as social problems can also lead one to abuse alcohol. Work, marriage, finances and biological defects which fall in the above categories can all lead to dependence on alcohol, making one abuse it. Alcohol abuse in the police has primarily been blamed on the nature of their work.

It is assumed that despite policemen and women being provided for with everything they need, their work is generally stressing hence most of them find relief in alcohol. The American institute of stress has ranked police work as being among the top ten most stressing jobs in the US (Forst Dempsey, 2010, p.174). Stress in the police force exists both on the individual and organizational levels (FBI, 1999).  Failure of psychological coping to individual or organizational stress finally leads to alcohol abuse by the police officers (Bonfacio, p. 164).

Individually, family issues not related to police work like divorce may raise stress levels of officers. The officers find it hard to confide to colleagues about their struggles and choose to stay with their personal problems. Maybe it is because of the ego of being seen as tough and perfect.  A good number does not seek assistance due to fear of stigmatization. Alcohol is considered part of the police culture and most of the affected officers immerse themselves in it as an escapist move.

Organizational level stress in the police has everything to do with the work that the officers are involved in. Shift work, job stress, the need to suppress emotions in the line of duty, and social isolation are some of the conditions in organizational level that contribute to alcohol abuse among officers (IACPBOR, 1980, 1). Like in the military, police officers frequently suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Order. It is understandably as a result of the complication arising from police work. About one third of all police officers exposed to diverse work related traumatic events suffer form the condition. PTSO, coupled with family and financial issues, puts many officers under extreme pressure. Most of them fail to seek assistance and engage in substance abuse, especially alcohol, to relieve the stress (Dowling, M.D., Genet, B.S.  Moynihan, C.S.W., 2005, p.1).

Drinking Subculture
According to Bonfacio (1991), alcohol is entrenched in the police culture. The drinking subculture in the police is normally meant to prove ones masculinity. Because the force is a community, acceptance is necessary. Though involuntarily, a substantial number of officers engage in alcohol to be accepted into the group (Kroes1976 Cabin, 1980  Captain Anonymous 1983) (as quoted in Bonfacio, 1991, p. 164). The above can be summed up as peer pressure which can be found in all groups of socialization. Continued engagement in drinking for acceptance finally makes one to be hooked up. Reversal of the situation is not easy and it needs effort and dedication to cast away that problem.

Gender of Police Officers Abusing Alcohol
Generally, men are known to drink more than women. A research carried out by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2004 concluded that alcohol use, dependence and abuse were higher in males than in females. The rate of meeting the criteria for alcohol dependence in males was twice that of females at 10.5 and 5.1 respectively (NSDUH, 2004, p. 1). It further said that males accounted for more than half of the cases that seek treatment for alcohol related conditions. The same study by the National Survey on Drug use and Health (2004), found out that 61 of females aged 12 or older and 70 of males aged 12 or older had used alcohol in the previous year. Additionally 12 of females and 17 of males aged 12 years or older had used drugs (NSDUH, 2004, p. 2).  Men were more likely to be dependent on or abusing alcohol in the ages 18 or older. In the ages 18-25 years, males exhibited a dependence rate of 26.3 compared to the females 15 (NSDUH, 2004, p 2). Among the employed, categorized to be 18-49 the rate of dependence on alcohol was found to be 15 for males and 8 for females.

Despite the rate of drinking in the police force being twice as much as that of the general public, the picture is likely to mirror that of the general public when it comes to gender. The incidence rate of female police officers drinking is lower than that for their male counterparts.

Race and Ethnicity factors in Alcohol Abuse within the Force
The police department has been fairly integrated in terms of ethnicity and race and it involves people from across the population divide. The number of minorities in the police force is not likely to be high as their inclusion was more of a political necessity than genuine practice. Therefore, compared to the average number of police officers in the force, minorities are likely to comprise a small section of the overall percentage of police officers involved in alcohol abuse, although the ratio of alcohol abuse among a particular race may be high.

It is generally observed that white people drink more compared to people of other races. African Americans have a lower drinking rate compared to the rest of the population (Winkel, 2010). According to Winkel (2010), their rate of drinking is 44 while that of the rest of the population is 55. On the other hand, however, substance abuse among African Americans is higher compared to other minority groups and the majority white population. It stood at 9.5 while that of the rest of the country was at 7.9  (Winkel, 2010, p. 1).

In the police force however, race or ethnicity is not likely to be an important factor influencing drinking patterns. There may be little variations reflecting the drinking patterns in the general population but these are insignificant.

Marital Status of Police Officers Abusing Alcohol
Generally, there tends to be a higher divorce rate among the younger members of the police compared to the old ones. 75 of police officers get divorced within the first three years (Kirschman, 2007 p. 5). If the marriage of a police officer survives beyond three years it becomes stronger than the marriage of an average person in the general population (Kirschman, 2007 p. 5). Due to the pressures that police work puts one through, many of them experience strained marriages. They tend to resort to alcohol but alcohol only ends up compounding their problems (Kirschman, 2007 p. 184). The NSDUH survey classifies working people to be between the ages of 18-49. In its survey on nationwide drug and alcohol use and dependence among married working males was found to be 10 while married working females were found to be dependent on alcohol by 4 (NSDUH, 2004, p. 3). The police also fall in this working class category. Therefore, the rate of married officers, both male and female, dependent on alcohol is likely to mirror that of the general population as portrayed by NSDUH.

Married officers undergo marriage related stress often and they are more likely to engage in alcohol abuse than unmarried police officers. But that does not imply that the rate of unmarried officers abusing alcohol is lower than the married ones. The difference may be small as unmarried police officers alcohol abuse may be triggered by factors like peer pressure and normal work stress. In fact, the same research found out that divorced or separated working males were more likely to engage in alcohol at 23 compared the married ones at 11. The same trend was observed for the females where separated working females were likely to engage in alcohol at11 compared to their married counterparts at only 4 (NSHUS, 2004, p. 3).

ProblemsIndicators of Alcohol Abuse among Police Officers
Over indulgence in alcohol brings with it negative results in any occupation. It is not different in the police force. It may be hard for colleagues to notice that a fellow officer has drinking problems. Absenteeism, failure to control ones emotions and low work performance are some of the early indicators of alcohol abuse. In many cases, members of the public or family are normally the first ones to notice any indications of alcohol abuse in police officers. They notice it due to the negative circumstances that the officer may find himself or herself in due to alcohol abuse.

Loss of Lives
A number of police officers have lost their lives and caused loss of others in various settings caused by alcohol abuse. The most common are motor vehicle and motor cycle accidents. Because of the combative nature of their work, police officers need to be of sound mind all the time. Overindulgence in alcohol, especially during working hours, impairs judgment leading to the accidents. The impaired judgment may also give criminal elements an upper hand in cases of confrontation. The officers cannot fully concentrate hence rendering themselves vulnerable to danger.

Alcohol abuse has also been cited as a major contributor to the high suicide rates among the force. There has been an increasing rate of suicides among police officers primarily caused by alcohol abuse.

According to Lester (1992), Stack Wasserman (1993) (as quoted by McNamara Kennedy 1999), suicide and alcohol abuse among police officers have always been linked together. In 1995, Captain ONeill of New York police department said that alcohol was involved in over 80 of the suicides committed by New York officers since 1984 (Sudetic, 1995, p 2) (As quoted in the New York Times May 29, 1995). According to a research based in Chicago, 60 of all officers who commit suicide were alcohol abusers (Wagner  Brzeczek 1983) (as quoted in McNamara  Kennedy 1999). Based on the above research findings, it is safe to conclude that alcohol abuse significantly contributed to high suicide rates in the police force.

Loss of Jobs
Overindulgence in alcohol finally impairs ones ability to work and the police are not an exception either. The police, like other professionals, are expected to be sober while on duty. Besides putting their lives in danger, drunken police officers damage the credibility of the force. Dismissal normally follows on such officers. Perhaps as pointer to big underlying problems, 75 Boston police officers have failed drug tests since the program started ten years ago. 26 officers have been fired in the same period (Smalleys, 2006, p1). Though they were not fired entirely on alcohol abuse grounds, hypothetically alcohol abuse acted as a precursor to abusing hard drugs.

The literature above cannot be said to be exhaustive on the topic of police alcohol abuse. However a number of conclusions can be drawn based on the findings. The problem is real and widely prevalent in the police force. The police have the highest divorce rate in the US, the second highest suicide rate and twice the rate of alcoholism in the country (Constant, 2010). It is almost assured that many more police officers will be victims of alcohol abuse and may suffer the consequences discussed above.

The main cause of police alcohol abuse has largely everything to do with stress. Police officers work under strenuous conditions and in many occasions come to contact with situations that expose them to post traumatic stress order conditions. This makes some officers to look for remedies to deal with individual stress thus exposing them to dangers of alcohol and it will be necessary for the concerned departments to step up and find some solutions. Some officers have succumbed to peer pressure and find it difficult to report when they have personal problems. Others cannot refer to their colleagues for remedial programs for fear that they might be jeopardizing their colleagues careers.  Peer pressure has forced others to drink in order to be accepted. Causes of alcohol abuse like peer pressure can be dealt with through regular counseling and encouraging police officers to develop strong personalities. Fellow peers in the force are better placed to help their colleagues since they share a lot and will develop a sense of camaraderie. It will help them resist undue pressure from colleagues and peers.

The problem is evidently affecting many police officers families. Divorce rates are high, especially among newly recruited officers within the first three years. It is important to bear in mind that police officers whose family is not happy cannot perform optimally.

Though various police departments have recognized the problem, many more are yet to do something about it. In 1981 Civil Rights Commission emphasized the need for the establishment of stress management systems in police departments (Forst Dempsey, 2010, p 180). The New York police department established its stress management program in 1986 with an initial group of 100 trained police officers as per counselors. Since then, many others have followed suit. The peer counseling departments should continuously be adapting to the dynamics of the problem to ensure help is effectively delivered when needed. It is highly likely that people who engage in alcohol abuse engage in drug use as well. Tackling drug use among the police may offer insights as to which members of the force abuse alcohol hence extend help.

Alcohol abuse among officers should be regarded as a pointer to a bigger problem, whether individually or in the organization. Remedial measures should be instituted to correct the situation to prevent more officers from falling into the same situation. The programs should be extended to cover even retirees.

Alcohol abuse is a disaster not only confined to the police force. From another angle, they are part of the general population that as studies suggest drinks less than the law enforcement force. However the critical role they play in maintaining law and order demands that they work in a sober environment and in a sober state of the mind. In the United States, both the state and federal police departments are big institutions that touch every person and every aspect of their lives. A majority of the police officers are well behaved and do not have problems with alcohol use, although the percentage which is alcoholic is a matter of concern to all members of society. Bureaucracy within the police force in terms of obtaining information should be discouraged as it only acts as a catalyst to the problem by distorting the actual facts of the scourge.

United States v. Lopez 514 U.S. 549 (1995) Supreme Court of the United States

April 26, 1995
United States , petitioner
Lopez, Jr. , respondent, concealed firearm in high school

Procedural History

Respondent Alfonso Lopez, Jr. was arrested and charged under Texan law with firearm possession on school premises.  The next day, the state charges were dismissed after federal agents charged respondent by complaint for violation of the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990.  Following indictment by a federal grand jury, respondent moved to dismiss the indictment, but the motion was denied by the District Court.  Responded was convicted for violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(q) after a bench trial.  Upon appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the ruling of the trial court.  Petitioner filed before the United States Supreme Court a writ of certiorari which was granted.


12-year old Alfonso Lopez, Jr. entered Edison High School in San Antonio, Texas concealing a .38 caliber handgun with five bullets.  An anonymous tip alerted the school authorities, who confronted respondent.  Upon admission, respondent was arrested and charged for firearm possession in school, which was dismissed after federal agents charged respondent for violation of the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990 ( HYPERLINK 18 U.S.C.  922(q)(1)(A)).  In this Act, Congress deemed punishable for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.

Respondent Lopez, Jr. was convicted on said Act and sentenced to six months imprisonment and 2 months supervised release.  The conviction was appealed to the Court of the Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, claiming that 922(q) of the Act was unconstitutional as it exceeded Congress power to legislate under the Commerce Clause.  Under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, Congress is empowered to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes (U.S. Const., Art. I, 8, cl. 3).  The appellate court agreed to the contention and subsequently reversed the order.  Hence petitioner appealed to the United States Supreme Court in the form of a writ of certiorari which the High Court granted.


Whether or not possession of firearms in school premises, as enumerated in  HYPERLINK 18 U.S.C.  922(q)(1)(A), also known as the Gun Free School Zone Act, renders said Act unconstitutional for exceeding Congress power to legislate under the Commerce Clause.


The United States Supreme Court declared  HYPERLINK 18 U.S.C.  922(q)(1)(A) as unconstitutional, and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in reversing the conviction of respondent.

The reason behind the affirmation by the High Court is hinged on the review of past precedents of intrastate commercial activities subject to regulation by Congress.  First, the possession of a gun in a local secondary school cannot be considered an economic activity that might substantially affect interstate commerce.  Section 922(q) is a criminal statute that in no way involves any form of economic enterprise, however broadly those terms are defined.  Nor is it essential to a larger regulation of economic activity, in which the regulatory scheme could be undercut unless the intrastate activity were regulated.  Second, 922(q) contains no jurisdictional element that would ensure, through case-by-case inquiry, that the firearms possession in question has the requisite nexus with interstate commerce.  Respondent was a local student at a local school there is no indication that he had recently moved in interstate commerce, and there is no requirement that his possession of the firearm have any concrete tie to interstate commerce.

As to the argument by the Government that Congress acquired institutional expertise on previous enactments of firearm regulation, the Court agrees with the appellate court that such findings to justify  922(q) is inappropriate because the prior federal enactments are unrelated to the subject matter of  922(q).  Also untenable is the Governments contention that possessions of firearms would substantially affect interstate commerce through the costs of crime brought about by the mechanisms of insurance, and threatens the educational process, leading to a less productive citizenry.  The Court reasons that costs of crime and national productivity reasoning, if accepted by the Court, will render any activity subject to regulation by Congress.


Rule of Law

The congressional power under the Commerce Clause, although there are no precise formulations, holds true to the principle of enumerated powers, meaning that what is enumerated presupposes something not enumerated.  Hence, there is no clear distinction to what is national and what is local.

Other Opinions

Kennedy, A, joined by OConnor, S., concurs, adding that regulation by Congress under the Commercial Clause must not intrude into state sovereignty, unless there is a stronger connection or identification with commercial concerns that are central to the Commercial Clause.

Thomas, C. concurs, but insists that there must be a standard in applying the substantial effects test that reflects the original wording of the Commerce Clause.

Stevens, J. dissents, adding that national interest justified federal regulation of possession of handguns
Breyer, S., dissents citing that Congress ... could rationally conclude that schools fall on the commercial side of the line.

Souter, D. dissents, adding a caveat that the distinction between commercial and non-commercial activity was not tenable.

Federal Courts Jurisdiction based on United States v. Lopez

There are two kinds of court systems in the United States state and federal.  Both have a hierarchical structure of jurisdiction.  Federal courts are courts of the federal, applying the federal law, with the power to test the constitutionality of state law, and adjudicate controversies arising between residents of two or more states (Adler, Mueller  Laufer, 2009).  Federal courts are often called the guardians of the Constitution because their rulings protect rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution (U.S. Courts, 2009). Generally, cases are filed for the first time in lesser courts, while decided cases are filed before the higher courts for review.  This jurisdiction held by lesser courts is known as original jurisdiction as opposed to the appellate jurisdiction that empowers the higher courts.  Taking the case of United States v. Lopez into consideration, the jurisdiction of federal courts of the United States are as follows

United States District Courts

District courts are trial courts in the federal and some state systems (Adler, Mueller  Laufer, 2009).  They have jurisdiction to hear nearly all categories of federal cases, including both civil and criminal matter (U.S, Courts, 2010).  Ninety-four federal district courts exist throughout the country, with the inclusion of Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Marianas, and Puerto Rico.  Each state is allotted one district court, except in populous states.

United States Circuit Courts of Appeal

Circuit courts of appeal are appellate courts of the federal system with the power to review judgments of federal district courts, also known as appellate jurisdiction (Adler, Mueller  Laufer, 2009).  There are thirteen such courts, with one in every eleven districts.  They also have nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals in specialized cases, such as those involving patent laws and cases decided by the Court of International Trade and the Court of Federal Claims (U.S. Courts, 2010).

United States Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court is a federal court that has the ultimate authority in interpreting the Constitution as it applies to federal and state law the final authority in federal law.  It represents the highest echelon of the third branch of government, the judiciary (Adler, Mueller  Laufer, 2009).  The members comprise the Chief Justice and eight associate justices, and appointments are made by the President of the United States, with the advice and consent of the Senate.  Each year, the Supreme Court hears a limited number of cases it is asked to decide.  Such cases may have originated in the federal or state courts, with important questions about the Constitution or federal law (U.S. Courts, 2010).  Cases elevated to the Supreme Court are usually in the form of writs, specifically the writ of certiorari.  Writs of certioraris are writs alleging grave abuse of discretion or in excess of authority on the part of the deciding court or tribunal.

Role of drug courts in reducing crime

Special courts like drug courts are given the task of handling cases involving offenders who are drug users. This is done through intensive legal supervision, case managing mandatory drug abuse treatment as well as drug testing. When the participants go through the program successfully, they can have their charges dropped, their sentencing reduced or set aside. These programs in the drug courts help the participants to rebuild their lives and become law-abiding citizens. There is also provision for graduated sanctions as well as gifts that are like rewards for improved cases. Participants in drug courts usually undergo long-term treatment, psychoanalysis as well as frequent sessions in court.
Success of the drug courts can only be achieved if there is maximum cooperation between the stakeholders, that is, the judges, court personnel and the people who provide treatment need to cooperate with one another in order to make sure that the program works. This was deemed necessary because the rate of crime was too much for one group to handle. From one jurisdiction to another, the drug courts usually vary. This is in terms of organization, the population they target and capacity.  At the same time they have similarities and primary goals, which include reducing the use of drugs by participants so as to reduce recidivism as well as enabling rehabilitation of drug users. There are ongoing analysis and research about how effective these drug courts are and there are indications that the special courts have a positive outcome and do manage to reduce recidivism.

The courts need to match the wants and needs of the participants and this is how the magnitude of their influence is measured. The drug courts function as an alternative to the criminal courts, something that makes its cost benefit analysis difficult. The importance of studying crime and criminal justice helps one understand how the existing crimes are altered and how to create new criminal offenses. It also helps one understand which factors pose emerging challenges, understand legal issues and also create unique research opportunities for criminal justice practitioners, scholars and policy makers.

Literature review
The US introduced special courts such as drug courts in response to the rise in the number of arrests needing special attention. According to (US Department of Justice 1997, pp 6) there was a phenomenal growth in the numbers of people incarcerated for drug offences and for that reason, formation of a court to take care of the cases was justified. The rise was specifically prominent in the period between 1984 and 1990, whose rise was estimated to be 11854 to 29306.

Florida was the first state to create a special court for drugs through the Dade Countys creation of a drug court, which was the first in the country. By the mid-1990s there were around 41 drug courts that were operational in the United States. By December 1995, there were around 82 drug courts. A number of reasons are advanced as forming basis for expecting drug courts to be more effective. According to (Blumstein, 1986), previous research has found strong links (both direct and indirect) between drug use and rates of repeat offences. In reducing drug consumption and crime, treatment has been shown to be effective. According to (Belenko, 1999), voluntary treatment programs showed lower rates of repeat offences compared to those in coerced treatment.

 The clear cut rules, intensive supervision and sanctions coupled with rewards that characterize drug courts appear to be the factors improving patient retention in the program.     The overall objective of the treatment program is to reduce the incidences of drug abuse, thereby, lowering the incidences their chances of them sliding back to crime. The practice of subjecting drug offenders to court-supervised treatment leads to lowering of drug abuse, and for that reason, it is safe to assume that the treatment they are subjected to leads to lower incidences of drug abuse and hence lower criminal activity levels. A number of reviews have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of drug court. One such review, and the most prominent of them, was conducted by (Belenko, 1999). From the review,  (Belenko, 1999) concluded that as long the drug offenders remained in the program, the drug courts would be effective.

For instance the study found the in Miami those who attended drug courts had lower levels of recidivism in comparison to those individuals who had not been handled by the drug courts. However, the study did not take into account the differences that existed between the two groups of individuals because some of those handled outside the drug courts did not have any drug related case that warranted the attention of the drug courts. Lower rates of recidivism among the participants whose offences were related to alcohol or drug abuse have been reported in some studies. But in these studies, there were considerations of the many and major differences of the participants for example the age, gender, number of offences. In addition to that it did have a follow up period.

Lack of Consistency and weaknesses in methodology are some of the characteristics that plaque drug court evaluations. Though there have been results showing that special courts like drug courts have advantages for example reducing the participants drug abuse, the time factor has not been addressed. The focus of this study would be if it costs the state more time to try all drug offenses in special courts rather than trying some of these cases in criminal courts. This is all the while putting aside the many benefits previously proven in other evaluations. The next factor to address would be are there enough drug courts to attend to this cases. If not, would it be wise to increase the number of drug courts or transfer some of these cases to the criminal courts.  In this study, it would be appropriate to have groups with the same characteristics and a follow-up period to ensure the results are accurate and consistent.

Social Structure Theory

Social learning theory is based on a theory of deviant criminal and conforming behavior. It looks into the causes of criminal behavior while social structure deals with the environment in which the behavior occurs. The purpose of this paper is to discuss social structure, socioeconomic structure in the United States, social organization, concentric zone theory, ecological theory, strain theory, anomies, and cultural deviance and how they contribute to the social structure theory.

Social Structure
Social structure is the manner in which the society is structured and is based on relationship that is predictable and people s interactions with each other. These interactions are largely independent of the individual, and shapes behavior, and identity of the individual from the force that it exerts. Based on the social structure and the need for interaction to exist in a society, it requires bargaining, compromising, redefinitions, and production of an evolving sense of order to match the existing reality.

This social structure is geared around negotiation, some situation more than others. It is also based on formal versus informal rules, such as guilty pleas, role making and tax laws. Culture is the backbone of social structure, with norms, languages, and values playing important roles. The social structure is also based on each individual s status, role and the groups of people and their interaction with each other based on shared expectations (Keel, 2010).

Socioeconomic Structure (US)
A stratified society like the United States (US) is classified as the prestige wealth and power being unequally distributed. The social classes in any society are population segments who share similar lifestyle, norms, attributes, and values. In many societies such as the United States (US) the population is divided into class structures upper, middle, and lower class citizens based on their economic levels in the society. The smallest segment is the upper class who when compared to the other two groups earns or creates significant wealth and social resources, with more than 50 percent of the total household income. The lowest class (poorest fifth) in the population represents approximately 20 percent of the population and earns 10000 or less annually, which is at least 3 percent of the total US income. On the other hand, the middle class (top fifth) approximately 20 percent of the population, earns in excess of 150,000 annually (Siegel, 2008, p. 162).

Wealth is not only concentrated in the US, because based on the World Wealth Report there are over 8 million individuals with high net worth in excess of 1 million, and a collective network of over 30.8 trillion and growing. The lower class on the other hand faces underemployment, inadequate housing, inability to afford proper healthcare services, and overall despair. The problems of the lower class are complicated with issues of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, obtained through illegal means, and although not unique to this class, is their case it is caused by poverty (Siegel, 2008, p.162).

Social Organization
Social organization of groups incorporates interaction, marriage and patterns of residency, kinship system, division of labor, a ranking strategy and the individuals with the knowledge and goods within the group. Archeologists study the social organization of a people or group by looking for areas where there is a concentration of artifacts, and a comparison of grave goods and other belongings. This leads to social stratification which is created based on ethnic groups. Urbanization of the social organization studies the traditional societal patterns to get a better understanding of today s society. This involves class structures, and the social relationships, the people, persons of caste, ceremonial occasions such as marriage, childbirth, initiation ceremonies, and funerals (Social Organization, n. d).

Concentric Zone Theory
The emergence of this theory was based on the studies conducted by Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess in the 1920 s on urban environments. Based on results of their studies they developed the theory of urban ecology in 1925 which stated that  cities were environments like those found in nature, governed by many of the same forces of Darwinian evolution that affected natural ecosystems  (Brown, 2001). The study revealed that competition between groups was the principal forces of Darwin evolution due to the struggle that occur for scarce urban resources such as land. This led to urban space being divided into distinct ecological niches or  natural areas and each niche is shared by people from the same social standing, and share similar ecological pressures (Brown, 2001).

The land was divided into zones with the more popular areas with higher rents. The less advantaged individuals and less prosperous businesses live and operate in the inner cities and spread outwards based on their economic standing, with the most prosperous living in the outer zones, in process parks and Burgess called succession. This model known as the concentric zone theory was based on a prediction that cities formation would take the shape of five concentric rings, with social and physical deterioration in city centers, and prosperous areas on the city s edge. Burgess and his students between 1923 and 1924 designed a Social Science Research Map of Chicago where the studies were conducted, which included physical, political, zoning, residential, commercial, and vacant lots within the city. From the Social Science Research Map several dozen of thematic maps were designed based on Chicago s social characteristics to identify zones and natural areas (Brown, 2001).

Ecological Theory
Ecological theory is otherwise called Positivist theory. This theory seeks to identify the reason for human behavior, both deviant and non-deviant, based on the social structure in the external environment. Based on this theory an individual can develop criminal behavior because of the physical environment in which they live or the social environment in which they interact. Ecological theory has some similarities to the Functionalist sub-cultural theories. These similarities include (1) emphasis on the cultural or sub-cultural group s development of their individual norms and values, physically and materially (2) structural in scope and developed from the Functionalist theory. An ecologist focuses on physical environment or the geographic location of the individual, whilst sub-cultural theorists focuses on the relationship between norms and values to the material things (Livesey, n. d).

Strain Theory
Durkheim theory has been very influential in the field of sociology and criminology and his beliefs that crime occurred as a result of social forces was considered extreme during his time. Strain theory evolved from Durkheim s theory of anomie, which was interpreted as  deregulation , while other control theorists also inspired by his work interpreted it as  normlessness  (Strain theories of crime, n. d).

Strain or structural strain is the process of inadequate regulation in the society which filters down to individuals and how they view their level of needs. On the other hand, strain or individual strain is the friction and pain individuals face as they devise ways to meet their needs.  Merton s strain theory evolved from  the means-end theory of deviance  which views economic success-based aspirations as culturally motivated, and the individual s possible achievements are distributed structurally. The strain theory assumes that a person s aspirations to be successful occurs across all social class, and that the incidence of crime are more likely to occur in lower class areas because the opportunities for achievement are lower than in middle and upper class areas. Merton (1968) states that  It is the combination of the cultural emphasis and the social structure which produces intense pressure for deviation  (Strain theories of crime, n. d). Merton believes that individuals in the lower class structure are more susceptible to the  strain  and their aspirations for economic success are likely to remain unachievable (Strain theories of crime, n. d).

Robert Merton in the 1940 s concluded that biology did not account for the variance in two different societies in terms of deviance.  Merton was concerned more about the deviance rate which varied significantly in different societies as well as sub-groups within the same society, rather than why individuals were deviant.  He believed in the functionalist perspective and the unifying function in culture (Robert Merton Anomie theory, n. d).

Merton adapted Durkheim concept in his analysis of circumstances when culture causes lack of unity and deviant behavior. Durkheim s use of anomie resulted from the rapid breakdown of cultural norms, such as the occurrence of a suicide due to depression. Merton altered the concept marginally which resulted in cultural norms not matching with life s successes (goals), and the use of the cultural norms to determine the best methods to achieve the goals (Robert Merton Anomie theory, n. d).

Anomie based on Merton s formula explains both the reason why deviant behavior is higher in the US society, in comparison to others, and also the occurrence of deviance in groups such as race, class, and ethnicity. Merton developed a series of adaptations (1) designated the individual s relationship in relation to norms and goals (2) categorized the relationship to norms to the way the goals would be achieved. He developed a mode of adaptation, which were (1) conformity  (2) innovation- (3) ritualism- (4) retreatism- - (5) rebellion xx. The symbols  represent acceptance, - represent rejection and x indicated the rejection of the values that prevailed and the replacement of those values (Robert Merton Anomie theory, n. d).

Cultural Deviance
Criminal or delinquent subcultures have been categorized by Kornhauser (1978) as  pure cultural deviance theories  or  mixed models  of delinquency ((Kalkhoff, 2002). Pure cultural deviance theories indicate that deviant behavior is normal in comparison to those who adhere to a delinquent subculture, because delinquency is the root cause of conflicting subcultures. This is caused by the socialization of the value system of the subcultures which condones wrong behavior as right. The models of theoretical delinquency are not considered pure due to combined assumptions of cultural deviance theory and analytical models of delinquency, such as control or strain theory ((Kalkhoff, 2002).

The connection between these theories focuses on the economic, socioeconomic, physical locations where individuals live and who they interact with socially. These theories such as cultural deviance look at criminal and delinquent subcultures and the root of this problem, and also anomie theory which looked at the deviant rate in different societies and within the same sub-culture. The studies conducted by these theorists were designed to allow people to develop a better understanding of the factors that result in certain behavior.

Al Qaeda and Energy Security

Even though Tony Blair and George Bush did their best to legitimize the invasion of Iraq, one message that was clearly spelt out is the West has an insatiable appetite for oil and theyll go to all lengths to satisfy it. America is currently trying to reduce its dependence on Middle East oil but achieving this feat might take decades. The Arab oil embargo imposed on the US in 1973 exposed their Achilles heel and the current foreign policy in the Middle East is indicative of the lengths to which the US will go to protect its oil interests. Looking at Saudi Arabia, the country practically feeds the US economy yet the Bush and Obama governments have continued to ignore the role of the Saudis in the September 11th  terrorist attacks. Its common knowledge that some of the terrorist were trained in Saudi Arabia and a couple of rich families in this nation continue to fund terrorist activities. Adding to this, the West has always spoken harshly about countries which impose Sharia law but little is said about Saudi Arabia (White, 2009, p 18). The main reason is the Saudi Royal Family has continued to play its position in supporting every American Administration since the days of Ronald Regan to the current administration.

US Interests
Looking at the other side of coin, Afghanistan was about to be flattened by the US military after the 911 attacks but another distraction emerged Iraq. The reasons surrounding the invasion of Afghanistan was to neutralize the threat of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Before the 911 attacks, Saddam Hussein wasnt even in Americas radar when weighing their existential threats. After 911 Iraq was portrayed as a hotbed of terrorism and Al Qaeda had already gained foothold. This seems highly unlikely if one considers the cultural history of the Arab world. Iraq predominantly practices the Sunni brand of Islam, which is also quite predominant in Saudi Arabia. Its neighbor Iran practices the more radical Shiite brand of Islam. Some of the most radical Islamic terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Al Qaeda can all trace their routes to Shiite Islam (Marsella, 2003, p 15). Therefore, it would have made a lot more sense to invade Iran to neutralize Al Qaeda since the country has been known to openly support Hezbollah in Lebanon. But what did the US do They invaded Iraq.

There are a number of legitimate reasons as to why they dethroned Saddam but the reality is Iraq was sitting on the largest crude oil reserves outside Saudi Arabia and Saddam Hussein wasnt playing along like the Saudi Royal Family. Once the sectarian violence subsided and the threat of Al-Qaeda eliminated, the Iraqi oil fields were auctioned off to Western oil companies. It seems the objective of invading Iraq was achieved.

Just recently, Yemen has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The Yemeni army was involved in serious clashes with rural tribes and the reasons were never clearly stated. However, this new conflict has taken the shape of the new war on terror. According to international news sources, radical Islamic elements have been crossing the border in their thousands. Some of these fighters were linked to Al-Qaeda and their reasons for fighting the Yemeni governmentarmy arent quite clear. Unofficial sources claim that the conflict in Yemen is sectarian related and it was simple a case of turf wars amongst the rural tribes. The entry of the Yemeni army into the conflict only exacerbated the situation because most of these rural regions are neglected by the government sending an army to quell a situation that may have been sparked by government inactions in the past isnt the best choice. The question that needs to be asked is how does Al-Qaeda fit into the Yemeni conflict

Yemen is not a major oil producer like Saudi Arabia and Iraq but oil accounts for 90 of its exports. Their major advantage is they are a non-OPEC member and whichever oil deals the country will sign with the US wont be affected by the politics of OPEC (fluctuating prices) or even the political turmoil of the wider Middle East. Gaining a foothold in this nondescript nation will be a tall order for the US but, its an achievable feat of the so called Al-Qaeda extremism continues to flourish. Should this happen, the US can always use its military, under the guise of fighting terrorism, to topple the regime or install a government which will preserve US oil interests.

 This theory might seem far-fetched but its more than a coincidence that almost all oil producing nations are grappling with some form of political upheavals. From Nigeria to Venezuela, and even Sudan to Guinea Bissau, all these nations are hardly stable democracies and the elected governments all have a tendency to engage in corrupt activities (Forest, 2006, p 45). It can be hypothesized that the US tolerates the installation and maintenance of these unstable governments and in the near future, they will justify their involvement by basing their facts on the existence of terrorist elements within these countries. Convincing the general public that Al-Qaeda or other radical elements exist in a stable country like Norway (major oil and gas producer) is next to impossible. However, calling Hugo Chavez a firebrand or linking Ahmedinajad to terrorist activities is a much easier affair.

Al Qaeda and the U.S.

Michael Chossudovsky insists Al Qaeda is a U.S. backed intelligence asset that had no involvement in the 911 terrorist attack in America and whose existence was in fact used by the Bush administration to launch and justify the military offense against Afghanistan and Iraq (Garduce, 2006). In my opinion, Al Qaeda staged the 911 attacks as retaliation for the perceived atrocities committed by the West against Muslims. To start with, Al Qaeda is a radical terrorist group that emphasizes religious ideologies that sees America as the enemy. The organization was influenced by various jihadist movements fueled by political, ethnic and Islamic conflicts across Central Asia. It is well-funded, vicious and highly trained in combat since its leader, Osama bin Laden along with other core members were seasoned war veterans (White, 2009). I also believe that the U.S.-Pakistani relations during the Russian-Afghanistan war gave rise to Al Qaeda. Although U.S. money funded these paramilitary groups, it was Pakistan that cradled Al Qaeda for its own agenda of securing certain areas of Afghanistan. To rectify this, Obamas new war strategy stipulates that Pakistan must fully commit to fight Al Qaeda and extremists in exchange for U.S. aid (Obama, 2009).

Other details such as the veracity of the 911 official report that based its account of events on mobile phone calls made by passengers onboard hijacked planes should also be given a second look, as some groups believe that such calls were not possible on high altitudes. Moreover, it is also interesting to note Chossudovskys assertion that these military campaigns were launched on areas rich in oil and gas reserves. In closing, I do think that U.S presence in these regions will assure America its supply of resources in the long run. And with the high cost of running wars, influential defense contractors are surely bound to make large profits at the expense of innocents and displaced civilians. And so the cycle of hate and terrorism repeats itself.