Classism in Criminal Justice
Justice is a word that many of us hear every single day and accept although a lot of us possess skepticism in regards to what it really means. Generally speaking, justice is the concept of righteousness and equality. When it comes to society’s thoughts about how “just” the criminal justice system is, we usually include the “ism’s”: sexism, classism, and racism, to illustrate a number of the stumbling blocks that this program possesses (Brewer & Heitzeg, 2008). Although it is evident that most of these societal distinctions play a significant role within the criminal justice process, my goal is to give attention to classism.
Classism would be the discrimination towards a group or individual based upon social and economic standing (Webster, 2008). Classism is certainly one of those “ism’s” that occurs a lot more than all of us realize and quite often, we might mistake it with things like racism or sexism.
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Classism, from my opinion, takes on a greater role within the criminal justice system rather than the other types of discriminatory practices. Specifically, class mainly comes into play throughout the sentencing process.
Numerous authors believe elements beyond class play a far more crucial part, however I think that there must be far more focus paid to the role that class plays within the targeting and the sentencing procedure within the criminal justice system. So that you can be aware of the part that class plays within the sentencing process, we have to, first, consider the role that it plays prior to when the criminal gets to the day of sentencing. There is a variety of periodicals that speak on profiling and actuarial techniques which get individuals into the system.
Although these are generally two huge proponents of the discriminatory acts which exist within the bounds of the criminal justice system, it does not start with these institutionalized techniques (Brewer & Heitzeg, 2008). The initial examples regarding discrimination, leading to all of the other types inside the system, are often the laws and crime management policies which are integrated that, in most cases, are placed in favor of the wealthy and in opposition to the poor (Brewer & Heitzeg, 2008). In Marxist criminology, one of many essential concepts would be that the “ruling class” places every one of the other classes at a disadvantage.
This is often accomplished by means of labeling specific acts as deviant and, in laymen’s term, these types of deviant acts come to be referred to as “crimes” (Barak, G. P. 2007). Clearly, the individuals that happen to be labeling these kinds of alleged deviant acts are not likely to mandate them in opposition of their pursuits, so they are created in a manner that provides the individuals with high class as well as power certain flexibility, whereas the individuals whose interests are not taken into consideration are placed at an unjust disadvantage.
Authors of Class, Race & Gender Crime, Barak, Leighton and Flavin stated “The rich and powerful use their influence to keep acts from becoming crimes, even though these acts may be more socially injurious than those labeled criminal” (Barak, Leighton and Flavin 2007, 124). These types of deviant acts are generally managed by laws and regulations that happen to be integrated to enhance the interest of the state, which happens to be run by way of the upper-class. Again and again we come across instances of this particular disadvantage in play.
This is often displayed by means of favoritism displayed towards individuals of the upper class by giving them a slap on the wrist for criminal offenses that would be regarded as significant whenever committed by way of a person in the lower class. One more type of this favoritism might be profiling the lower class for particular criminal offenses that the elite might be carrying out for the reason that in the event the lower class commits these types of crimes, they are simply “more threatening”.
Barak, Leighton and Flavin provide a variety of demonstrations of the approach that laws and regulations are just enforced onto specific groups. One display which they presented was the insufficient focus paid to white collar criminal offenses in an attempt to crack down on street crime. The authors explained “… the Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II administrations have all regularly worked to get authorities ‘off the backs’ of businesses while they cranked up their war on the crimes of the poor.
For instance, while President Reagan’s ‘tough on crime’ laws broadened the employment of mandatory and minimum sentences together with federal use of the death penalty, his administration eradicated numerous federal regulators as well as inspectors who served as law enforcement officials within the corporate and business community” (Barak, Leighton, Flavin 2007, 183). This is the ideal portrayal involving what Bernard Harcourt calls the “ratchet effect”.
The ratchet effect would be the effect that focusing on a particular populace to lessen criminal offenses has on crime itself (Harcourt, B. , 2007). Each time a class is aimed for; their tendency to commit crime falls off, while the crime rate within the non-targeted class increases (Harcourt, B. , 2007). While this carries on, consideration is not really given to the group with the larger crime rate since the authorities tend to be too dedicated to getting the crime rate down within the specific group.
When it comes to white collar crime, it is far from farfetched to think that, along with the previously mentioned statement, the elite simply just “chose” not to concentrate on the criminal activity within the upper class provided that they are taking advantage of the criminal activity among the lower class. Under Marxist criminology, in response to the oppression and drawbacks unfairly bequeathed upon them, the lower-class participates in what Marxists name “working class crime” (Macionis 2005, Pg. 38). This sort of crime is the result of a feeling of anomie, which is actually a perception or normlessness within society (Macionis 2005, Pg.
38). This anomie brings about Merton’s Strain Theory which is deviance which is divided into several various types: Innovation, Conformity, Ritualism, Rebellion and Retreatism (Macionis 2005, Pg. 38). Despite the fact that individuals voluntarily take part in these types of crimes, it is because of the cons that they have put on all of them as a result of classism. Combined with the predisposition to commit crime and the ratchet effect, “The greater public attention to street crime means that it is the poor who are most likely to be arrested, go to trial, and face a prison sentence.” (Macionis 2005, Pg. 38). Several writers take issue with the theory that classism leads to crime.
As an example, author of The Dangerous Class, Eric H. Monkkonen found that even though the majority of crime which is accounted for is committed by lower-class residents, crime and poverty are not directly related. In his research of crime and poverty in Columbus, Ohio from 1860-1865, he identified that rural-dwelling crooks possessed a greater socioeconomic reputation in addition to a greater predisposition to commit crime (Monkkonen, Eric H. 1975).
Alternatively, urban-dwelling crooks committed significantly less crime. Although this research is now over a century old, we realize that classism has been around since the start of man and what I came across especially fascinating concerning this book was the simple fact that the research had been carried out in the period that Karl Marx was still living (Monkkonen, Eric H. 1975). One of the significant reasons that class is frequently ignored within the role it plays in the criminal justice system is due to the various othervariables for example ethnic background and gender (Holley, 2006). In my opinion, although these might be the greatest aspect in some instances, in many instances it is not. There are numerous publications on studies of discrimination on the part of law enforcement and in many instances this is due to ethnic background (Holley, 2006). In David Cole’s No Equal Justice, you will find accounts from past law enforcement officers which confessed that an element of their training for specific tasks at work ended up being based on profiling blacks as well as Mexicans (Cole, 1999).
This was influenced by the reality that the information gathered from stops which resulted in arrests, mainly blacks and Mexicans suit the description associated with bad guys. Nevertheless, handfuls of this racial profiling resulted in things such as law suits and cases getting trashed because of the reasons for stopping the individual were not determined by probable cause, but on genuine profiling (Cole, 1999). This particular concept of racial profiling ties into my thesis in the sense that it overlooks the function that class takes on for the circumstance.
When we take a genuine look at society, the majority of the blacks and Mexicans which commit the crimes that can lead to the statistics are not only minorities, but they are at the same time individuals of a lower socioeconomic position. These figures collected on these lower class residents are the groundwork of actuarial methods. These actuarial methods, consequently, result in profiling. The police might not be racially profiling, though some may, but they are profiling and targeting by means of class.
For instance, if anyone drives around a community gradually in a pummeled vehicle that, nine times out of ten, has a problem with it which is against the law, maybe a busted taillight, that individual will likely be stopped regardless of their particular ethnic background. Although this point might be a little bit on the slippery side, if, from your expertise, you might have come to recognize that young adults who recently obtained their own drivers license are apt to have a habit for careless driving, you are going to make use of that information as soon as your seventeen year old cousin asks to use your vehicle for the weekend.
This functions the same way as profiling from police. If information and experience demonstrates that lower class citizens commit the greater part of the crimes, they take that into account (Cole, 1999). On the opposite side of my “reasonable profiling” debate, stands Bernard E. Harcourt and his Against Prediction: Punishing and Policing In An Actuarial Age piece (Harcourt, 2007). Harcourt comprehends the reason why law enforcement officials profile.
He is familiar with the idea that law enforcement officials rely on data information to help them get the job done, however he believes that this information is utilized in an excessive amount (Harcourt, 2007). Within the article, he talks about the ratchet effect, as previously mentioned (Harcourt, 2007). Whenever law enforcement make use of this information to target men and women associated with a particular group, it places the specific group within the limelight while the remaining portion of the groups are able to carry out whatever they desire in the dark provided that they do not get ensnared, which in turn seldom occurs.
Within Harcourt’s article he mentions the actuarial methods resulting in racial profiling, yet he overlooks a large element (Harcourt, 2007). Whenever a group is focused on, that group is usually not focused on as a result of race, but more specifically the neighborhood. To illustrate, if there happen to be accounts of break-ins within a racially diversified lower-class community and then the law enforcement officials make a decision to place their focus on that problem, regardless of what individual it is, should they suit the description they are going to end up being questioned.
Not only are they likely to stop blacks when they do not have a precise description of the assailants because they will stop any individual that may match the description. Harcourt, I believe, was examining an element of the sum when he really should have been examining the sum of the elements, which happens to be class. In accordance with Erica Hashimoto, author of Class Matters, we do not have sufficient information which spearheads the matter of class specifically (Hashimoto, E. 2011).
As outlined by Hashimoto, “…Policymakers either have ignored issues related to economic class, instead focusing on issues like drug addiction and mental illness as to which there are more data, or have developed fragmented policies that touch on economic status issues only tangentially” (Hashimoto 2011,Pg. 31). Actuarial strategies, as Harcourt explains, are in desire for radical enhancement in order to take notice of the sociological aspect of class that has on policing (Harcourt, 2007). The continued use of these techniques, if carried on, are likely to frequently keep lower-class residents twisted up in the criminal justice process.
After actuarial methods have been applied, the lower-class resident has been booked and processed and when the judicial procedure has started, it, then, brings us to sentencing (Collica & Furst, 2012). As if class failed to play a big enough part in getting the person into the system to begin with, it has a much bigger part with regards to sentencing. Sentencing would be the most significant section of the judicial process for the offender due to the fact their fate is up to the discretion of a judge who possesses a greater social as well as economic reputation (Collica & Furst, 2012).
The key reason why that this is probably not in the defendant’s favor is a result of the truth that the majority of people that the judge encounters are from the exact same group as the offender, and since the legal courts in the present day tend to be more streamlined, the judge is not going to want to glance at the particular details of the situation, particularly when the accused does not have legal counsel.
To begin with, there will be points made concerning the brazenly unjust comparisons involving street crime sentences and white collar crime sentences. Returning to Marxist criminology, being that the elite create, control and facilitate the criminal justice system, this does not come to people as a shock that sentencing usually plays in the benefit of the men and women, or businesses, belonging to the upper class.
The cliche illustration of classism within the criminal justice system is the subject of powder as opposed to crack cocaine and the mandatory minimums that accompany it (Collica & Furst, 2012). The mandatory minimum with regard to powdered cocaine is actually five years for five hundred grams, whereas for crack cocaine it happens to be five years for five grams (Collica & Furst, 2012). Cocaine in the powdered variety is pricier as compared to crack cocaine, therefore usually only individuals with heavy wallets are able to afford the habit (Collica & Furst, 2012) .
The mandatory minimum laws and regulations pertaining to cocaine possession appears to be, in my and plenty of others’ viewpoint, mandated to be able to incarcerate far more lower class citizens, where upper class citizens possess a significantly greater possibility of getting “off the hook” because of their capability to pay for treatment, which will keep these individuals away from prison.
Creators of Class, Race, Gender and Crime, Barak, Leighton and Flavin, elaborate on this problem in fantastic depth. Not only does the criminal justice supply exorbitant advantages to the upper class, the system in addition allows these individuals get away with homicide, literally. Barak, Leighton and Flavin states: “If the point of the criminal law is to safeguard people’s health and well-being, then why is there no crime committed in the 2005 fatalities involving a dozen miners in West Virginia?…
During the two years prior to the explosion, the mine had been cited 273 times for safety infractions, a third of which had been categorized as “significant and substantial” and 16 infractions logged during the past eight months were detailed as ‘unwarrantable failures,’… This situation appears to fit within the criminal law categories of knowing, careless or negligent, but the majority of issues such as this remain within the realm of administrative sanctions and civil law” (Barak, Leighton, and Flavin 2007, Pg. 125). You will find a large number of accidents and fatalities that take place annually as a result of carelessness and willful safety infractions; however they for some reason get swept underneath the rug. Meanwhile, in lower socioeconomic America, the state is applying a diehard effort to be able to crack down on street crimes by means of things such as increasing mandatory minimums, three-strike laws and regulations and far harsher sentencing (Barak, Leighton, and Flavin 2007).
This system distorts our understanding regarding crime in the United States which in turn causes residents to think that the only criminal offenses which are really worth being concerned about are the ones that we come across and read about every single day, when in actuality, there is a great deal more taking place behind our backs which is resulting in greater damage than an armed robbery. This system is purporting the idea that Mass Murder is ok… if you are rich. C.
Wright Mills suggests in The Power Elite, These spheres of power are highly interrelated, with individuals of each and every group originating from comparable upper-class social backdrops, attending a similar private and Ivy League universities and colleges, quite possibly belonging to the very same social or political organizations (Mills 1956). In combination with their common “ruling class interest,” corporate and business elites additionally make significant political contributions to both Republicans and Democrats to guarantee their entry to the law-making procedure (Mills 1956).
This statement supports the point that the upper class possesses “draw” on the subject of becoming charged with criminal actions, as opposed to lower class individuals who just need to relax and accept what is coming to all of them. In the book The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, Jeffrey Reiman discusses the point that the criminal justice system does not safeguard people from harm done by the powerful for the reason that theoretically they are usually not criminal offenses by conventional characterization (Reiman, 2004).
This facilitates the view that crime is socially designed by way of the elite in a manner that they could get away with the harms these people commit while the lower class have to deal with the outcomes with regard to “crimes” that they commit, despite the fact that these people cause a lot less societal wreckage (Reiman, 2004). We get charged for the criminal activity that elite commit. Furthermore, crimes which are perpetrated by the upper class is far more extensive and leads to considerably more wreckage as compared to street crime due to the fact one crime perpetrated by a insider of the elite could possibly impact countless numbers.
Reiman makes use of the concept of a “Carnival Mirror” to explain how criminal legislation brands particular acts as incredibly harmful and that we have to produce laws and regulations to shield ourselves against them (Reiman, 2004, Pg. 57). This, obviously, is the case with street crime exclusively. We do not possess this concept with regards to crimes perpetrated by way of the elite for the reason that the greater part of these criminal acts get swept under the rug, therefore never bringing in any kind of awareness and, consequently, individuals do not desire to further improve the laws and regulations against the elite.
Reiman discusses the way in which the majority of upper class crooks never get to the sentencing procedure considering that the law enforcement officials basically let them go (Reiman, 2004). He says, “The simple fact is that for the same offense, a poor person is more likely to be arrested and, if arrested charged, than a middle or upper class person. ” (Reiman, 2004, Pg. 110. ) This may lead to, as stated previously, targeting of the lower class. Reiman also highlights that a lower class citizen is more likely to be charged as compared to an upper class citizen for a similar crime (Reiman, 2004).
It is typical these days to hear about a well-known personality getting tossed in jail and being out in just several hours, for example the situation with Lindsay Lohan. After breaking her probation for a driving under the influence and felony possession of cocaine, the judge sentenced her to carry out 1 month in jail. She was released inside six hours. At this point, if this would have been a lower class resident with no cash and status, they would have served their 1 month without a shadow of a doubt, and that is should they have been fortunate to get a judge that might be lax enough to supply them 1 month.
There are many unjust drawbacks that happen to be pushed on the people of the lower class which come with their absence of political power. People of the lower class routinely have to be represented by a public or court designated legal professional that is overworked and does not possess the time and energy to concentrate on their case (Collica & Furst, 2012). In many instances, the court designated legal professional may not have the ability to identify their own client at the following court date through the judicial period (Collica & Furst, 2012).
With regards to the judicial process for white collar criminals, they already have funds to get themselves through the procedure in the way by which they desire. They also have possibilities to place a couple of phone calls and “pull a few strings” to get the judge on their side (Collica & Furst, 2012). Furthermore, they possess their very own legal representatives that happen to be committed to making certain their own client will get as little consequence as you possibly can, which often happens to be a fine (Collica & Furst, 2012).
These kinds of fines normally do not diminish their wallet, simply because they already possessed that cash set to the side within a “in the event” account before the case (Collica & Furst, 2012). Some other benefits that the upper class possesses over lower class crooks would be the facts there presently exists zero three strike laws and regulations or even death penalty with regard to white collar crooks (Collica & Furst, 2012). Judges are generally far more lax with upper class criminals in the sense that their penalties generally consist of suspension or simply fines.
In addition, white collar criminals are more inclined to wind up on probation or required to perform community service and with the fines that they must fork out, the total is usually lower than the actual damage induced (Collica & Furst, 2012) . When it comes to sentencing variations among lower class criminals and upper class criminals, you will find two very different quotes. With regard to lower class criminals, it is “You do the crime, you do the time”, however for upper class criminals, it’s a lot more like “You do the crime, you pay the fine.
However, there are several situations where the criminal justice system makes a good example out of individuals and “hits them with the book”. I thought this was the situation with Bernard “Bernie” Madoff. After managing a Ponzi scheme, Bernie confessed to 11 federal felony violations associated with fraudulence, perjury and also other white collar violations (Clark & McGrath, 2008). He was sentenced to a maximum of one hundred and fifty years (Clark & McGrath, 2008).
Despite the fact that many men and women might have seen this as a triumph for the criminal justice system in the combat with white collar crime, we have to understand that he is one of the numerous upper class individuals which may be triggering grand scale societal wreckage. In an effort to avoid more Bernie Madoffs from benefiting from our system by means of their status, we need to understand the importance that class has within the criminal justice system.
Without the presence of correct recognition and penalties for white collar crime, it is going to continue to carry on right up until everyone is either out of cash from getting scammed out of enormous amounts or dead from negligent corporations. The main reason why white collar crimes and other crimes perpetrated by way of the elite can often be downplayed with virtually no repercussion happens because all of us, as the general public, usually do not view it as being a significant problem (Cole, D. , 1999).
Within a write-up by Lapeer Piquero titled Assessing the Perceived Seriousness of White-Collar and Street Crimes, the study carried out demonstrates that we do not evaluate white collar crimes as severe criminal acts (Cole, D. , 1999). The majority of people failed to feel as though white collar crimes were a specific problem which would have to be resolved and really should not be a concern for our criminal justice system (Cole, D. , 1999). The research furthermore made notice showing how prosecutors felt concerning white collar crime. Astonishingly, they did not look at white collar crimes as severe either.
It is really an evident need for considerably more attention to be paid to these kinds of criminal offenses, because if individuals who are expected to be prosecuting these types of scammers do not believe the infractions which are perpetrated are severe, exactly how is justice accomplished (Cole, D. , 1999)? In the very same study by Piquero, it was said that individuals see street crime as much more of a problem (Cole, D. , 1999). This is certainly easy to understand because it happens to be far more violent in dynamics and it is usually not perpetrated where there is not a particular target. What a large amount of individuals are not able to understand is the fact that there is more than one kind of white collar crime. Perhaps it will appear in the form of fraud, where someone’s hard earned cash has been siphoned. It might also come in the form of hazardous work conditions, where employees get hurt or ill as a result of inadequate maintenance of the work environment. Or perhaps, the most detrimental situation, it may come in the form of mass fatalities because of the carelessness of a company. In this case, someone must be at fault.
Just like many of us believe that if someone murders an individual they need to either go to prison for a lifetime or receive the death penalty, according to your personal preferences, we have to have a similar belief regarding white collar crooks. A life lost is a life lost, regardless of the reasoning behind it may be and if that life is lost as a result of someone’s intent to carry out harm or complete disregard to correct a problem which has a possibility to do harm, the end result is the exact same ultimately and an individual needs to answer for that.
In summary, with regards to criminal offenses committed by the upper class, it needs to be looked at within the exact same light that street crime is looked at. It is not important if an individual is a white collar criminal or a street criminal, the key term continues to be “criminal” and the “criminal” justice system should do what is needed to be able to make certain that crime is reduced wherever possible, regardless of what political interests are at play.
There are numerous aspects by which one may glance at the role that class plays within the criminal justice system, however I feel as though the disadvantage that it leaves the lower class at as well as the injustice that happens during the arresting and sentencing process is illogical and unjust. In relation to racism, sexism and classism, class takes on the greatest role. Class forms the individuals you come across, the school you go to and regrettably if you are or are not likely to serve time in jail (Hashimoto, 2011).
Although I am not an endorse of actuarial techniques, I do concur with Erica Hashimoto in the feeling that there must be information gathered on class alone rather than integrating it with yet another attribute such as ethnic background or mental illness (Hashimoto, 2011). It would be fascinating to see if, after the information is gathered, we discover the quantity of crime being committed by the upper class. The system must focus on a method to place the upper class in the limelight and make sure they know what it feels like to become a focused group to be able to find out if that technique decreases the quantity of crime committed by the elite. There are various agencies that are meant to police and control the upper class for example the FBI, Inspectors General, US Postal Inspector, Secret Service, Customs, US Marshall Service and also the IRS, however everyone knows that corruption happens in just about all areas and it is not difficult to entice an IRS employee to keep his or her mouth closed with regards to unlawful activities with a few million dollars (Hashimoto, 2011).
Therefore, until we have an official force that is prepared to actually take a stand against upper class crime and classism within the criminal justice system, it is going to always flourish and the “Rich get richer, poor get prison” routine is going to carry on. References Barak, G. P. (2007). Class, race & gender. Lanham, maryland: Rowman and littlesfield. Brewer, R. M. , & Heitzeg, N. A. (2008). The Racialization of Crime and Punishment: Criminal Justice, Color-Blind Racism, and the Political Economy of the Prison Industrial Complex.