Power, Politics, and Crime

Power, Politics, and Crime

Power, Politics, and Crime

Power, Politics, and Crime


Is crime in America really as bad as the public believes? Through ethnographic observations, analysis of census data, and historical research, this book argues that the panic has been manufactured by the media & the private-prison industry.


Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

--T. S. Eliot

The idea that underpins American criminal law is as noble as any ever conceived. A group of citizens are elected by their peers to enact legislation. Impartial judges uninfluenced by political considerations interpret the statutes in the light of a Constitution that guarantees every person freedom from tyranny. Police tied closely to the community work with the people to see that life is safe and peaceful for all its members.

The reality of law could not be more distant from this ideal. Legislators pass laws that most people do not know about and if they did would not understand. Judges are political appointees whose careers depend on making decisions that are compatible with the ideological prejudices of the elected officials who control their appointments. Police and prosecutors work in a bureaucracy that more often than not pits them against the people they are supposed to protect.

Police, prison guards, and people who work in what the Norwegian criminologist Nils Christie calls "the crime control industry" champion legislation to spend more tax money to ensure their employment.

The result of this process is that Americans are being scared to death about crime. In a circle with no end, we are fed distorted and misleading information and then told that the only solution to the problem (which has been manufactured by government officials in the first place) is to spend more money on policies that contribute to the problem.

We are becoming a country obsessed with an imaginary plague, spending scarce resources on failed remedies while refusing to recognize both the reality of the problem and the social policies that . . .

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