Kristopher S. Bolds
Classism and Criminal Justice
Justice is a term that we hear every day and accept although many of us have skepticism as to what it truly means. In general, justice is the idea of righteousness and equality. In regards to society’s views on how “just” the criminal justice system is, we always incorporate the “ism’s”: Racism, sexism and classism, to demonstrate some of the pitfalls that the system has. Though it is obvious that all of these societal differences play a large role in the criminal justice process, I will focus on classism. Classism is the discrimination against a group or individual based on social and economic status. Classism is one of those “ism’s” ...view middle of the document...
Obviously, the people that are labeling these so-called deviant acts are not going to mandate them in opposition of their interests, so they are made in a way that gives the people with high class and power some leeway, whereas the people whose interests are not taken into account are put at an unfair 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 deviant acts are controlled by laws which are implemented to promote the interest of the state, which is run by the upper-class. Time and time again we see examples of this disadvantage in play. This can be represented through favoritism shown towards members of the upper class by giving them a slap on the wrist for crimes that would be looked at as serious if committed by a member of the lower class. Another form of this favoritism is profiling the lower class for specific crimes that they elite may be committing because when the lower class commits these crimes, they are “more dangerous”. Barak, Leighton and Flavin give a number of demonstrations of the way that laws are only enforced onto certain groups. One demonstration that they provided was the lack of attention paid to white collar crime in an effort to crack down on street crime. The authors stated
“… the Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II administrations have all consistently worked to get government ‘off the backs’ of corporations as they ratcheted up their war on the crimes of the poor. For example, while President Reagan’s ‘tough on crime’ legislation expanded the use of mandatory and minimum sentences along with federal use of the death penalty, his administration eliminated many federal regulators and inspectors who acted as police in the corporate neighborhood.” (Barak, Leighton, Flavin 2007, 183)
This is a perfect representation of what Bernard Harcourt calls the “ratchet effect”. The ratchet effect is the effect that targeting a specific population to reduce crime has on crime itself. When a group is targeted, their propensity to commit crime goes down, while the crime rate in the non-targeted group goes up. While this persists, special attention is not paid to the group with the higher crime rate because the officials are too focused on keeping the crime rate down in the targeted group. In the case of white collar crime, it is not farfetched to believe that, in addition to the aforementioned statement, the elite just simply “chose” to not focus on the crimes of the upper class as long as they are capitalizing on the crimes of the lower class.
Under Marxist criminology, in response to the oppression and disadvantages unfairly bestowed upon them, the lower-class participates in what Marxists call “working class crime”. This type of crime is caused by a sense of anomie, which is a...