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Friday, November 1, 2013

Here is something different

Dr. Gary Potter offers us an explanation of why criminal justice is the way it is, in his new work, "The Criminal Justice System in Late Modernity."

This piece is published in the media, and specifically in Solidarité: Journal of the Radical Left.

First, this serves as a reminder that there are alternative sources of media out there.

Second, the article might help you understand the role that especially neoconservative ideology has played in forming and maintaining our current criminal justice "system" (as well as the actuarialism in which we live). Actuarialism focuses on risk and asserts we live in a "hostile world of criminal actors and evil doers ... [that are] ... all around us. The risk of crime and its attendant harms to individuals and social institutions is pervasive and omnipresent. Crime has become a social fact, a normal part of everyday life. Criminals roam the streets and rule the ghettoes. But they also occupy political offices, corporate suites and the agencies of the criminal justice system itself. Every stranger is a potential predator. Nannies, teachers, daycare workers, those charged with the duties of caring for the elderly, family members, youth group leaders, hitchhikers and vagrants all pose threats to our safety."

Perhaps this is a pessimistic assessment of our society. You decide for yourself.

But I am impressed with Potter's recognition of the hypocrisy in our society when it comes to crime control policy. For example: "The law itself becomes confusing because the rules change so often. In actuarial justice we have different rules for different people, as evidenced by laws related to crack and cocaine hydrochloride, or the laws requiring the registration of sex offenders for behaviors engaged in by the majority of the population.  The rules change. Gambling is illegal and then legal. Loansharking is a crime, but not when it is engaged in by a check cashing agency. Drugs are illegal but dangerous drugs are prescribed by doctors and required for unruly children in schools. Concepts of right and wrong play no role in actuarial justice."

Why does this happen?

It is determined by who makes the law, who pays for it, and who votes for it. And who are those people exactly? Well, they look like this:

If there is any weakness in Potter's argument, it is that he does not explicitly acknowledge that all of this actuaralism serves the interests of people who make the law, pay for it, and vote for it: White, older, rich men (WORMs).

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