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Criminal Selectivity in the United States: A History Plagued by Class & Race Bias

Published onMay 12, 2017
Criminal Selectivity in the United States: A History Plagued by Class & Race Bias
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Criminal Selectivity in the United States: A History Plagued by Class & Race Bias
Description

The United States is at a pivotal moment in terms of rethinking class and racial inequality within the criminal justice system. However, there is a lack of shared conceptual tools to frame this debate. First, there is no clear or comprehensive theoretical tool to describe, categorize, or analyze class and racial inequality throughout the criminal justice process. Current tools focus, separately, on the enactment of laws, on the performance of police officers, on the actions of judges, juries, and prosecutors, or on the administration of punishment. Second, scholars use different language to describe how inequality operates in each of the mentioned stages within the criminal justice process. Third, there is a lack of conceptual precision about the mechanisms through which inequality operates. These three problematic aspects of the conceptual framing result in ambiguity at the moment of discussing consistent crime policy. This study helps overcome this gap and offer conceptual tools that can serve as analytical categories to precisely describe and analyze inequality within the criminal justice system. This article also puts the suggested categories in practice to analyze the functioning of the criminal justice system in the United States since the 1970s. Overall, this article proposes that only a comprehensive, interdisciplinary and inter-sectorial approach to define and analyze crime control will help overcome the current situation of conceptual ambiguity, opening the path for thorough and lasting crime policies.

 

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