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Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Crime, and Criminal Justice

NCJ Number
J Reiman
Date Published
237 pages
This analysis of crime, offender characteristics, and criminal justice policies concludes that offense definitions and sentencing policies not only fail to reduce crime but have created the mistaken image that crime is primarily a threat from the poor and have unintentionally served the interests of the rich and the powerful.
The analysis focuses on the risks and costs of both criminal and noncriminal harms, including street crimes, drug law offenses, white-collar crimes, and occupational and environmental hazards. It notes that the criminal justice system is more lenient toward white-collar offenders than nonviolent property offenders and that affluent offenders are less likely to serve prison sentences than poor offenders even when they have committed the same offense. The text argues that society fails to protect people from the crimes they fear by refusing to alleviate the poverty that generates them. In addition, the criminal justice system fails to protect people from the most serious dangers by failing to define the dangerous acts of those who are affluent as serious crimes and by failing to enforce the law vigorously against affluent persons. Recommended changes include reducing poverty, actively prosecuting white-collar crime, decriminalizing illicit drugs and victimless crimes, gun control, creating a correctional system that promotes human dignity, and giving all accused persons access to high-quality defense attorneys. Additional recommendations; tables; chapter study questions, readings, and notes; appended Marxian critique of criminal justice; and index